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I want to state from the outset that I do not feel as though I have been marginalized because of my perceived racial identity, or because of any other aspect of my appearance.

Solidarity with Yale

In Solidarity w/Yale—Unai Montes-Irueste

My father’s skin, my grandfather’s skin, and the skin of anyone before them, reflects the Indigenous racial composition of that part of my lineage.

My mother’s skin, my grandmother’s skin, and the skin of anyone before them, reflects the European racial composition of that part of my lineage. And that is the skin I inhabit.

I have white skin. I have white privilege. But the fact that I am not white in the way that the preponderance of white Americans seem to define whiteness, means I have been “othered,” especially in professional and academic settings.

In elementary school, as an English Language Learner (ELL) also known as English as a Second Language (ESL) student, I was marginalized by other students, and two-thirds of my teachers were disinvested in my learning.

My undergraduate years were defined by a never-ending series of microaggressions and overt acts of prejudice, as much as they were defined by anything else.

In high school, my guidance counselor told me to apply to the least academically rigorous campus in the state university system, and suspended me from school for questioning why he did not at least present me, and other Latino and African American students, with information about top ranked universities.

The only other time I was suspended in high school was for punching a white male student who said I should, “thank G-d that you're not a sh*t brown, greasy, fugly, taco sh*tt*ng border n*gg*r, wetback, beaner.” But I digress...

Before starting classes at Dartmouth College, all first-year students are encouraged to take a Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) trip to bond with their generation of graduates. Upon returning to Hanover from Moosilauke, the bulk of the students of color I met had already been forced to defend their merit.

The College was populated with legacies (kids whose parents had gone to Dartmouth) and Division One athletes who would go on to compete in the Olympics. But these students were not trapped in aggressive debates over Affirmative Action. Only the students of color who had just arrived, and had yet to even sit in their first classroom, were forced to prove that the Office of Admissions wasn’t just handing out acceptance letters to “undeserving” Black and Latino applicants.

My undergraduate years were defined by a never-ending series of microaggressions and overt acts of prejudice, as much as they were defined by anything else. There were rallies in front of the Parkhurst administrative building while snow and ice blanketed the ground because explicit racial epithets had been scrawled on dorm room doors, after other residences had been vandalized by homophobic hate speech.

After “The Bell Curve” was published, Black students literally had to answer straight-faced questions from student reporters about racial differences in Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores.

Latino students had to explain why it was that “Cinco de Drinko” fliers featuring caricatures of Mexicans and Mexican Americans were ignorant and offensive.

Latino students had to explain why it was that “Cinco de Drinko” fliers featuring caricatures of Mexicans and Mexican Americans were ignorant and offensive.

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Native American students had to explain why the so-called “mascot” was neither tradition, nor some kind of principled expression of free speech.

And all of the communities of color had to stand up to the various fraternities that assigned “hook-up point scores” to brothers based on the racial/ethnic background of the female students they had (hopefully consensual) sex with.

I could recount the lurid details of many offenses that took place in residence halls, and in Greek Houses. But the College is also populated by professors enjoying the protection of tenure, who revel in the provocation printed weekly by The Dartmouth Review, and often featured in The Dartmouth, America’s oldest college newspaper.

One professor, for example, after reading an article describing my campus activism told me that I should not have been offered admission, and refused to see me during his office hours. Pressed for greater detail he stated that I should be grateful that Dartmouth had given me this opportunity and not indignant that the College wasn’t doing more for already coddled kids who received extra instruction and other forms of politically correct hand holding.

Administrators and other College staff were much less brazen, but it was quite obvious that their loyalties were to the wealthy white alumni who wanted to see revelry around the Homecoming bonfire, Winter Carnival ice and snow sculpture, throughout Green Key weekend, and a beaming smile on everyone’s face as Commencement & Reunion weekend neared. Any student or alumni who wanted to address a serious issue in a public forum was persona non grata.

The College wanted to rid itself of its “Animal House” pre coeducation public image. But it most certainly did not wish to take on the Animal House pre coeducation power structure. Dartmouth was conflict averse. And it remains so.

Dartmouth tells alumni that the incoming classes of students are heads and shoulders better than those who came before them. Yet, we only read about the College in the national press because non-Black students show up in blackface to a “Bloods and Crips” party. We read about the College because it tries to cover up protests during Dimensions weekend, and prevent them in the future by transforming Dimensions into a wholly different entity. We read about the College because students of color draft a Freedom Budget, or stage a die-in as a part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration, and other students, as well as a number of alumni look down upon these members of the Dartmouth community.

The backlash students at Yale currently face is all too familiar.

Dartmouth just failed to grant tenure to a Black professor and a Latina one. Dartmouth has done so little to transform itself from a lens of racial equity that even the very few professors of color that have been offered tenure have fielded or accepted offers of employment from other universities. Students of color have grown incrementally in numbers while the demographics of the United States have exploded in their pluralistic components.

For instance, one in four public school students is Latino. The College hasn’t even figured out how to make one out of every ten Dartmouth applicants Latino, much less 10% of its matriculating students. And while the President makes grandiose speeches about “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” what this translates to is one thirtieth of the resources others are committing to faculty diversity, zero commitments to support academic opportunities or campus programming originating from students of color, and zero commitments from the Office of Alumni Affairs to investing in diversity initiatives that will bring racial/ethnic representation, LGBTQIA representation, and gender balance to the alumni governance bodies designed to allocate resources, advise the Trustees, etc.

It is easy to talk about community and diversity and inclusion. It is easy to “decorate the bulletin board” and show off when Black History Month, Latino Heritage Month, etc. roll around. And it is very easy to put a group of students of color together and snap their photo for a pamphlet used by the Office of Admissions. It is hard to tell students not to wear blackface, and even harder to win tenure for professors who are actually Black. But the future belongs to those of us who make them do the work. They ain’t ready. We are.

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In Solidarity,

Unai Montes-Irueste