by Elizabeth McGinn on February 4, 2021


photo courtesy of

by Mariela Flores ’23

Today me and my peers were called “aggressive.”
We were given the title and told to bear the weight of it, the weight of the word, the weight of all our ancestors before us who had heard the same complaint by the same white mouth, we are aggressive.  

       We are aggressive when we write, when we sing, when we dance, when we laugh, when we cry, when we are angry, because an institution is spitting in our faces, it is telling us to hold back, to hold on, to wait. 

 We are aggressive, I am aggressive.  

       I am five feet tall.
       A hundred and five pounds.
       I struggle to open their doors.  

 My appearance has been demonized because my tone is not right, but I do not have the energy to police myself today, not today, not tomorrow, not again.  

I am not aggressive when I am surrounded by a sea of white.
When this whiteness swallows me whole and I am left choking, spitting out a freedom I do not own, I am not aggressive when I am being told to stay shut. 

      I am not aggressive, I am afraid.  

Afraid as I walk through the campus and they throw their words, their chants, “build that wall!”—it rings in my ears, my hands, my feet, I can feel their hate, it hurts me.
And I am afraid to let them keep hurting me, because soon I will be nothing more than a bruise on their campus, on their world, and nothing, no one will heal me.
       I am not aggressive, I am tired.
Tired of holding up the image of someone I do not like anymore. The perfect image of the person “deserving” of a spot here. I keep trying to plant myself into their soil, but my roots will not grow.
       I am not aggressive—I am kind, strong, brave, far too patient for my own good.
                Today I will not apologize for the version of me you get when the patience has run out. I will not accept a title I did not earn, my humanity is not aggressive, my incentives, my motives, the dream I keep so close to my pillow, these things will not be tainted by a word from a mouth that does not feed me.  

       I am not aggressive, you are.