When I first watched the video “Gonzaga University — Where Were You When,” I thought it was nonsense.
When I read letters to the editor saying that there is institutionalized racism at GU and another saying it’s not recommended that a student of color attend GU, I was outraged.
I’ve never seen or experienced the racism these students were identifying. If 25 percent of our student body encounters microaggressions and other forms of racial bias every day at GU, like the video and letters suggests, why has it not affected me, a student of color?
I hated the video and the letters because of what they were saying about our university. When I decided to write this letter five months ago, I originally intended to communicate that these students were creating their own demons and bringing forth unrealistic demands to nonexistent problems.
If attending GU has been so challenging for these students, why not leave?
I wasn’t well-acquainted with the students who made the video or wrote the letters. I decided to speak with some of them to better understand their perspective. After the many one-on-one conversations I had, I began developing feelings of sympathy for these students.
For the first time I was exposed to their intentions and hopes on a more personal level. I got a glimpse into what their experiences have been like and why they are so passionate about seeking change. These students are aware that in life, they’ll encounter obstacles and will be met by the harsh reality of the real world, which at times, will be cruel.
Unlike many who would simply tell themselves to accept their situation, our student activists decided to be proactive and took action to bring attention to problems within our community.
I misjudged these students, for they love GU. Their love and desire to strengthen a university that strives to develop “the whole person — intellectually, spiritually, culturally, physically, and emotionally” is why these students have stayed at GU and why I’m glad they haven’t abandoned us.
For months, I believed these students were foolish to air their grievances with GU. I was too engrossed in how their problems made me feel and scorned them because I’ve had the luxury of never knowing what they’ve experienced.
Typically, when a friend shares with me a problem in their lives, I do my best to help them, but when these students first shared their problem with me, I grew angry and chastised them.
I was wrong to have let my ignorance lead me to believe that their experiences were untrue just because they are not my own. On our campus we like to say, “Zags help Zags.” It is an ideal our community holds dear and tries to uphold in all that we do. I’m ashamed at the realization that I failed to live up to our creed.
Whatever you may believe, it’s easy to think you’re right if you only convene with people who agree with your opinions. Our egos can make it seem like we’ve found truth when in reality all we’ve found is hubris.
I got out of my comfort zone and spoke with strangers and people I hardly knew. My reward was a new perspective and a greater understanding of why I struggled to relate with these students. I got to know the people I disagreed with and realized we weren’t so different after all.
I hope you learn from my experience and really understand what you are criticizing before you condemn it.
If you hate this letter, I hope you’ll decide to speak with me.
Julian Moreno is a sophomore studying broadcast and electronic media.