My Truth: Hannah Tegtmeyer

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Hannah is a Class of 2022 Psychology Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Hope Advocates for Invisible Conditions, Step2Success and the Student Congress Culture and Inclusion Committee. She is pursuing a degree in occupational therapy.

To Justify My Pain

Hi, my name is Hannah Tegtmeyer and I’m a senior studying Psychology and Kinesiology. I’d like to thank the CDI – specifically Jevon Willis and Margo Walters – for the opportunity to be here today and share my truth with you. While I stand here today – seen as successful and ready to go out into the world – let it be known that my truth is also the truth of many other students and faculty members on our campus. My goal today is that we, the members of the chronically ill and disabled community, should no longer have to justify our pain to others.

Listening to Learn
This brings me to my first question – how can we as a community listen to learn instead of listen to respond? I have some scenarios to illustrate this point. By my sophomore year, I already had many experiences on campus that made me wary of disclosing my status to professors and “friends” alike. But as many of us know, you’re often forced to disclose to professors if you need testing accommodations or your condition otherwise affects your academic life regularly. Due to a lot of the experiences I had, I no longer felt confident in sharing information with my professors. Yet, I was still astonished when a kinesiology professor responded to me one day by saying “I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I don’t think you need testing accommodations” and refused to provide me with accommodations for the duration of the semester. Not only is this unjustifiable – as my request was more than reasonable and there were staff available to accommodate – it also violates the mission of Hope College. This professor did not “create a caring community”, act as a “wise steward of resources”, or “foster development of the whole person”. Instead, this professor talked down to me in a baby voice all semester and acted as if I could not comprehend the concepts in the class because I required testing accommodations. I do not lack the intellectual ability to understand the concepts; In fact, I hold the capacity to continue to explain the nature of my chronic illness to a professor who is unwilling to change. Do you know how exhausting that is? To explain day after day after day why you should have the same chance to succeed as other students? It’s as exhausting as the disorder itself.

For those of you wondering – I have quite a few invisible health conditions [Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, the list goes on] but the one being questioned that day was a rare, understudied neurological disorder that acts similarly to a sensory disorder. I simply require a quiet, individual place to take my exams. I could have easily avoided panic attacks and trauma therapy that semester if the professor had been oriented to learning. Listening to learn in this scenario could have sounded like, “Wow, I have not heard of this disorder. Would you be willing to educate me?” or “What do I need to know in order to support you?” or “Could you direct me to some educational resources so I can best support you in my class?” Most of the time, we don’t care if you ask us questions about our conditions. Actually, we generally prefer that you do. It shows that you care about learning and supporting us. When you’ve met one person with XYZ condition, you’ve met one person with XYZ condition. Our conditions affect us all differently.

Supporting
This brings me to my second point: how can we support someone with an invisible illness if we don’t know it exists? I get this question a lot and there’s a few ways to answer this. First of all, I think it’s important to remind you that we only disclose to people we feel safe sharing this information with. This is due to multiple previous experiences we have all had where people have made cruel jokes or comments, shared the information with others, etc. Ask yourself, do you know anyone who has shared with you that they have an invisible condition [and are you still active in their life]? If you answered no, why is that? It’s possible that this person doesn’t feel safe around you. So, the first thing you can do to support those around you is invest time in becoming a self-aware, safe person.

When someone does disclose to you, the best way you can support them is by validating their experiences. We spend so much time being overruled and gas lit by doctors, professors, peers, family members that we expect it when we walk into a new place. So, to give someone the gift of validation is both incredible and the bare minimum.

Now, giving and receiving validation looks differently for every person. By definition, validation is learning, understanding, and accepting what the other person has chosen to share with you. The first, and easiest, step is to accept what is shared with you by telling the person that you believe them. You would be surprised at how little we hear this. The learning component is what varies the most from person to person. If the friend who shared with you is comfortable, you can ask questions to learn more about their condition. However, they are not solely responsible for your knowledge or lack thereof. You should also ask for accurate resources to learn on your own. Lastly, you can attend advocacy or support groups as an ally. Hopefully through learning and engaging with more than just one person, you can begin to understand what life is like when such a big part of it is invisible to others. When you choose listening to learn over listening to respond, you become part of the solution. We no longer have to justify our pain, because we are heard the first time.

