An open letter to St. Olaf track coaches

Written below is the resignation letter Mercy Garriga ’18 sent to her coaches after experiencing numerous instances of racism, unaltered in any form:

Dear Coaches,

I will not be coming to practice or running anymore for St. Olaf. I was going to send this letter at the end of the season, but I have reached my breaking point where I say enough is enough. Although there are many reasons that have pushed me to make this decision, the biggest issue that pushed me was the following: This team is not made for people of color. For the past two years, on a nearly daily basis, I have received racial microaggressions and have heard racist comments from my fellow runners. In addition to this, at some point during cross country preseason 2015 I became the punching bag of the team. I have created a list of instances, that I can explicitly remember, that happen to me, some much more often than others:

  1. “Mercy Garcia” (after knowing me for 1.5 years)
  2. “I wish my parents didn’t make me white so I could have tacos.”
  3. People insisting on speaking to me in Spanish and vice versa.
  4. People only greeting me in Spanish
  5. People asking about my legal status (I’m Puerto Rican and was born in Chicago)
  6. People refusing to accept that I’m Puerto Rican, not of mixed race.
  7. “I’ve been to a quinceanera too” (at a Latin dance night event in the Pause, when I’ve never been to one.)
  8. People assuming that I’m only attracted to black guys
  9. Comments on my butt
  10. People assuming that yelling “white power” and nicknaming someone “white power Billy” is funny and acceptable
  11. People downplaying “black lives matter”
  12. Showing up to meets and seeing multitudes of white men and women appropriating cornrows/African braids
  13. People assuming that I know all rap songs.
  14. “Asians are sticklers” with many in agreement
  15. People yelling out songs that say “nigga” without even having second thoughts about the word
  16. “I can’t wait until I’m old so I can be fat and racist”
  17. “You say ______ like a white girl”
  18. How do you really say your last name (implying that I’m supposed to say it with an accent)
  19. The assumption that I know what everything is at El Triunfo
  20. “Your hair doesn’t even look like human hair”
  21. Starting sentences with “Not to be racist, but…”
  22. “Do you like to tan? I know this one African American girl that doesn’t like to tan”

As a student of color at a predominantly white institution, I prepared myself to receive some of the comments above, but I did not expect to receive them so often and to this extent. The lack of diversity on this team, and lack of people of color willing to speak up for the fear of being seen as the angry brown/black stereotype, solidifies to the white runner that they can get away with comments like these. I have never been part of a team where I have been marginalized for something one cannot choose: their skin color and culture. Since I don’t like running enough to put up with this for another two years and pull off a heroic Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson anti-racism story, I quit.

Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to run at the college level for these past two years. As white coaches I don’t expect you all to fully understand what it feels like to receive this rhetoric, but I hope I have given you insight to what it means to be a person of color on this team.

Mercy Garriga

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