COLUMN: Correcting a “white-washed” view


Rob Le Cates

Katja Benz is a senior English major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Katja Benz, Columnist

The first event that I ever covered for the Daily Eastern News was the Latin American Heritage Kickoff in the fall of 2021. I covered that same event this year, which was in Doudna.

There’s so much that I don’t know about what it means to be a person of color. There’s so much I have to learn.

As a little kid, I was always told the ‘whitewashed’ version of things- stuff like Christopher Columbus is a hero, Day of the Dead is Halloween and Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day.

I learned very quickly that all of that was false. However, up until college, I never really told anything other than this ‘whitewashed’ version. I only learned that Mexican Independence Day was Sept. 15 three years ago.

While being part of the Latinx community is something I’ll never know personally, it is important to me to learn about experiences that are different from my own. Experiences that are different from my own deserve to be valued, heard, celebrated and welcomed by everyone regardless of race.

When I interviewed Yesenia Muruato, the coordinator of the events for Latino Heritage month, she said that learning about Latinx culture is important to those in it as well.

“I think that coming to our events and merging into our culture and learning about it,” Murato said. “It’s okay to ask questions, you know, as long as it’s in a respectful manner, but honestly, embracing the culture, learning about it, and exploring new things that you might not think you might like, is a great way to start.”

Amairany Bueno Benítez, a sophomore marketing major, who I also interviewed at the event says the same thing.

“I think it’s just supporting what we do,” Bueno Benitez said. “Like if you see a post made by us or LASO, just to maybe repost it. Make it known to people that it’s very important to us this month. We’re celebrating because it’s who we are, and we’re proud of it. So just being able to make it known to the entire school or more people that hey, this is who we are, and we’re proud of who we are.”

I do not have the same experiences as either Bueno Benítez or Muruato, I want to elevate their voices and create a space where the Latinx community feels safe and welcome in any space as soon as they enter.

When people ask me what I want to do for a living, I tell people that I want to work at a university to help minority students. As a minority student myself, I especially want to learn about the experiences of other marginalized groups so that I can help them at the university level.

I hope to attend more of the events to broaden and learn about diverse experiences and I hope others join me.

Katja Benz is a senior English major. She can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.