Thank you.

My Truth: Mary Kamara-Hagemeyer

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Mary is a Class of 2022 Business and History Double Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Black Student Union, Student Congress Culture and Inclusion Committee, and the Step2Success. She plans on pursuing a career in business marketing and entrepreneurial projects.

My Truth: Nathan Myotte

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Nathan is a Class of 2022 Secondary Education with a focus in Social Studies Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Men’s Enrichment Network, Step2Success and Young Life. He plans to become a high school social studies and history teacher.

My Truth: Vicente Bickel

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Chente is a Class of 2022 Spanish and Cultural Anthropology Double Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Latino Student Organization, Step2Success and the Men’s Enrichment Network. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and will continue with a master’s degree in nationalism and conflict management at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

My Truth: Mikayla Zobeck

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Mikayla is a Class of 2022 Business Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Asian Student Union, Step2Success and the Women of Color United. She plans to join Dow Chemical as a sales specialist through the Commercial Development Program.

My Truth: Ash Moran

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, May 2 through 8, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Ash is a Class of 2022 Philosophy and Women’s & Gender Studies Double Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Prism, Step2Success and the Phelps Scholars. He was awarded the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Hey. My name is Ash, and this is my truth

When I first came to Hope, it was admitted students day. “How is it for gay students here?” I asked my admissions officer. “I’ll be honest, you will struggle here, but you will find your people,” she said. And how true that was. My freshman year, I was a Phelps Scholar and had decided to live honestly with myself; I wasn’t out in high school, so I was really transparent about my queerness and how (at the time) I identified myself as a lesbian. Since, I have come out as trans, given myself a new name, and begun to transition in a way that makes me feel good about myself and my body. And here’s what I have learned from the realization that I am queer: there will always be people (who may speak louder or present themselves more visibly in a space) that tell you that you are an anomaly- a sinful, wrong natured, confused person in need of divine guidance from good straight Christians, or who tell you that you don’t belong somewhere (in the Church, at Hope, in your family, at your job, in politics, the list goes on and on…). But, there will also always be people here to support you and uplift you. Find these people. Listen to their stories, and ask them why they believe the things they do. Trading stories will tell you so much about what someone values and what they care about, as well as if you can count on them and if they can count on you. It’ll also help you figure out more about yourself- what you value and why. Maybe you don’t have a story that sticks out to you as the story yet. You don’t need to! Just talk about your favorite memory or your biggest fears. 

Now let me tell you my story. 

In the Phelps Scholars Program, I interacted with a lot of people. I gained a lot of friends and lost some, I watched people leave Hope, and I considered leaving myself. My freshman year, I thought I wanted to be a geology major. I was so wrong. I came to my first chem lab, and by the time it was over, I had already dropped the class. I needed something else, so I decided to take a Women and Gender Studies class, because I care about social justice and thought at the time that I was a woman. I ended up in the most advanced theory course that you take before the capstone! And it was challenging, but I learned so much about theory and life, and what it means to have theory that reflects your lived experiences (Shoutout to Dr. Kendra Parker, I hope you’re well and I miss you). From there, I took more WGS classes and decided that was a good fit for me. I also took a few Philosophy classes and felt the same way about Philosophy. I didn’t know what I would do with a degree in Philosophy and WGS, but I loved what I was learning, and that was more important to me than figuring out what job I would be okay with working once I graduated. 

I also got pretty involved in the queer community and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Sylvia, one of the best people I’ve ever known, and I worked first individually and then together on activism to get the Institutional Statement on Human Sexuality removed, and subsequently with another mentor of mine, Em, on forming Hope’s first officially recognized LGBTQ+ organization, Prism. But here’s the thing- we have always existed here. Officially recognized by the administration or not. There has been a community of people here that are queer at Hope that we found recorded in the Anchor since at least the 1970s, and they have always been fighting for recognition and freedom here. I’ve been lucky to talk with a bunch of alum and heard their stories and all of the wisdom that comes with it; and one thing they all seem to agree on: they want to see Hope do better and be better for us, the current queer students. And now that I’m about to be an alumni myself, that’s my biggest wish for Hope as well- that they listen to us and hear our stories. That they pay attention to what we need. That they take us as seriously as they take the athletics department, or SAC, or the STEM programs that happen here. 

