Student Stories Extras

The Privilege of a Latina in STEM by Ana Artiaga

My experience as an Engineering for Social Justice Scholar experience has definitely been a roller coaster thus far.

I went to my first class and things took a spin. I was the only LATINA— actually the only Latinx in the entire classroom. I guess at this point I should have already been used to being the only Latina in a classroom considering I study engineering, right. I mean if it’s rare to find a girl in an engineering class, now imagine finding a Latina. I like to think of it as a game of Finding Waldo. There are tons of engineers everywhere in the picture and then when you look looong and haard, “oh you spotted a Latina”.

Being the only Latino person in the classroom wasn’t too bad for after all the students, were from all sorts of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, which I thought, was pretty cool! In my Engineering for Social Justice Scholar’s class you can find students of all colors and experiences. This being said everyone had different levels of PRIVILEGE.

PRIVILEGE was something that I did not become aware of until I came to college. While registering for courses during summer freshman orientation the advisor placed me in low freshman engineering courses after seeing that I came from an inner city Chicago Public School. Despite the fact that I had taken much AP credit. I was overwhelmed, I felt as if my advisor thought I was stupid. Then the Fall came and I began to take courses with all sorts of talented engineering freshman, who the majority seemed to think classes were so easy. Then there was me. The student who half the time had no idea what was going on in Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, you name it despite the fact I was “college prepared” by my high school. Yet, I WASN’T. It was then that I learned that the quality of the education I received did not compare to that of my classmates. I WAS NOT PRIVILEGED. I WAS NOT PREPARED. AND I DID NOT FEEL WELCOMED IN ENGINEERING.

I continued to see PRIVILEGE everyyyyywhere on campus. Some students drive luxurious cars, live in the fanciest apartments, purchase the full price textbooks–you know the more expensive books from the Union bookstore rather than the cheaper deals online. That’s PRIVILEGE. Having the core skills to exceed in your classes is PRIVILEGE. Having your parents pay for your tuition, is PRIVILEGE. I DON’T Have This PRIVILEGE.

PRIVILEGE became a HOT topic during my Engineering for Social Justice Scholar’s class.  Matter of fact our privilege was shown to us with our very own Privilege Walk exercise. Every time we took a step back representing how unprivileged we are I thought of all the things that could possibly contribute to me being considered NOT Privileged.

There are tons of things that can make me unprivileged. I grew up in a neighborhood known for its poverty and violence, I received a public education, I have 1 parent instead of two, and the list can go on & on & on.

I was not HURT or SURPRISED when I was recognized as one of the most “unprivileged” persons in my classroom according to the social experiment.

BUT I did became frequently DEPRESSED and ANGERED with this class. A class that combined my BIGGEST passions: Engineering and Social Justice. A class I thought was MADE perfectly for me. I became saddened when I realized the LACK of understanding of social inequalities based on identity power and privilege some have. I heard comments as:

“Well why serve those who don’t have a high chance of succeeding in the current education system even with outside help?”

“Why help those communities that are proven to statistically continue being underrepresented?”

Such Comments, especially in a service learning course,  that frequently reflect unexamined privilege and cast persons and unrepresented communities—as a “problem”. SHOCKED ME.

SERIOUSLY —check every square inch of privilege that you have.

  • I wasn’t expected to graduate high school.
    • I was expected to work somewhere for minimum wage.
  • I wasn’t expected to achieve good grades in math and science.
    • I was expected to achieve in cooking and cleaning.
  • I wasn’t expected to be an engineering senior at the age of 21.
    • I was expected to be a wife and caring mom at 21.

BUT I surpassed adversities and fall into a very PRIVILEGED category. Yes I too, am very PRIVILEGED.

  • In 2013 more than one in five Latinas between 25-29 years of age had not graduated from high school. I graduated high school, I am 1 of the 5 Latinas.
    • I am privileged
  • Only 3 percent of Latina women are represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I am a very lucky 3%. If this room was filled with 100 Latinas I would be 1 of the 3 chosen ones.
    • I am PRIVILEGED
  • I attend one of the BEST engineering schools in the nation.
    • I am PRIVILEGED
  • And, I was given the opportunity to be here before you today.
    • I am PRIVILEGED.”

“Prayers from the Wolves Den” by Siobhan Fox

You can see inequality 

everywhere that you look

We just pass it off as normal and

it goes ignored

questioning her self worth

her voice recedes

every time you doubt her words

 

All it takes is some listening

To see that she’s crippling

Underneath ignored ambitions

suppressed by his ignorance

Both exposed and irrelevant

As I sit between man and man

Both exposed and irrelevant

 

Nothing else ever seems to hurt

Like your piercing words

When you say that my degree is a lie

And that my work

Could never stand on it own

Your judgment makes

Me feel stripped down to the bone

 

All it takes is some listening

To this that this is happening

Stopping collaboration

By preventing education

This right here affects everyone

Even though my voice is only one

Yes this affects everyone

 

I say this not

To make men feel ashamed

But to recognize our lives

They are not the same

Just look around at those

Affected by this pain

Together we can break

Systematic chains

 

Don’t diminish our excellence

Because of petty arrogance

Together we achieve success

If we celebrate intelligence

Please strengthen our community

By celebrating unity

Please strengthen our community