I never thought my education and culture of blaming colonizers for all the wrong in my country would lead me to uncomfortable situations with my friends. Also, I never thought that having a rooted mentality of blame towards Europeans would affect my relationships in an international context – I never even considered that I had such rooted issues. I already heard that it is not my fault, that I was educated to be like that and that there’s nothing I can do about it. But, well, I guess I need to do something – if there is no way out, we should use the privilege of living in an international community, like Pearson College, the international boarding school I attend, to pave our own way. I have already made too many people uncomfortable due to my inner and inhabited prejudice against them to ignore it for one more day.
My upbringing as a citizen of a country strongly marked by the colonization process created inside of me an unprecedented hatred towards white people. Maybe I’m still searching about what it means, but being in a place as extraordinary as Pearson College allows me to believe that, by writing this down and publishing it, I might discover the true meaning of post-colonial prejudice. I want to believe that, between the diverse campus we live on, I am not the only one who was put against the wall for acting strange around people from the country who colonized theirs.
By writing this I also want to make space for my sincere apology to be heard. Acknowledging the mistakes your country made is enough, and I appreciate it when Europeans act that way. They make me believe in a future of non-violent communication as key to world problems, instead of a reality of cultural clashes and reaffirmation of power by countries whose economy was built based on the stolen natural resources of its colonies.
By writing this I put myself on the position of acknowledging that, even though I am part of a community that still suffers from the legacies of the horrific things European countries exposed my ancestor to, people are not their countries. Coming to Pearson may make you think that you are in charge of representing your beloved nation – which, to some extent you are – but you do not need to carry that burden 24/7. My role in this is to let you express your identity in a way that you only represent yourself, not your people, not your country and not your government.
My experience at Pearson, in that sense, has not been the best. I constantly talk about colonization. Mostly as a joke though, because that’s how things are taught back home. We are so over the cultural imposition of white people that we built our own culture and sense of humour by making fun of it. We make fun of serious issues; we make fun of the colonizer. But, at Pearson, things should not be like this, and, as I said above, part of my confession is to say I am sorry for not collaborating with the college’s aim to be a safe space for everyone.
When I accepted being a student here, I took as mine the motto of the school. With that, I mean that I should always reflect my actions under the idea of “using education to unite people and countries”. This way, I could never let the past actions of someone’s country reflect on the way I interact with them. My feelings and thoughts about someone should be conceptualized taking into consideration their attitudes as a person, not the fact that they are citizens of this or that nation.
Using that way of thinking, one of the first things I realized is that I struggle to make white friends. I can have many conversations, share interesting moments, but something inside of me (may I say guts?) will always be yelling at me in the back of my mind. The feeling is weird and hard to explain, especially if you are not a person of colour, but I would say that part of it is the sense of being uncomfortable, and another part is being suspicious. Something in me makes me scared of white people, and I don’t think it is a superficial issue. It comes from an inner and strange part of my brain. Mostly, I am afraid of being judged by them. And that is also where the comfortability comes from. By not feeling safe with them, I do not allow myself to be truly me around them. I act white. I close myself off to tough conversations, using jokes to build a wall between us. That is how I see white people acting and that is how I try to portray myself to fit with them – a reflection of how uncomfortable I am. I avoid talking about my origins, my roots, my culture, and my political ideologies.
I know this is a lot, but, maybe to help clarify those situations in the mind of people who would never go through them – especially the Europeans – here is an example: the amount of time I took to tell my white friends how I identify myself in the LGBTQ+ community is at least double the time I took to tell my friends of colour. Today, I would easily hold conversations about my culture and my understanding of it with my friends from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, but almost never with my friends from Europe and the white portion of North America. I know that the effort I would have to put to make myself understood between my peers from countries that were also colonized is much smaller than the effort I would have had to put on even start a conversation with people whose countries have colonized us. I would never see this issue if it was never pointed out to me. And, well, now I think I should do something about it.
In conclusion, I believe it is important to reaffirm that I would never give up on my beliefs and my cultural values to hold this conversation with any of you. I agree with making myself vulnerable and apologizing for my inner incapacity to see you the same way I see non-whites. But fighting for my people and raising the anti-colonialist flag is still my priority. It is easier for you to hide yourself in a bubble of European identity than it is for us to avoid interacting with the whites. Pearson is one of the only places on earth where it could happen the other way around, and opening ourselves up to talk about it, having healthy discussions, and reflecting on our actions, is part of what is expected from both sides to do.
By sending this text, I aim to end a chapter of my life where I felt guilty and judged. There is, now, a need for me to say out loud that, perhaps, I am the one playing hard to get. I don’t want anyone, no matter their colour or country of origin, to feel how white people made my people feel.
Hope this confession was useful for someone other than me. Actually, I expect I am not the only one who feels like this.
Feel free to understand this as a call for action, perhaps.
Feel free to use this as a shared thought, perhaps.
Feel free to offer your heart as a statement. This is what this is, perhaps.