When Prism was in it’s first year, we talked a lot about whether or not we belonged in CDI. There was a lot of concern about whether or not assimilating into CDI would mean that we were settling for Hope’s administrative values or that we would have to sacrifice our intersectional activist roots. There was also a lot of feelings that we didn’t belong in CDI because most of the people involved in Prism were (and still are) white students, and we didn’t want to take away one of the few spaces that was explicitly made for students of color. It was especially important to me that the space I took up wasn’t being taken from someone else in order to fit me in. I didn’t want to continue this cycle of imperialism and colonization in my day to day behavior. 

“What do you need?” asked Dr. Doshi, my professor at the time. “What do queer students on this campus need and where can you count on others to support you and meet those needs?” These questions have swirled in my head for quite some time, and I still struggle with those ideas. Where do I fit in with people who have needs similar to mine? How do I make sure that I’m not overstepping my privilege and not trampling on the efforts of communities that have been here before me? I don’t know if there will ever be a clear answer, but I have realized something that should have been clear to me a lot sooner. Justice is for everyone. EVERYONE. It is an injustice to sacrifice my needs and martyr myself in order to make sure I don’t offend someone. That’s like saying you can’t do something without trying. We are all active participants in the world, and nothing is helped or fixed by inactive observers. We can never be and will never simply be observers, watching to make sure our actions are in line with our beliefs. Observing is an act in and of itself; and I have found that I betray my morals and ideals more when I sit and do nothing than when I act according to how I believe. And with that comes the need to have a space for yourself. Justice for yourself.

You can aim to make the world a better place for others and for you, and I have come to believe that the only way you can really empathize with the needs and wants of others is to understand and meet the needs and wants of yourself. There is space and justice for you in there with everyone else, and while you still need to be mindful of your positionality in a space (how your identities and physical/spatial location impact others), you can’t be so aware of yourself that you refuse to take any space or have any presence at all. So, take a chance in somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go. Challenge yourself to be the only one like yourself in a space with people that are different from you. It’s okay to be the only white person at an LSO meeting. It’s okay to be cis and straight at a Prism meeting. You can come and build a community with people that aren’t like you. At the end of the day, forming relationships with others that you aren’t like or don’t understand is the solution to making sure we all succeed in getting justice together for all of us. So come on over- let’s share our stories. Let’s learn more about each other. Let’s fight for justice. Together. 

See you later. Peace, 

Ash

All that you touch, you change

Generally speaking, being born Black and African is one of the unluckiest fates one can ever encounter. Our continent is barely nursing it’s deep wounds of colonialism and slavery. Neocolonialism is generously adding salt to injury. Imperialism. Political instability. Poverty; poverty in the world’s richest continent in natural and mineral resources. Our gold, our diamonds, our oil, stolen in billions each year in exchange for crippling “aid” from the west, that comes with terms and conditions. And the world is silent. The world is deep asleep amidst our wails and cries. Yet, here we are. I grew up with a keen interest in global history and politics, and worldwide entertainment. I used to consume lots of international news – from CNN, to Al Jazeera, BBC, SkyNews, Reuters, you name them – back then when journalism was still alive. Narrative after narrative, statistics after statistics, all predicted with a rather odd certainty that my future, as a young African kid, was doomed – if I survived childhood. Hollywood depicted a reality that was glamorous and dignified, but only for white people in the west. BIPOC people from these parts of the world were present only in token form, if at all. And of course, they were never heroes. Africans were missing from the global map. We simply did not exist. This was the norm, thus I never questioned these depictions. Fine. Okay. Look, I was young. As I came of age, I had an epiphany that having a dream, envisioning a future as a young Black African poor queer disabled nonreligious female, was an act of radicalism.

