The Fine Line

America is diverse. Woohoo. Red, white, and blue; good for you.

We’re lucky to live in a society surrounded by as many different cultures and traditions as we do. In one class I sit next to people from 9 different countries. My grandmother, who lives in the Philippines, didn’t meet a white or black person (or any other ethnicity) until she was way into her 30’s.

In this wonderful melting pot we’re boiling in, there are stereotypes. There is hatred and misunderstanding and distaste all around. There is conflict and distrust. The bottom line is that there is racism and blatant offense, even if it’s unintentional.

I have lots of friends from the Indian subcontinent. They make brown jokes, we laugh, we move on. That can be considered acceptable in most situations because it’s light and we never speak down about anything or anyone.

Acceptable:

Me: What do you have for lunch today?

Other friend: Is it curry?

Indian friend: *genuine laugh*

Unacceptable:

Anyone: Sup, nigga.

Why the “N” word has become so mainstream in this society is unknown. Everyone means it as a joke of course, but not everyone is comfortable hearing it. The word was used to demoralize and humiliate Africans for hundreds of years: why is it now a term of endearment? (And I use “endearment” very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very (go on for infinity) loosely.)

Another point to bring up: Anything can be offensive to anyone at any time in any situation. You never know. What some people find funny, others find extremely offensive and a huge moral lapse in character.

Some advice to make you a better person:

  1. If you think something you’re about to say has the potential to make someone uncomfortable or upset, don’t say it.
  2. If something you say does upset someone: DO apologize, DO NOT try to defend yourself. Misunderstandings happen, and most people will move on. Trying to defend yourself only worsens the situation, making you sound inconsiderate and arrogant. Yes, arrogant.

Example:

Person 1: Wow this is so gay.

Person 2: Don’t say “gay”, it’s rude and offensive.

Person 1: Hey it was just a joke get over it.

Not only do you sound like a bigger asshole, you leave the other person with a bad idea of you and resolve nothing. Even if you don’t believe what you said was wrong, the person you offended did.

Whether you’re Christian or atheist, black or white, tall or short, fat or skinny, Team Edward or Team Jacob, the bottom line is that you’re a human being with your own thoughts and feelings, and so is everyone else. Though people understand the “Do to others what you want others to do to you” principle, their actions actually follow the “Do to others exactly what they did to you, except hit them harder.” We can’t be a productive society when everyone is busy pissing each other off.

Then there’s the flip side: Try not to be so easily offended.

Me: So I made this new friend and he’s white and–

My friend: Don’t you mean Caucasian?

Me: What?

My friend: Why does everyone call us “white” when I have to say “Filipino” or “Chinese” instead of Asian why is it offensive if I call Asians “yellow” why–

And so on.

I corrected myself of course, but I did find it a very strange and unpredictable interjection. African Americans are called “black”, other white people are called “white” (even on the AP information sheet, which I recently filled out), my Indian friends call themselves brown.

Little things are going to happen, but we can’t change the world. If someone is pulling an extreme Megan Lochte or being flagrantly and uninhibitedly homophobic, say something. By all means, say something. But if someone refers to an African American “black” or pulls a stereotypical accent, as long as it’s all in good taste, please leave it be.

Of course all of this is from my personal experience. I don’t have a way with words to phrase this post exactly the way I meant it to be, but I hope you see what I’m trying to get at.

By all means, speak up if anything at all is crossing your personal lines. Just think before you speak, and be respectful.

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Color Me Pretty

When you first meet someone, you see their eyes. You see their smile, their hair, probably what they’re wearing. Some eyes may even wander to the busty bits. The first things I see is their skin.

Ugly. Ugly ugly ugly. Freak. Burn victim. Ugly. Disgusting. Scaly lizard monster. Ugly. Gross. Diseased. Ugly. Ugly ugly ugly.

I have full-body eczema. From childhood I was ostracized for my appearance: the other kids thought I was diseased and contagious. It took a long time before I could see myself as beautiful: even today it’s still a struggle.

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My “hideous, disgusting, disease ridden” skin (pictures taken 5 minutes ago).

In the 8th grade, there was a boy who hated me very much because I told him his hair was chocolate colored… I’m such a monster. One day I was having particularly bad irritation on my skin. This boy comes up to me and says, “You look disgusting. Did you roll around in poison ivy before school? You should use soap next time you shower, ugly, it might help.” I cried. I cried so hard I was sent to the counselor for the rest of the day. I found out later that some guys kicked his ass after school, but that was an empty victory.

