Skin Deep

August 11, 2010
Five foot two. One hundred and twenty pounds. Female. Caucasian.
On paper, my appearance matches that of possibly the greatest percentage of people in the United States. No application I ever fill out will ask, “What idiosyncrasies can you bring to the table?” but they will all ask for an identification by race. To the minorities and the majority, I am the same, yet I am ostracized by racism.
I cannot find the reason for my blindness to racial prejudice, but it has come to dominate my life. On the warmest February evening I have ever experienced, a boy and I shared a meal and conversation at a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. The night was filled with effortlessness, and by the end, we decided that dating seemed to be in the cards. Granted, it’s hard to ignore the teenage triviality to such a date, but this was more than skin deep. Him: Six foot two. Two hundred and twenty pounds. Male. Hispanic (Salvadorian, precisely). On complete financial aid at a private school. I never thought twice about all of the above, but then again, this isn’t about me. The others made snide comments like, “He got lost looking for the lawnmower, and went to her bedroom instead”. While for most people the issue is overcoming discrimination, it knocked me over, and I had to figure out what had just hit me. While ignoring those jests seems adequate, it does not prevent the comments from being made, nor does it prevent them from affecting our relationship. I worry that my house is too big and pretentious. He worries that the lack of his own car will be inhibiting. If you were wondering, the relationship has prevailed amidst such heavy amounts of worry.
Although I tended to see the world through rose colored lenses, the lenses have cracked. All of us in this room are not united by much except that we attend the same high school. Yet I am willing to bet that all of us have been victims of discrimination. For example, the approaching need to fill out college applications begets a new style of racial prejudice. Checking the “Caucasian” box on a college app personally causes me distress. The “desire” for diversity on a college campus seems more like an obsession of sorts. How relieving it is to know you will be moved to the top of a pile of applicants because you’re Native American or Asian or Hispanic. While the applications do not ask for idiosyncrasies, it is exceedingly common in daily life to be estranged by one’s peers for having “weird” hobbies or “different” interests. Sometimes this estrangement causes us to find those like us and form a bond. Other times, it is a thick separation from humanity. The difference is, if being mocked for a strange interest, most people will topple under the pressure and change interests. There is no possibility of changing races.
Because race is such a permanent label, action must be taken avoid prejudice. What if applications did not have a box to fill in one’s race? What if mixed racial dating was portrayed in media as beneficial to personal growth? I am aware that the entire world is not capable of shielding their eyes from race, so massive changes are not the effective answer. It’s a personal fight, and it is always in existence. The best thing one can do is be aware of racism, and never give in.
All it comes down to is being inspired. Once the fire to end discrimination is fueled, it is impossible to contain it. I have a tendency to be overzealous towards all things I have an interest in, but once a social issue becomes personal, it refuses to go unacknowledged. The power of passion is fiercely unstoppable, and with it, it is my hope that prejudices will disintegrate.

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