Eunice Maruhi, class of 2021

I chose to dream, to levitate, to conquer; I am my mother’s daughter after all. But as it is said, nothing is free. To each, their price. For every life, a death. My dream came with a hefty cost; I had no choice but to leave home, thus America. The international media painted the west as the land of milk and honey, all color with no shade of gray – unlike my motherland, the dark continent. Nothing could be further from the truth, I realized. They too had the poor who struggled to put food on the table, the homeless who slept on their “golden” streets, the corrupt politicians who fed on the voiceless. Their roads too had potholes. Their homes too lacked clean water. Their churches too, godless. It was the same familiar human condition, just on a different degree and scale. I must admit though, I never expected such shocking inequities in the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. It was a strange time, my first time here.

What’s even more peculiar is that America gave birth to my black identity. See, before I moved continents, I never saw myself as a black person. Not that I did not know what my racial identity was, but it was as irrelevant as ethnic tribes are in the west. But then, here I was in a society where racism is probably the greatest enduring injustice. Here I was, struggling to adopt what felt like a forced identity and a cumbersome one, nonetheless. As a foreigner, I wished to be identified only with my home. I remember feeling uncomfortable about having to identify my racial and ethnic identity when filling in forms. I used to skip “Black or African American”, and instead would choose “Other”, and specify “African” or “Kenyan”. Internalized racism was eating me alive, swallowing me whole.

In the second semester of my freshman year, I took a class called “Encounters with Cultures” with an emphasis on African American and Native American history and culture. This class was the genesis of my transformation into accepting and taking pride in my racial/ ethnic identity. I gained a deeper understanding of the nuances and complexities of race and ethnicity in America and beyond. I particularly remember learning about the schema of the strong Black woman, an archetype of how an ideal Black woman should act. This stereotype perceives Black women as naturally strong, resilient, self-contained, and self-sacrificing; consequently taking a toll on their emotional well-being, in addition to perpetuating inequality. I had never felt so seen and understood to this measure in any other class. Finally, I experienced what I imagine white students feel as most curriculum is taught from a white perspective. I continued to educate myself on my identity, culture, heritage. I became very familiar with our unhailed black heroes, our unfaltering resilience and our deathless courage, throughout history. 

My former self, deadened with respectability politics, Black patriarchy and other shallow solutions to the predicament of racism was awakened. I began to understand the difference between good intentions and good outcomes, the difference between being a good girl and being a woman with needs beyond what parental guidance could provide. My understanding of myself transformed radically, marking my evolution from superficially engaging with my race to a deeper, more personalized appreciation of my place in this racist society, as a Black African woman. More eminently, I came to the much needed realization that as someone born at multiple intersections of marginalization, I was foreordained to a gloomy life if I didn’t work every angle possible. Worse, the media, Hollywood and society rendered Black people futureless, to our collective horror. But no, I refused to give in to that grim version of events. 

The year 2020 was uncanny, for most of us, if not all. The pandemic, economic crisis, cabin fever, inevitable lifestyle changes. And then George Floyd; the death that arose the nation from their complacency towards the atrocities of modern racial injustice. For the first time in a long while, they couldn’t look away. They couldn’t ignore the fact that Black America couldn’t breathe, that we were suffocating right on their doorstep. Protests and riots swept across the country, and even globally. The world was watching. It was my time to be bold about the lived experience of Black people. I added my voice to others demanding change, even though doing so as a nonimmigrant was fraught with danger. Sometimes we have no choice but to scream. Some people listened, some saw our pain, some turned their gaze towards themselves. It gave me hope to see this, but I knew well enough not to be blinded by intentions, as sacred as they might seem. I was more interested in results, and boy was I disappointed. Change was promised, but not quite delivered.

Even more disconcerting was seeing some of my once close friends and peers repudiate the need for change. They reacted as if the call to action was a threat. It was disheartening to see just how burdensome it was to make assumedly intelligent, well-meaning people understand how much harm they were causing. Their need to belong to the status quo, their yearning for conformity, trumped the goodness of their hearts. Afterall, how could they acknowledge our devastation without also acknowledging the anguish their ancestors, their families and friends, their colleagues and neighbors, have inflicted upon us across the ages. This is a repeated theme throughout the struggle for change. For every attempt made to express pain and seek change for historical and ongoing harm, there is always repulsion from those who insist that we suffer only in the presumed ways, express that suffering with an acceptable tone, and end both our suffering and complaints on demand. They question why we demand a better future, how that demand should be framed, and whether we deserve it. These types of people aren’t rare within the Holland community, at Hope, among our administrators and powers that be – and anyone who wants to understand and guide positive change must also be prepared to work around such. We weren’t and still aren’t asking for much; just a dignified recognition of our existence, of our needs and wants. Just more than white perspectives of Black people, more than token representation.

