The Beta Rho Chapter of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. shifted the conversation of Latin Heritage Month towards the microaggressions Latinos face every day during Monday night’s event, Que Dijo? The event pushed students to become more conscious of their statements and recognize how it could impact others around them.
Establishing its chapter at Ramapo College in 2010, Beta Rho brings together people of diverse backgrounds through a network of sisterhood, leadership and guidance. At its second annual Que Dijo? event, alumni of Ramapo College addressed the multitude of microaggressions in daily dialogues that continue to foster stereotypes.
“Microaggressions are little phrases that sugarcoat or enhance stereotypes,” said Thalia Mercado, senior.
For Mercado, the most common microaggression she encounters is that she cannot speak Spanish even though she identifies as a Latina.
“For me, it makes me feel less like a Latina because I don’t speak Spanish. Microaggressions make people feel like they don’t meet certain requirements,” said Mercado. “Who knows what these requirements are to be a great person? You’re less of a person because you don’t know XYZ.”
Assumptions made by society can stir anger among individuals who defy widely accepted stereotypes such as the notion that all Mexicans illegally crossed the border into the United States.
“With my identity as a Mexican, it’s always like ‘Oh, you crossed the border?’ Not really though, because I’m actually American and my parents are Mexican,” said Alina Sanchez, alumna of the Ramapo College class of 2016. “Every now and then, it could be a joke, but it could also build up and go to the point where it bottles up inside.”
Microaggressions are deeply rooted in society, reinforced by exchanges heard on television shows that subtly joke about real life situations. Modern day Latinos, however, are defying these stereotypes by earning a college degree and obtaining high-level positions in all disciplines.
“Our goal is that people be more accepting,” said Andrea Sanchez, alumna of the Ramapo College class of 2016. “At the end of the day, you’re working with these people, studying with these people and you need to be sensitive to the fact that you are not the only group in this country. We’re surrounded by so much diversity that we need to be inclusive in all ways.”
With the presidential candidates battling it out for a spot in Washington D.C., voters are reflecting on the constant use of stereotypes in political language. Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee, made headlines for his jarring comments against Latinos and his plans to build a wall along the American-Mexican border.
“If you want someone adding on to the microaggressions in a world where we are supposed to be aware of what’s going on because we have progressed so much, I don’t want someone like that as president who is taking a step backward rather than forward,” said Alina Sanchez.
The Beta Rho Chapter may have started the open conversation on campus, yet it’s important that it continues to be sustained so that future generations can understand the influence of their words.
“It’s a great conversation to have so that people can move forward,” said Mercado. “It’s kind of like you’re acknowledging the problem.”