Last night was our final day in Texas. To cap off our week of hardwork we spent the entire day in the city of Austin. The students wanted to visit Graffiti Park at Castle Hill (this place where really talented graffiti artists have tagged various walls), the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum (where there are dozens of sculptures by Charles Umlauf and a featured exhibit of his work with Farrah Fawcett), eat at a food truck park (my favorite part of the day), tour the Lyndon B. Johnson library (which wasn’t open to the public) and the capitol building, walk around UT Austin’s campus (which apparently they weren’t impressed with at all), and watch thousands of bats fly out from under a bridge. Yes, you read that last part correctly.
Each night we end with a group reflection lead by the trip leader. We normally discuss our service from that state, the challenges we faced, or quotes about the environment. Last night he switched things up a bit and asked us each to write down an anonymous question, challenge, or thought for the group to discuss.
I wrote down two challenges:
- Do one small thing each day to make a difference
- Continue to interact and form relationships woth diverse people and people of different interests.
Although the work we did this week was appreciated and valued by those of the Texas Conservation Corps, we don’t have to drive twelve hours to make a difference or impact. We can commit to doing one small thing each day – recycling more, educating others about TXCC and Ameri Corps, giving random strangers hi fives on campus, stepping up in uncomfortable situations, etc. All of these things can help make a positive difference in someone’s life.
My second challenge wasn’t very anonymous; they all knew it was from me, but it was definitely something that needed to be said. I attended, and now work at, a PWI where a majority of our students are white males. I’m not white nor am I a male. I’m a black woman and a double minority on our campus. The types of questions and comments that I’ve received from students this week have been mind blowing. I understand that you’ll never know if you don’t ask, but there’s a right and wrong way to ask such questions. Not all of them were race related, but had to deal with my interests. Like…
“You can eat eggs, right?… Oh, you can’t? Sorry I’m ‘ignant’.”
A lot of people are unfamiliar with the vegan diet, that’s perfectly fine. But did you really just say ‘ignant’? Is that a joke or an Ebonics term for ‘ignorant’?
“Is it a stereotype that people with dreads don’t wash their hair?”
First off, let’s define the word stereotype. Second, are you trying to ask me if I don’t shampoo my dreads? I definitely do.
“Explain to us how NPHC Greek life works.”
Lord Jesus, there were not enough hours in a day to explain this or give them an answer that was PC.
“Did we have to have a certain number of diverse members on our team for this trip?”
Next question please.
I asked a guy what we were listening to because I had never heard it before, he automatically assumed I didn’t like it.
“I think I have one Chance song on my playlist.” I mentioned earlier this week that I listen to Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book album. I guess he assumed that’s all I listen to so when I knew the words to a Gavin DeGraw song he said, “You know Gavin DeGraw?” Yes, yes I do.
Yesterday was Cesar Chavez day. One girl asked who Cesar Chavez was. Another girl said, “You don’t know who Cesar Chavez is? Did you take history in high school?”
Stop it right now!