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On Not Finding Yourself

Oct. 2022

By Antônio Jorge / Po'at Krenak and Julie Gnany 

 

When senior year of high school came, I saw many of my peers freak out about Common App, Questbridge, making college lists, and starting to write their personal statements. In my friend circle, I saw some debate and struggle to decide what they were writing about. But, once I got to see the prompt options, I had nothing to doubt as to my PS theme. Being multi — be it culturally, racially, or lingually —  is a dominant part of my identity and something that I talk about at any opportunity. This is not always by choice or pride, but largely because societal norms make me overtly aware of my difference.

My personal statement was entirely about being half-Arab, half-Native; being Latin American, but not speaking Spanish; being a 2-nd gen Brazilian, but, at the same time, having roots to that land dating to unmemorable times. Some may say that talking about this, my identity and its struggles, are my whole personality. And I cannot help but agree. At Dartmouth, I saw yet another sea of communities I did not know how to take part in.

For over six months, every Thursday around 3pm one could catch my best friend Julie and I sharing experiences of post-colonial identity issues as college students live on WebDCR. The fear and the feeling of not belonging were themes that reigned through our radio show — Post-Colonial Stress Disorder (PCSD).

Julie, as a Mauritian Creole, struggled every time she'd text the DASA group chat. Given her island nation’s unique colonial history, Mauritius’s dominant political and cultural forces are driven by a majority Indian diaspora. Despite being from a multicultural island, with descendants from continental Africa, India, China, and Europe, pride in an African identity was often absent or suppressed in mainstream discourse. When she was finally given the opportunity to connect with her African peers at Dartmouth, Julie struggled to not feel like an imposter, taking up space she didn’t belong in.

Julie’s confused sense of ethnic and racial identity also prevented her from enthusiastically joining race-based affinity groups. As a descendant of Malagasy, Indian, French and Scottish ancestors, she did not feel like she could authentically share experiences with Black or South Asian cultural groups. The lack of defined spaces for mixed race or Third Culture students made Julie feel like she was slipping through the cracks, unable to find much needed sanctuary and comfort in a PWI.

I myself, similarly, was not able to attend either Native Pre-O nor International Student Pre-O. For being signed up to both by the college administration, it actually turnt out to be physically impossible to be in either one.

Julie had a hard time feeling comfortable in Francophone friendships, as those often carried a tough colonial tone to speaking of her home, Mauritius.

I was not proud to be a Portuguese & Spanish drill instructor - despite my fluency, these languages were imposed upon me against my will. It feels almost unfair to be, although in a paid position, spreading languages that essentially helped my Native one being exterminated.

While being an Econ major, Julie was not happy with the neoliberal stance classes took. The same one that exploits Africa.

As a Ling major, I cannot say I am happy to see so many white men teach me about Indigenous languages. As a NAIS minor, I also don't have a great time learning about cultural experiences and historical facts exclusively from a North American perspective, ignoring the Native communities in the Global South.

Being multi at Dartmouth means having your identity questioned, divided into department names, and being academically and obscenely invaded, researched, and taught about.

I wish the 26s a good experience.

I wish they feel comfortable walking into all spaces — classes or clubs.

And I wish all find home on campus.

                                                           You may have many, but there surely is one.

 

Antônio Jorge / Po'at Krenak

Julie Gnany

 

The Dartmouth Radical