Mikaela Wegner—Staff Writer
It was one of the first house parties of the year—a time for first impressions. Bryan O’Neil, a freshman at Dordt University at the time, had just moved to Sioux Center from big-city Atlanta, Georgia.
He walked to the door with a few other football players. They strolled inside, excited.
A burly white man—about 6-foot-4—stood in front of O’Neil. Looking to be in his early 20s and about 300 pounds, he was a “big dude.”
O’Neil met his eyes.
“I’ve never seen two n***** in one place at the same time,” the man said.
A dark pit grew in O’Neil’s stomach. His heart dropped, tongue twisting against his will. He wanted to hit the man, but an inability to move gripped him.
A thought then consumed O’Neil, one he would ask himself time and time again:
Do they even view me as a person?
Black Lives Matter and other global movements have shifted the culture following the murder of George Floyd, a black man. His killer, the ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on April 20 on all charges surrounding Floyd’s death.
According to CBS Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz said Chauvin’s conviction was “an important step forward for justice in Minnesota.”
But what this ruling means for small towns like Sioux Center is still in question.
In the 1900s, the Midwest served as a popular settlement spot for immigrants from the Netherlands, a reality still reflected in the populations living there today.
According to Census Reporter in 2019, 84 percent of Sioux Center is white. The next largest demographic is Hispanic—comprising 13 percent of the population.
O’Neil chose Dordt for its promise of a tight-knit community, one of genuine inclusivity.
But as he settled, his friend group shrunk and continued to look more and more like he did.
O’Neil, now a senior, often reflects on how this happened. And, time and time again, he feels Dordt students who looked different than him were discomforted by his presence and made little effort to connect with O’Neil and his friends.
Weekend after weekend, O’Neil watched Dordt students post events that he and his friends were never invited to. These pictures were filled with only white faces.
“A lot of people here are comfortable being comfortable,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil has never felt discriminated against by teachers. Rather, he has always felt respected by these people. Still, the university curriculum contains some ideas he finds inconsistent.
For O’Neil, Dordt can work towards a more inclusive school-body through more diverse recruiting, especially in sports.
He also mentioned that when it comes to promotional pictures, the university should be explicit with their motives in using people of color for them.
Anisa Quintanilla is one of these publicized faces used to promote diversity.
A freshman from California, Quintanilla knew she was attending a primarily “white campus.”
This past February, Anisa and her twin sister, Clarisa, received an email from the university media team asking for their involvement with promotional pictures on the basis that they were twins in the nursing program.
Upon receiving the email, Anisa was excited for the opportunity to help the school. But, as she told friends about it, she was asked if Dordt’s interest was on account of her Hispanic ethnicity. Anisa felt dumb for not realizing the university’s potential intention. And, as students continued to ask, their assumptions rubbed her the wrong way. Anisa thought Dordt was using her to make their campus seem more diverse than it was.
“I still would have done it either way,” Anisa said. “But I’m just the type of person that prefers honesty over anything.”