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Just an update

I’m sitting in a computer lab at the University of Colorado. I’ve been in the same seat for only two hours but it feels like 22. I was here yesterday for 8 hours. There’s not much to look at in a computer lab when you’re there that many consecutive hours. My right leg is bouncing uncontrollably. I can’t sit still. I took a short break at 12:30pm and spent 15 minutes wiping off the keyboards and desks.

The place is dusty.

I’ve been simultaneously working on a research paper for this project, the project itself and playing online Boggle. I have to do it – the Boggle, that is. It helps keep me focused and lets me work better when I am actually working.

I feel pressure on this project, which is good. I usually feel pressure when I write things that are true and I know other people are going to read them. Take a newspaper article, for example. I want those facts to be right – all of them. This project is different, though. I feel responsible for and to the people I’ve interviewed. I feel as if I owe them something. Maybe this is because I appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedules to enlighten me, to answer my questions, to share their stories. Especially the students. I don’t know why I’m surprised, but every time I get an e-mail back from a CU student, I am. It’s nearly exam week and they send e-mails to me and make time out of their day and let me take pictures while they go about their lives.

I appreciate this, and I feel that I owe them something.

I feel that I owe them a really good project. I owe them a fair representation of information. I owe them my time and dedication and creativity.

***

A couple of students have told me that they’re glad I’m doing this project. One student was “impressed,” because she imagined that it must be hard for me to do it. I interpreted the comment as hard for me because I’m white, hard for me because I’m not ethnically diverse but I’m trying to access the ethnically diverse. Hard for me because I’m part of the majority. I interpreted it that way only because that’s how I feel.

It is sometimes hard. Other times it’s weird. I think I might wear a different facial expression when I interview Latino students for this project than when I conduct interviews for other projects. I think sometimes I wear a look of concern or compassion. I also think, it’s important that I notice this and ask myself why.

***

In November, I went to a Latino faculty and staff gathering. I was the only white person there. The other day I spoke with a Latina student about the event and told her that it has been a while since I was the only white person in a room. She was surprised by this. “Really?” she asked. She was surprised because she is so often in the reversal of that situation – often the only brown person in a room. That’s a familiar place for her to be. It’s not for me.

I think that role reversal should happen more often. I wish it would.

That same student told me about a classmate at CU who said – in class – that to be American, one must speak English.

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