In Plain English

University of Oregon's students of color discuss what race means in terms of their experiences on and off campus. The video is a procession of talking heads, positioning the students as points of authority while also encouraging the viewer to consider their own expectations and ideas of race.

0:00Copy video clip URL Black.

0:20Copy video clip URL Bars and tone.

01:09Copy video clip URL Title: “In Plan English: students speak out.” Several students of color describe how during high school they were never informed about four year colleges as an option or pushed in that direction.

01:58Copy video clip URL “I think that the idea of self-identity really came out for a lot of students once they hit this campus,” Michelle Singer explains. “When you were in high school or public school you weren’t classified as Native American or Asian American or Hispanic or Chicano or whatever. Here at the University, you were.”

03:12Copy video clip URL Title: “Identification.” Carol Cheney, who was adopted from an orphanage in South Korea as an infant, talks about the confusing racial politics of being “a GI baby.”

03:48Copy video clip URL Geo. Ann Baker, a Paiute and Klamath woman, discusses how others should refer to her race. “As long as you know that I belong to this continent–I could Native American, American Indian, or I could be indigenous to this land, whatever you want to call me–just don’t call me the negative names.”

04:37Copy video clip URL Meredith Li describes how frustrating it is to be a fourth-generation American, but still taken for a “foreigner” by strangers.

05:05Copy video clip URL Title: “Labels.” Armando Morales describes his mestizo heritage.

05:59Copy video clip URL Diana Collins, who is originally from Guatemala, is often called “Mexican” by mistake.

06:21Copy video clip URL “There are a lot of people, including myself, who do not accept the word ‘Hispanic’ at all,” Maria Mendoza explains. “It was a name given by the government to clump us all together, and it really denies the Indian heritage in us.”

07:02Copy video clip URL Jon Motohiro, a member of the APSU (Asian-Pacific Student Union), says that some students “seem to always forget the little ‘P’ part” of their organization’s name, and do not speak out for students who come from the Pacific Islands. Sweeter Sachuo, who is Chuukese, explains that he is a US citizen but does not have the right to vote.

07:32Copy video clip URL “I think there’s a real expectation for Asians in general to always get top grades, to always be obedient and successful and quiet and even-tempered,” Meredith Li says.

08:00Copy video clip URL Jon Motohiro talks about Asian-Pacific Americans being excluded from a college scholarship because they were not “an underrepresented minority” on campus. Then, Gretchen Freed-Roland explains the arduous process Native Americans must endure to get scholarships, based upon a new law that requires tribal registration in order to receive funding.

09:25Copy video clip URL Title: “Color.” Leyla Farah talks about growing up in Kuwait, where her skin color was not an issue. “It was really interesting to have those developing years with no reference to my color, ever,” she says. “Coming back to the States was quite a shock.”

09:55Copy video clip URL Jon Motohiro explains why he is bothered by descriptions of Asian Americans as “yellow.”

10:17Copy video clip URL Gretchen Freed-Rowland’s family is Winnebago and Ojibwa, but her siblings range from “very blonde and blue-eyed” to “very dark.” She describes how difficult it was to decide to embrace her heritage at a young age.

11:00Copy video clip URL “If you’re black, you’re black, pretty much,” Krona Adair says. “Even if someone paints you, you’re gonna be black.”

11:10Copy video clip URL Leyla Farah feels out of place even when trying to connect with the communities she belongs to. “When I’m in the black movement, I’m the gender wing…and then when I’m in the feminist movement, I’m the color wing.”

11:22Copy video clip URL Kevin Diaz explains that, because of his light complexion, people who do not know that he is Peruvian-American will occasionally make racist comments around him.

12:03Copy video clip URL “I look ‘normal’, whatever that means,” Kronda Adair says, as opposed to fitting an LGBT stereotype. “That’s why I feel it’s really important to be out.”

12:35Copy video clip URL Title: “Language.” Maria Mendoza grew up speaking both English and Spanish, but when she was young she was actively discouraged from speaking Spanish in school.