“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is Change.” – Octavia E. Butler

I am inspired not by the truism I was raised with, but by the prospects of change. I wish our ancestors could see how high we have risen, how we continue to strain upward as a people. I am lucky to be living in the age of information, in an era where we are more connected than ever. In a time where we are able to enact change through crowd-based outsourcing and callout culture – for good, for bad. However, some of us are less hopeful, more tired, struggling to keep the future in mind. The demand for a future for Black people continues to be an ugly, brutal struggle, but I’m more than ready to go the distance in that fight. We are irrepressible and incredibly ingenious; unquestionably, we’re going to keep thriving as a people. I have hope that those of us who want a better world will doubtless prevail – even if the cost is everything we have. The future is worth it. My people are worth it!

Student Featured Art

It all started with friendship.  

Over the last year, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion was looking for artwork to display in the Keppel House.  We decided on a variety of artwork pieces that we purchased and hung on the walls.  However, we had a desire to showcase student artwork in the Keppel House.

Photo of Kenneth Munyuza, African graduate of Hope College.  He is the first featured artist at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion's Keppel House. @createhopephotography
Kenneth Munyuza, class of 2021, is the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s first featured student artist. @createhopephotography

Sungmin “Steven” Suh heard about our need for art.  He also is a friend of Kenneth Munyuza.  Sungmin encouraged Kenneth to tell us about his photography.  Kenneth was shy so Sungmin told us to ask and what a great idea and opportunity that presented for us.

Sungmin "Steven" Suh and Kenneth Munyuza with 2 of Kenneth's photos that are on display at the Keppel House.  Steven and Kenneth are standing in the living room of the Keppel House holding two canvas photos. @createhopephotography
Sungmin “Steven” Suh and Kenneth Munyuza showing off 2 of the new pieces at the Keppel House. @createhopephotography

It didn’t take long for Jevon Willis, our director, to discover some images that he loved.  We asked our student employees for their feedback.  From there we had a few meetings about how to frame the images and decided where to hang them.  Now, when you come to the Keppel House, you will see some lovely photography on the walls by Kenneth Munyuza.

Sungmin "Steven" Suh and Kenneth Munyuza with 2 of Kenneth's photos that are on display at the Keppel House.  Steven and Kenneth are sitting on a couch in the living room of the Keppel House holding two canvas photos. @createhopephotography
Sungmin “Steven” Suh and Kenneth Munyuza with 2 of Kenneth’s photos that are on display at the Keppel House. @createhopephotography

A special “thank you” goes out to Andy Near of the Kruizenga Art Museum who helped with the didactics for the walls.  Hope Laurencelle of @createhopephotography helped us to document the friendship and the photos at the Keppel House.  


You are invited to  stop by to view and enjoy Kenneth’s photographs whenever the Keppel House is open.

My Truth: Safia Hattab

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Safia is a Class of 2021 Computer Science and English Double Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Alpha Gamma Phi, Theatre Electrician and the Phelps Scholars. She plans on pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

There Is No Purpose in Pain

As I am writing this statement, I am in physical pain.

I never knew a life without some sort of pain. I was born with feet turned inward and had casts slowly pull my ankles into alignment over the course of a year. I had surgeries to put pins in the bones, and another one to take them out. This introduction to some of the worst of life has always been a constant companion, lord so now that my medical mystery has a name.

And here, in the dark, in the quiet, it can just take up space. It’s not something I have to ignore or to mask or to push through. It is just here, a friend keeping me company in the wee hours of the night.

