David Albán Hidalgo
CSRE (Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity) courses give us the language and space to engage with questions we have always wanted to ask – and sometimes didn't know we wanted to ask –across a range of disciplines.
I was only 11 when I moved to the United States, but I remember feeling as if I were being whitewashed. With each passing year in Seattle, where the forecast seems to be perpetually partially cloudy, my skin became lighter and lighter after my childhood of plentiful sunlight in Ecuador and Venezuela. This wasn't the first time I felt like a stranger—neither Ecuador, where most of my family is from, nor Venezuela, where most of my childhood memories were from, ever really felt like home.
But after arriving in a primarily white suburb of Seattle, part of a land where my foreignness weighed heavy in my language, in my skin, in my parents' sacrifices, I realized just how different I was. I became more and more confused as to what I could identify with; Americans called me "Mexican," "Filipino" or "Indian." Still, I remained proud of my heritage in low-key ways, such as signing both my last names in all school assignments and always speaking Spanish at home with my parents.
Eventually, I saw myself as one of many "ethnically ambiguous" Americans. I didn't seek out areas of study that critically explored the concept of identity. But that changed when I got to Stanford and took a class from Michele Elam, professor of English, called "The New Millennium Mix: Crossings of Race and Culture." It challenged my views and led me to explore race and identity courses through CSRE [Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity].