Stop Calculating My Difference

Like many private schools, the school I attended was predominantly white.

Aketzally Murillo Alvarado
Aketzally Murillo Alvarado

Before said private institution, I went to a dual immersion elementary school, full of students who were just like me. I took ELA, but I was confident in my English as I was an exemplary student in that class. I was the type of student that was extroverted, asked questions and could even be a know-it-all at times. As dramatic as it may sound, that all changed when my first day of private school came around. I started getting questions I had never been asked before like what my first language was, where I was “really” from, and what bad words I knew in Spanish.

So many of these kids lived in what seemed like a different world from mine, because of that they would look at me like an animal at a zoo. All my opinions and experiences were different from theirs. They dressed differently, thought differently, talked differently. Although race had a lot to do with it, another factor was social class. This was very clearly something that separated me from my peers. I had to get used to getting asked if I owned any other clothes, if I really lived in Minneapolis, why I wasn’t as fast as typing as everyone else, and why I didn’t go anywhere over breaks.

Through their remarks, I realized my peers simply had no idea how to interact with someone so different from them, in a less fortunate way. These kids didn’t realize their insensitivity because they had spent their whole lives being around others who were out of touch. Attending a private school just amplified that shelteredness.

According to Katherine Phillips, a professor who studies the benefits of diversity, “when you have people from the social majority in a diverse environment they work harder and focus on the task more. They think about problems more broadly. Phillips also explained “they are more likely to back up their own opinion, and consider alternative points of view, rather than assuming that everyone thinks as they do.”

I’m the type of person who doesn’t hesitate to call others out so even just among my friends I have seen a drastic change. From becoming more aware of other people’s hardships and struggles and realizing privilege to assumptions. We’ve both learned from each other.

This story was produced at ThreeSixty’s Op-Ed Workshop in fall 2023. Aketzally worked with Sahan Journal reporter Alfonzo Galvan and Reformer reporter Madison McVan to finish their story. Click here to read more stories from the workshop.