The next day he comes up to me and apologizes. He says, “You should’ve told me you had a skin disease I never would’ve said anything.” That made me want to kick his ass. Here is a 13 year old white boy raised in an upper middle class area. He should fucking know what manners are. What he said to me was the same thing as going up to a heavy-set person and saying, “Sorry I called you fat, you should’ve told me you were genetically predisposed to obesity.” It’s called manners. It’s called respect. My response to his apology was this: “I will never forgive you, and you will never talk to me again so help you God almighty.”

My response was immature, I understand that. But I gave him what he deserved, and he never spoke to me again. My friends were asking me how I was. I said I hated him for pointing out my scars — the things I try so hard to forget exist, the things I try so hard to hide — to which one friend replied, “Everyone notices them, it’s true. But don’t let that bother you because your skin does not define you.”

At the time, those words upset me. I was fixated on everyone notices them, and for the next 2 years I stove to hide my skin at all costs. But now, I thank baseGod almighty she reminded me that my skin does not define me. Those 6 words have become my strength for every single time I look in the mirror.

Before, I used to see disease. I saw gross imperfection at its most basic level, and I saw a hideous monster that no one could really love or befriend.

Now, I see big brown eyes. I see a cute button nose and a pretty smile. I see a beautiful girl looking back at me, and I smile back at her.

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And now we interrupt this post with an awkward selfie.

This post was inspired by last weekend. I went prom dress shopping with my mom, and there were a lot of other girls there. I was standing at a long mirror with four or five other girls, and I saw how clear their skin was next to mine. I felt like the mushy brown banana everyone throws around to get to the bright yellow ones. The words of the little boy came to my head. Ugly… Disgusting… Then my boyfriend comes behind me and says, “You look so beautiful,” and it takes me back to reality.

The reality that I am beautiful, no matter what anyone says. The reality that I am loved. The reality that I have friends. The reality that I deserve to go to prom with those friends and have just as much fun as those other girls. The reality that I will go and I will feel beautiful that day and every day after.

Drum Roll, Please

“I hope Tech-sempai notices me…” she whispers over and over for 3 months. April comes, letters come out. Frantic, she pulls her laptop out and clicks the bookmarked link containing the ticket to her future. “Calm down,” her boyfriend reassures her, “Of course you know what it’s going to say.” And she did. And when it loaded she knew for sure, and for a moment everything and everyone in life was beautiful.

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Bam.

College Post #1

This fall I’m attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as a psychology major. It was my first choice: big, beautiful, great academics, the best food. What isn’t there to love?

I officially accepted their offer today, and officially declined the other schools I was accepted into. Though Virginia Tech is my first choice, and the school I’ve dreamed of going to for the past four years, it was a lot harder to hit those “Decline” buttons than I thought. Suddenly it was like, Hey, you’re trapped. This is it, this is your future.

There was a lot more emotional conflict then I thought there would be in this. I even had to make a list.

Reasons to go:

  • Great educational opportunity
  • Great life opportunity
  • Get the freedom I’ve been craving my entire life
  • Meet new people, make new friends
  • Grow as an individual and learn to truly be on my own

Reasons to stay (go to the school near by):

  • Won’t have to learn to do laundry
  • Won’t blow hundreds and thousands of your parent’s money
  • Won’t have to worry about maintaining a long-distance relationship (which I’ll write about later)
  • Won’t break your parents’ hearts
  • Won’t have to worry about too much change in too short time
  • Won’t risk spiraling into depression being all on your own

Pretty evenly matched.

Well I’m definitely going. There’s no turning back at this point. And I’m terrified. I haven’t told anyone, but I’m a nervous wreck. Truth is, none of my friends are going to Virginia Tech. When I go, it’ll be just me. It’ll be like I’m an immigrant sailing to America by myself, except I speak English and will only be a couple of hours away.

I was so panicked I almost accepted the offer of the school near my house. I was so freaked out I was hysteric.

It was a week ago. I was on the phone with my boyfriend panicking that I would be all alone and scared and what if I had another panic attack or what if my mom did or what if no one liked me or what if I got lost or or or… He hung up. And showed up at my house 10 minutes later. At 9 pm. We walked to the playground near my house and sat on the swings, and had a really long talk. He told me to go. He told me to stop thinking about everyone and think about what I want and what would be best for me. He said the best thing would be for me to go.

Four years ago my best friend would always say “Four more years, four more years…” Let’s just say he’s more enthusiastic about college than I am. Well, it’s been four years. It’s been a really good four years, where I made real friends for the first time in my life, built a self-esteem, built a successful academic profile, fell in love, and transformed into a person that I love.

The same friend talked about how life is about the choices we make. Well, my choice is to be a Hokie in the fall. My choice is to be brave for the first time in my life and take this risk I’m only 51% sure I’m willing to take. My choice is to enter college one person and challenge myself to come out stronger than I am right now.

And when push comes to shove, I won’t regret a thing.