Photo of Aniqa Ahmed, UD senior political science major.
Note: This article details incidents that include strong racist language.
I never thought dating into a suburban Trump-supporting family would change my very own perception of race.
I am from Bethesda, Maryland, one of the most educated and liberal suburbs in America. I have never felt as if my race had been an issue or even felt as if my race made me different. I guess the socio-economic liberal bubble I was living in never exposed me to the fact that I was indeed different from my White group of friends.
My freshman year at the University of Dayton I made the brisk decision of dating a junior from a White Ultra-Trumpian Suburb of Dayton.
According to U.S. Census data from the past 5 years, roughly 87.5 percent of the community is White and about 71.4 percent are Republican according to 2020 Ohio governmental voter turnout data.
At first I thought the small jokes and comments were silly, but those turned into microaggressions which turned into me questioning my own self-worth based on the color of my skin.
One night around 2 a.m., in a vivid kitchen on Fairgrounds, I noticed something was wrong as my boyfriend at the time drunkenly stumbled onto the countertop. I looked him in the eye, completely blank and asked, “What’s wrong…is this not working anymore?” to which he glanced at me from the Four Loko stained white Vans I was wearing to my white tube top and said with a flat monotone, “My friends and family just don’t see me with a Brown girl, Niqz,” and with that he went to bed.
This statement left me perplexed. I had never been singled out by the color of my skin, especially by someone whom I thought loved me.
That night, tears streamed down my face as I pondered, “Is my brown skin really a burden? Does it really make me that different?”
These were questions I had never asked myself in the 18 years I had existed as a minority.
A few months later, I was exposed to texts from a group message that my former boyfriend was a part of with his high school friends and a UD friend.
Within these texts, I had seen one of his UD friends calling me things such as a “terrorist” and a “n****r,” and the only thing he said in protest was, “Guys, chill.”
Not only was this infuriating, but it was incredibly disappointing. I decided to take to Twitter and expose these cruel and hurtful messages that delineated my experience as a woman of color, a decision that I often question even today.
After it picked up some steam, I had my former boyfriend’s father vigorously banging on his door and screaming that I needed to delete the tweets, as I was in my former boyfriend’s bedroom at the time. Once we attempted to settle him down he came into the room and tried to explain to me how those texts were not “real racism,” and how I was risking jeopardizing these boys’ careers and futures.
But in the back of my mind all I could keep thinking was, “Why does this White man who persistently uses the N-word with the hard R and supports racist rhetoric, get to tell me what ‘real racism’ is?” To him, it seemed as if the racism I’d just experienced was irrelevant compared to the impact it could have on his son and friends.
After about an hour of his dad terrorizing me and ferociously slamming the door, I was finally forced to delete the tweet. But it will forever be etched in my memory as the mark of my first vehemently racist experience.
This hurt. I was emotionally spiraling by the one existing power structure I believed wouldn’t hurt me. I kept asking myself “Why is this happening in such a progressive era? Why now? Why me?”
The casual way in which this group of friends and family would say the N-word and not understand its repercussions, especially around a person of color was something I could not even begin to fathom.
This would be considered taboo anywhere else but why was this particular town a safe haven for Republican Whites to blatantly express their racist thoughts and language? For my former partner’s grandmother to say to me, “Why does it matter if you’re the only brown person in the store? When I’m the only White person in the store it never makes me feel weird,” and for his sister to tell me,“You take race too seriously,” and to that entire friend group and family for reducing me down to a marginalized entity that I couldn’t help I was born as; I say thank you, thank you for helping me come to the radical realization that I exist.
Without you, I would not have realized that the complexities and education surrounding race deserve much more attention. Racial power structures exist and I was a victim to one, and to this day I still suffer from the trauma of never feeling like I’m good enough because of the color of my skin. But I would never wish these experiences away because, without them, I would have never realized how my race did, in fact, make me different.
It is the reason I will always have to work harder, it is the reason I will always have to talk in a “White person” voice on the phone for a job interview because my last name gives them the chills, it is the reason boys on campus constantly fetishize me, it is the reason I have to look in both directions before my best friend does.
I had never been in a position where I felt like my race was an issue, but to be subjected to this exploitation in what once was an intimate and comfortable setting helped me understand that racism is real, it is alive and no person of color is safe.
But the most important thing I took from this experience and trauma was the dramatic realization that my skin color is beautiful.
Even though it is out of the ordinary for being a student at a predominantly White institution, I’ve learned to accept the beauty of my race and all of the chaotic complexities that come with it, and I couldn’t be happier to share this fairly new experience of self-love and learning to unbind the strings of internalized racism.
Postscript: My name is Aniqa Ahmed and I am a senior political science major from Bethesda, Maryland. I felt as if it was necessary to share my opinion because I personally believe sharing trauma is deeply cathartic. Also, I wanted to humbly share my journey of self-love and growth to my readers from marginalized communities, so that they can understand how genuinely valuable and appreciated they are.