I had the pleasure of attending the Wally's tonight and was very excited to get to have a fun, elegant evening with my team and recognize my fellow pilots for all of the hard work we have put in over the year. I was very shocked, however, when you proceeded with your welcoming speech. I am one among the many people who were deeply offended by everything you said tonight.
I come from a small town in which most people do not complete school beyond sixth grade. 75 percent of the population is either first or second generation Americans, or undocumented. Being of immigrant descent myself and a blessed part of my community back home, I was left speechless by your words tonight.
My great-grandparents illegally crossed the Mexican-American border and faced countless years of physically and mentally harmful discrimination for my grandparents to have a future. My grandfather served in the military as one of the few Hispanics and was subjected to harmful chemicals that led to years of painful cancer and an early death because he was of color. My grandmother and her family worked countless hours, breaking their backs in the fields all over California to provide for their family. My mom carries on their superlative work ethic and works three jobs teaching kindergarten, other teachers and running the after school program while being a full-time student and remaining loyal to a displaced husband.
She did all of this for the benefit of her two children. My father, being one of the smallest firemen and part of the minute percentage of people of color in CalFire, sacrificed countless weeks of time that could have been spent at home to provide for the family. He too continues to get racial criticism in and out of the workplace, especially with the past election. I carry the work of my family in my heart everyday and strive to be the best representative as I pursue the opportunities many of my ancestors, community members and even best friends are not fortunate enough to have.
Hearing how hard your family has worked so that you could pursue a higher education and be a division 1 athlete, I am disappointed for them. I am very sure that your grandfather did not work 60 hours a week as you mentioned merely for your sexual pleasure. I am 100 percent sure Gandhi did not devote his life to social justice for you to prey on women, white or not. These past years have been politically heated enough, causing an unbelievable amount of racial discrimination for people of color.
Unfortunately, being a person of color comes with extra responsibilities of being hyper-aware of our actions because every move we make can be used against us.
Tonight was the fuel they look for to feed the hateful, racist fire that has broken out in our country. You claim you strive to not be put in a box thus you prey on innocent women to try and prove yourself as more than tech-support but you just set us 100 steps back in our fight for equality.
For the first time I was ashamed to be a Pilot.
Also, as a woman, I felt personally objectified and victimized. No woman should ever feel or be treated like a piece of meat. We are stronger than you think and will rise above the backlash men try to knock us down with. We have to work ten times harder than our male counterparts yet continue to meet and exceed the standards set for us. Notice how non-gender specific awards went to female teams and athletes tonight.
That is because we are strong. We are resilient. We are proud to be women.
On behalf of all of the females in the room and on campus, as well as people of color, we will not stand the message displayed tonight. I hope these words were more than just noise and there is a genuine change of heart because humanity deserves more respect than what was given tonight. I deserve more respect than what was given tonight.
Amanda Hernandez Michalski
Amanda Hernandez Michalski is a member of the women's rowing team and a sophomore math major at the University of Portland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.