I am that “hood rat” immigrant

In any position of leadership, it is often easy to forget that we represent Eastern at all times
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 10:14pm

A member of USU Eastern Student Leadership posted a discriminatory video of students crammed in the back of a truck with the caption "That hood rat immigrant ish" which blatantly disregarded their position on campus and the impact a video might have.

In any position of leadership, it is often easy to forget that we represent Eastern at all times, even when we are not on duty. Like it or not, if you are affiliated with one of our on-campus organizations, you are no longer seen as an individual, but as a part of USU Eastern and all that it stands for. That is why I was shocked to see a member of student leadership posting a racially offensive snapchat on their story.

Something about the caption does not sit right with me. It almost makes me feel a little sick, does it not? But why? There is a strong message behind those words. Not all immigrants are “hood rats,” just the ones who go to work every day in the back of a truck. Not all immigrants are “hood rats,” just the ones who work 12 hours in a field Monday to Monday, breaking their backs so they can send money to their families in their home countries. Not all immigrants are “hood rats,” just the ones coming into this country from the southern border.

The snapchat did not say all those things, but the message was received loud and clear. Not all immigrants are hood rats, just the illegal ones. This is a dehumanizing racial stereotype conveying ignorance and lack of empathy for a people in need. It embodies the incorrect idea that all illegal immigrants come into this country by shady means and are of Hispanic origin. This may seem like quite the jump, but it is the perception of the receiver of the message not the sender. Please, explain to me how this could not be about race and how a comment like this would ever be appropriate.

I understand that this video was posted without mal intent and when the person asked to take it down, the video was removed (with some resistance). But the issue does not lie in the racism – though it is a huge issue – but in the fact it came from a student leader who wears the USU logo and recruit potential student. In their networking they exchange snapchats with high schools students as a way to build community for recruits. If I was one of those students, I would never consider USU Eastern as safe space for me and would never enroll here.

I am that hood rat immigrant that came into this country by "shady" means and though my DACA allows me to attend school, I am still illegal. When I see things like this, I think about my hard-working parents who made the brave decision to come to the United States with four children in hopes of giving them a better life. I think about the back-breaking work that my mother with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had to put herself through every night until early morning. She worked until her body told her that she could not anymore and had to retire at 40. I think about my father who is so worn out that he spends most of his days feeling sick, ready to quit at any moment, but pushing forward because he literally has to support my family on his own.

My parents are both residents now and I could not be happier for them, but the fact remains that – by the connotation of the video – they were once those hood rats. Though the video was not meant to harm me, I can't help but feel unwanted and hated for a decision that I did not make. And the fact that one of USU Eastern's "elites" would be the one to post it does nothing for Eastern’s reputation. It should be required that all student leaders be put through Racial Sensitivity Training so leaders can be made aware of what is appropriate and what is not. This precautionary step will help prevent incidents like this video from happening again.

As part of student government, I strive every day to earn my place. I never forget who I represent and the weight I carry of my parent's decision to give me a better life on my shoulders. We are all still learning and I would be a hypocrite if I said I had not made similar mistakes in my life. However, I am fixing myself and I would hope that we are all doing the same. I plead with you, think before you speak, consider all sides and angles.

The cost of ignoring people's struggles is counterproductive to the goals of leadership. And if you think that all of this is too much work or that people get offended too easily, please reconsider. We all want to be treated like the human beings we are, so, do not forget to return the favor.

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