Phrases like “you’re not Latino” and “you look so white” have plagued my form of self, stemming back to my youth. I never truly understood the gravity of these misconceptions, so I tended to shrug them off without much thought. As the years went on, it became increasingly transparent that my white-passing token wasn’t as effective as it was made out to be.
In its simplest definition, an ally is someone who another person can trust and count on despite them not fully understanding what it’s like to be in a certain position. An ally advocates and assists a marginalized group that they are not a part of. For example, a white person who advocates for racial justice can be considered an ally to people of color. The definition of ally is rather simplistic in concept, but is much more complicated in practice. People often find themselves messing up when their actions coincidentally work against the supposed title they claim.
Depending on a person’s background, coming to a predominantly white institution (PWI) like Cornell can be really difficult to cope with as a freshman. I know that for me, it wasn’t just dealing with the fact that I had moved from the large city of Chicago to Ithaca, but also being surrounded by people completely different from whom I was accustomed to interacting with back home. It took me more than a year of attending Cornell to finally figure out how to function in a place that was so drastically different for me. As I’m starting my third year here, I can’t help but think about where I started from and how current first-years of color might be feeling. Generally, I know that during my first year I felt like I did not belong here at all.