Stories from people of color at Hesston College

by Emily Kauffman – Horizon Features Editor

In celebration of Black History Month, students and faculty of color at Hesston College are sharing their stories. The prompts:

  1. When have you been treated differently based on the color of your skin?
  2. How are you treated here at Hesston?

Anonymous – “I remember this one time at the airport where a woman who was doing security checks treated me in a way that offended me. She was treating every white person in line quite well until she reached me. She began talking to me with a loud and slow voice as if she was dealing with an autistic person. She would make abrupt comments about how I was keeping the line longer. It was a harsh experience as it was the first impression I got of a new country.

I do feel accepted here at Hesston. Most people here are friendly and welcoming. Even though there might have been some inconvenient times, I doubt it was intentional and isn’t worth mentioning. All things considered, Hesston is a great place to be when it comes to issues that stem from being a student of color as it makes one feel at home.” 

Delly, Jeremy
Jeremy Delly; photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

Jeremy Delly ‘16 – “I have felt treated differently based on the color a lot when I was in High School. It was tough for me because at that time my English wasn’t good. So, when people would put me in a situation that I felt like I am been treated differently because of my color, I was unable to talk back and expressed myself because I couldn’t speak the language. These were the only times I felt that way.

I think the Hesston College community does a great job on being diverse and making me, a person of color, feel comfortable. However, if the college has an idea of making what they are doing better, meaning, making the campus an attraction for more people of color, I would 100% support it.” 

Lazaro, Evelyne
Evelyne Lazaro; photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

Evelyne Lazaro ‘17 – “I feel discriminated when I walk around Hesston and some of the Hesston college community stare a lot which makes me feel uncomfortable to a point. It bothers me because they stare at literally everything I’m doing like I’m about to do something and that’s not right.  I don’t know what they are thinking. They could be thinking about “Why is there a black person in my town?” or maybe they just like to stare. Here at Hesston I never seen any black people off campus ever since I moved to Hesston.

We should all be treated equally. I do feel comfortable here on campus. Everyone here is great and they make me feel welcomed.” 

Crosby, Isaiah
Isaiah Crosby; photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

Isaiah Crosby ‘16 – “There has been several different times in my life that I have been treated differently because my skin color. One of the times that was most recent and strikes my memory the most was my senior year of highschool. I was really close friends with a girl in my Geography class. We were great friends but total opposites, she got herself into a lot of different things like alcohol and drugs, and on top of that she was a pretty unstable individual. So one night I was getting ready for bed and she calls me crying and screaming telling me she’s going to kill herself because no one cares about her and because she was sick of her father. So I hopped in the truck and I headed for town as fast as I could. As I picked up the phone to call her to tell her I was near the neighborhood she told me not to come in the house because her father didn’t want me there. So I waited as he left and I ran in to find her. I began to talk and help her until she became stable again. That night had been a really bad night on top of a lot of other issues she had with family so she was planning to commit suicide right as I was showing up. Thankfully she calmed down completely  and she was comfortable enough to talk. She told me that the only reason why she said not to come in was because her dad didn’t want me in the house. He was there when she called me, and he had seen what I looked like before in a picture so he told her, “I don’t know if he’s Black, Indian, Mixed or what but he looks black of some sort and nobody like that is welcome on my property, nobody of any color!” So even through his daughter threatening suicide and preparing to follow through with it he left the house in anger and didn’t even want me coming in to help or even be associated with his daughter because of my skin color. However after I left and he arrived at the home again she said he was still angry, but he chose to let it go because she told him I was a preacher.

As a student of color at Hesston college I do feel comfortable and accepted in the sense that I am often treated equally through my valued presence, opinion, and comfortability. It is through inclusiveness, intent, and awareness driven by the leaders and students that I am often met with a level of equality, so to insure the progress in the future of such a wonderful institution these are the traits and values that must continue.” 

Ponds, Carlota
Carlota Ponds; photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

Carlota Ponds, Alumni and Church Relations – “When I was 12 or 13, my church youth group made arrangements to bunk in a local church while attending our (United Methodist) annual conference in Redlands, Calif. We knew there were 3 other youth groups sharing the space, and they knew, because of the distance, we’d likely be the last to arrive. We heard movement inside, but no one answered. Next we knew, the local police responded with weapons drawn. Apparently, the sight of so many Black teenagers frightened the other youth directors who called the police rather to find out if we were the late arriving group they were still expecting.

Fortunately the situation was cleared up without arrest or gunfire, but for me there was an additional insult to endure. A few days later at one of the food vending kiosks, I overheard three people casually discussing “the incident” which had made news throughout the conference. One older woman remarked how sad it was that the “little ghetto church kids” were treated so roughly. She wondered how we could be evangelized if we were arrested and not allowed to attend the conference.

The husband of younger couple nearby said my youth leader should have known to “warn” them that we were Black when he made our arrangements to stay there. His wife thought it would be frightening to “anyone” to see so many “of those people” in that place that late at night. If I’d been older, smarter (or just not so hot headed) I would have let the conversation continue a bit longer just to see where it would go. But by then I just blurted out, “I’m one of those ‘little ghetto church kids,’ we didn’t get arrested because we didn’t do anything wrong! And we didn’t know it would be so scary to see us! Are you frightened by me now?” I was so mad I was shaking and in tears.

The trio was stunned. They never thought I could have been one of the “little ghetto church kids” because in their mind, I wasn’t Black. Then the back-peddling began.

“Very sorry if we offended you…didn’t know you were. Bla…part of that group!”

“How could we have known? Just look at you – you could be anything, you don’t have to be Black!”

“Of course we didn’t mean anything bad by what we said. We were just talking!”

I had accidently been allowed a peek “behind the veil” of how well-meaning people (who don’t think they are racist) sometimes speak about people of color when they “don’t mean anything” by it. What they “don’t mean” still hurts.” 

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