Odds are, if you are this far in reading this, you are probably having some sort of thought along the lines of “oh poor thing”. Or, if you know me by my accomplishments—my national awards, my TEDx Talk, my nationally presented research among other things—you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Oh wow, what an inspiration. What a leader in adversity.”

And I have been through a lot of adversity. Some of the details of my time here at Hope range from bias incidents to hate crimes to hospital admissions. I have done homework while running IV fluids, went to class on days I got hate-crimed. I persisted. I fought. And ultimately, I came out of my undergraduate degree pretty successful. I’m even headed to graduate school with an Ivy League acceptance in hand. I am the poster child of, in many ways, the American dream. I did it all, regardless of the barriers that stood in my way.

But let me give you my truth: I’m actually not a leader. And I am not an inspiration.

Radical, I know. Also, considering the context in which this is written, it’s ironic. 

But the idea that I am an inspiration often comes from a concept so many of us are probably familiar with: that there is purpose in pain. That by still succeeding despite all my obstacles, I have done just that—I’ve taken this pain and used it to propel my success. And that this success, fighting through all that I have been through, means that I am a leader.

This narrative is what I’ve seen perpetrated throughout my time here at Hope. After all, To be a good Christian means to grapple with sin and temptation and choose to walk with God. It’s the knowledge that every struggle is just an opportunity to bring you closer to God. That The pain you were experiencing is to mold you into being more Christlike to make you the best version of yourself you can be. And that this is the purpose of this pain.

My goal here is not to bash Christianity. Frankly I’m also a Muslim so it’s really not my place to bash on Christianity. But to ignore the prevalence of this narrative on Hope colleges campus is to ignore the pain that it has brought me and other members of marginalized groups.

Because what this narrative does is tell marginalized groups that there is a correct way to deal with their pain. 

That our pain, the pain of the intergenerational trauma of our ancestors, the pain of generations of murder and oppression, the pain that any white or privileged person cannot possibly even begin understand, must be handled in the same way as a white person’s. And that if it tries to take up any more room. it is harmful. It is unproductive. And it must be policed.

Because white people know that if there was purpose in our pain other than to uphold white values, in the pain of marginalized people, racism wouldn’t exist. Ableism wouldn’t exist. Homophobia wouldn’t exist. Fat phobia wouldn’t exist. Any system that upholds whiteness would not exist.

So instead, we must channel our pain in a way that brings us closer to God. Channel our pain into some semblance of success. Make it small enough that you can go on with your daily life, a cog in the machine that keeps marginalization alive and well.

My four years have taught me this all too well. I’ve watched BIPOC anger and trauma get deflected under the guise of bringing everyone together in Christ. I’ve watched LGBTQ members of this campus get their oppression justified because of their “sinful” lifestyle. I’ve watched women on this campus keep quiet about their rape as to not interrupt the Hope College Holland Nice. I’ve watched Christianity on this campus get weaponized time and time again as the only productive, valid, and meaningful way to process pain. And I’ve watched it shut everyone out who doesn’t subscribe to the narrative.

So when you call me a leader or an inspiration, what you are telling me is that I took my pain and packaged it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. That feels productive to you. And by doing so, you are erasing all the harm my success has caused me.

The times I attended school through seizures.

The times I went to classes after hate crimes.

The times I sat in rooms of people arguing my validity as a human being as though it is an argument with valid sides.

The times I cried, crawling up stairs to get to my classes.

Because my successes came with a price. An expensive one. A price I didn’t need to pay. My college career was full of the labour of carving out a space to just exist. And because I had the privilege of being able to compartmentalize my pain, to pay the price of wrapping my hurt in a pretty enough package—you hold me to the standard of an inspiration. A leader.

Because no, I am not an inspiration for doing what I needed to do to survive. I am not a leader because I managed to cheat the system and walk out with a version of success palpable to white society. I am those things because I exist. Because here I lie, in my bed in the wee hours of the morning, just taking up space. And that is the truth.

My Truth: Michael J. Pineda

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Michael is a Class of 2021 Business Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Concert Series, Baker Scholars, Phi Sigma Kappa, Jazz Arts Collective, STEP, Pet Shop, and the Latino Student Organization. He plans on moving to Chicago to work in consulting or marketing before pursuing an MBA.