Cowritten by Natasha Sahu; Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
Since our time at Trinity, we’ve both encountered countless instances where we didn’t know how to pronounce a word, didn’t know the name of a band or didn’t recognize the latest $90 sandals. Neither of us knows what a Brockhampton is, nor are we trying anymore to keep up with American culture or “common knowledge.” Growing up in non-American environments, learning about pop culture — and worse, anti-culture in America — has been an extremely difficult journey.
We’ve inflated many white egos after telling our Trinity peers we don’t know the song or film they’re referring to. But the truth is, making people of color feel badly about not knowing your indie band doesn’t make you any more interesting. We don’t listen to music in English — so your cool, nonchalant song isn’t the only one we haven’t heard.
We thought knowing all of these things was part of being an American, and after years of attempting to assimilate into a culture that won’t let us in, we’re ready to give up. After all, what do we care about American patriotism anyway? We don’t need to assimilate. And this isn’t a column about how we’re too cool to know mainstream artists. We’re just not American enough to care.
Then there’s the problem with words and pronunciation — we both struggle immensely with pronouncing words deemed as common sense. It wasn’t until we were laughed at in class that we learned how to pronounce certain English words, or even learned that apparently most people in our classes already knew about the concepts we were presenting. We still don’t know which CH sound is in orchard versus in orchid, and it is more of a struggle when you are put on the spot. We learned English by constantly reading as child; however, all those big words that shaped our vocabulary were never said out loud.
Coming from a place where violence and poverty were the norm, we didn’t have the luxury of learning about all these great thinkers and innovators. Not only did we not have access to these ideas and works, but also they were something we had never heard of, which led to issues in our classrooms. Students who are enamored with Plato’s “Republic” have the entitlement and privilege to speak up and say the most mediocre things, but it is accepted because this is what they grew up doing. It always feels that articulating our thoughts in a language we learned second — even third — is challenging; it is even more so in an environment that is predominantly white. The struggles of growing up are multiplied by the challenges offered by peers, colleagues, teachers and professors who pick on you to speak when your mind is still struggling to learn and process the concepts that have been familiar to everyone else in the room.
People at Trinity are also very quick to participate in our fun, cultural events, packaged and wrapped neatly for white entertainment or for Greek organizations to meet requirements. However, never has a single student been interested in our experiences, personally. We’ve had people in cars playing music we don’t know, everyone singing along but us. We’ve been forced to watch movies with an all-white cast, going through privileged experiences that we neither enjoy nor relate to. We talk about our culture, what we miss, what we grew up with, but never has anyone asked us about the music we grew up listening to or the movies we’ve watched. However, they are very quick to tell you when they are craving Mexican/Indian food!
Students at Trinity need to re-evaluate their American-centric ideals, and if you ever catch yourself about to condescendingly say “WHAT! How could you NOT know what _____ is?” maybe take a step back and think about the other person for once, and save both us and yourself the embarrassment.