“Latin Night” incident reflects unwelcoming campus

By The Beacon | January 30, 2014 2:55am

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Yuri Hernandez |

On Thursday night I was ashamed to be Pilot. While attending the UP Men’s Basketball game, I observed a group of male students dressed in sombreros, wearing shirts that read “Los Pilots,” holding a piñata, holding the Mexican flag upside down, and yelling “arriba, taco, puta, (a Spanish cuss word meaning ‘whore’),” along with gibberish Spanish and disrespecting an honored chant in the Latino community, “Si se puede.”

On a personal level, this was deeply offensive and hurtful. I was born in Mexico and proudly embrace my Mexican roots. To see my culture, country and community reduced to stereotypes was one of the worst experiences I have had at the University of Portland. Once I approached the students and asked them to take off the attire, several things occurred. Their excuses to their behavior and attire were:

1) The NBA does it.

2) They could not understand why I was offended because they were not trying to be offensive.

3) A student who identified as Mexican was not offended, so I should not be.

I literally had the Mexican flag chucked at my face while confronting these students. This incident proved many things to me, but the most powerful message was, the University has failed to educate its students. Students must be educated about cultural exchange and the celebration of diversity. Learn concepts like cultural humility. Although students might not think they are “racist” or their actions are not “racist,” the fact that someone was hurt by these actions should be grounds enough to step back and consider a different approach.

It is no secret that the University of Portland is predominantly white and that white privilege is alive and well on campus. Most students are never put in a situation where they get to examine their privilege. We might have just hit our highest numbers in diversity in regards to students. But, is there a positive campus racial climate? One that features inclusion of students, faculty and administrators of color, a curriculum reflecting the historical and contemporary experience of people of color, programs to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of students of color, and a mission that reinforces the institution’s commitment to diversity and pluralism?

This incident should be viewed as a learning and growing tool to make the University of Portland a place that welcomes ALL. I encourage anyone that has experienced exclusion and discrimination to step forward and hold the University accountable. No one should live in fear or in silence. If you have any questions/concerns or want a person to talk to I am more than happy to meet.

Yuri Hernandez is a junior social work major. She can be reached at hernandy15@up.edu.

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