I Used to Support Bernie Sanders — Now I’m a Race Realist
I am one of the few who has managed to slip away from the mainstream view of race. More than anything else, what led me to go “right” when everyone around me went “left” was my experience in liberalism’s epicenter: the university system. Superficially, college is where you go to get a formal education — and where you learn how to live with complete strangers for the first time. But for me, it was more than that. It was where I became disabused of the utopian ideas I had always believed.
When I arrived on campus, I discovered that all three of my roommates were Chinese exchange students who barely spoke English. They hung together and I felt like an outsider in my own dorm room. They put calendars on our communal fridge written in Mandarin and stared at me whenever I walked into the common area, pausing their conversation just because of the presence of a white girl. I felt like a horrible person for being upset about it. I had just campaigned for Bernie Sanders the summer before enrolling. I was liberal. I grew up in a conservative area and had imagined that college would be a wonderful place, complete with plenty of likeminded liberals and that famous strength: diversity. I didn’t want my parents to fight my battles, so I decided to ask the school myself about getting assigned a new room. They said I was being discriminatory and took no action. I felt ashamed — like a good white liberal should. My parents wanted to push the matter, but I didn’t let them. Instead I lied and said the situation had gotten better.
The rest of my college experience was filled with similar frustrations: group projects where I couldn’t effectively communicate with my partners, LGBTQ people being nasty if I asked what a “fury” was, students getting angry with me because I accidentally said “Columbus Day.” It was on campus that, for the first time ever, I was physically harassed. A black man who felt that I gave him a rude, or “bratty” look, pushed me into a street — apparently I wasn’t allowed to share a sidewalk with him. Two Asian men saw what happened but just looked away. The person who called the cops was a white guy who, thankfully, saw it happen from where he was seated in a nearby café. That was the first, but not the last, time “diversity” placed me in physical danger.
The price of multiculturalism kept rearing its head in other ways, too. If I didn’t smile at non-whites, they immediately didn’t like me. I worked in retail and was routinely berated by Hispanic women telling me to learn Spanish. To boot, they would often trash the fitting rooms and make comments about me being “too pale” or “not curvy.” Things like that kept happening. Still, I tried hard to excuse it all, always telling myself, “It’s just the individual.” I wanted to be above it all, but for the first time in my life, I couldn’t ignore race like I had always done before. I felt constantly intimidated, and there was a clear pattern as to why.
I was a typical young woman: I went to college like we’re all told to do, talked to people politely, and spent my free time shopping for cute clothes and old books. But after four years in higher education, I came to realize how important race truly is. The experiences I had didn’t make me hate any race — I really don’t think I’m a “racist.” They were just the start of my journey into understanding how much I love my people and how I feel robbed of the America we’re supposed to have, the America that my ancestors fought for in the Revolutionary War. I don’t think I will ever understand why I’m hateful for wanting my country to remain the same, but the people eagerly awaiting the end of America’s white majority are not.