12:53Copy video clip URL Geo. Ann Baker talks about her grandmother, who used to speak Klamath to her and take her to tribal council meetings. Once Baker reached school age, her grandmother stopped, out of a fear instilled in her at a boarding school in California. “She assumed that once you reach school age and you speak another language, you will be punished.”

14:04Copy video clip URL Jon Motohiro has learned Japanese as a way to connect with his heritage. His grandparents get so excited when he sends them letters in Japanese that they’ll call his parents to read the letter out loud.

14:40Copy video clip URL Meredith Li is studying Japanese at the University of Oregon, which confuses many people because she is Chinese-American. “With a lot of people from European backgrounds, nobody asks them, ‘Why aren’t you taking German? Your last name, isn’t it German?'”

15:21Copy video clip URL Callan Coleman explains some of the subtle differences in body language between Anglo-Americans and African Americans.

16:04Copy video clip URL Sweeter Sachuo and Armando Morales talk about speaking with accents in the United States. “I could sense that people were not paying attention to me,” Sachuo says. Morales feels a similar sense of rejection: “If you have a funny accent, they don’t let you enter the society.”

16:47Copy video clip URL Title: “Curriculum.” “To me, the curriculum is awful,” Eric Ward says of the classes that many students take outside of specialized gender or ethnic studies. “What they teach is very Eurocentric.”

17:17Copy video clip URL Geo. Ann Baker talks about her frustrations with course requirements in languages–she would like to take Lakota, but the University requires more widely-taught courses.

19:00Copy video clip URL “Eurocentric teaching isn’t a bad thing when it’s in balance, I think, with other teachings,” Eric Ward explains.

19:35Copy video clip URL Meredith Li reports that there has been an Asian-American Studies course listing for nine years, but the class has never actually been offered.

21:28Copy video clip URL Title: “Faculty of Color.” Diana Collins and Michelle Singer talk about the importance of hiring faculty of color. “There are so many different perspectives within our culture that can’t be expressed by somebody who’s Euro-American. A white person trying to teach Native American lit just doesn’t hack it,” Singer explains.

23:20Copy video clip URL Title: “In the classroom.” The students talk about experiencing racism in the classroom. “There are a number of situations where I feel really frustrated in class, because when I talk it seems that people don’t accept my talking as intellectual,” Sachuo says.

26:23Copy video clip URL Title: “On Campus and Around Town.” Students talk about being harassed by police in Eugene, as well as by local residents.

29:42Copy video clip URL After news of a date rape shook campus, the student paper published a picture of the alleged rapist, who happened to be black, on the front cover. Eric Ward fought with the paper staff and with administrators over the cover. “I’ve never seen a picture of a white man on the [student paper] accused of rape, even though I’m sure there’s been a lot of them.”

31:23Copy video clip URL Meredith Li tells the story of an Asian woman who was harassed while walking around Eugene. The woman called campus security to report the incident, only to discover that the University had no system for filing complaints of harassment on the basis of race.

32:46Copy video clip URL Title: “Subtleties.” Students describe the frustration of small gestures, like stares or offhand comments.

34:40Copy video clip URL Title: “The Whole Race.” Students talk about not wanting to shoulder the burden of representing their entire race in all discussions.

35:16Copy video clip URL Eric Ward talks about how he feels when issues of race are addressed in class. “The whole class will turn and stare, if you’re the only person of color…like I’m a spokesperson for the black race or something. … I never look at a white person and expect them to speak for their entire race.”

36:45Copy video clip URL Title: “Empowering.” Kronda Adair talks about educating people about race. “People need to take responsibility for their own education. It’s not my job to go out and educate everybody about racism… it shouldn’t be anybody’s job to go out and educate the oppressor.”

37:31Copy video clip URL Eric Ward expresses frustration with being a “token” at the University. “They want us here–they get federal funding if we’re here, it makes the university diverse, and they learn a hell of a lot from us, much more than they give back.”

41:35Copy video clip URL Credits.

43:25Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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