Disclaimer: Containing today, the Opinion section of the Daily Sundial is publishing an article series on discrimination in and around the nearby community. Reporters agreed to write stories in regard to how their lives are affected because of their race, culture and/or disability. Stories of how individuals lives are affected because of their race, culture and/or disability that aren’t represented by the reporting staff were contacted through organizations that represent them. If you feel there’s a story to be told about how the lives of individuals are affected by their race, culture and/or disability that aren’t being represented, please contact the editor at email@example.com, and its inclusion in the series will be considered. Stories included in the series were selected by considering the demographics of the campus’ student population. Content of articles in the series could be interpreted as offensive. Keep in mind that the series is meant to inform people about how differences are perceived and how they affect us as a community. It’s not the Sundial’s intent to escalate animosity, but to create understanding. Comments and responses are welcomed and can be submitted to the editor’s e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing consideration.
It’s nobody’s business but my own.
Why does it even matter to people? Why do people who never say more than three words to me at a time want to know? Why do they ask me what I am, not who I am?
People are often curious to know from which part of the world my family descends. And the question bothers me because it matters to them enough to have to ask.
People act in a very curious manner. They say one thing and mean another. It requires determining whom they are based on guidelines they establish when they communicate with other people. What I’ve deduced from the process bothers me.
When people ask what I am, they’re telling me people’s skin color or stereotypes associated with their physical appearence matters a lot to them. They’re also telling me they expect people to act in accordance with the cultural history from which they descend.
As they may value people’s physical appearance a lot, not the content of their character, I deduce they were popular in high school. They probably formed cliques and separated themselves from their classmates who didn’t look and dress as they did.
Because I refused to be a member of a clique during high school, and because I wasn’t invited to join the available cliques, I tell people who ask me what I am, “I’m a lot of things.” It seems to suffice as an answer for them. What I truly want to tell them is that I don’t want to answer and voluntarily separate myself from my peers and into a clique.
While I don’t consider such thoughts very reliable in determining why people ask me what I am, they do illustrate that it’s easy to make assumptions about people when they’re treated merely as categorized items. The thoughts also illustrate that it’s easy to keep from associating with people who don’t act or speak in a similar manner.
People tell me my skin color is a shade lighter than olive, which makes it very difficult to discern from which part of the world my family descends. They ask me if I’m white, Latino, Armenian, Hebrew or Greek, so I know my physical appearance matters to them.
Where I was reared, people didn’t place much emphasis on skin color. It simply wasn’t an issue. Mostly everyone had the same skin color and their families descended from the same region of the world, though people lived there who didn’t share the same physical attributes and ancestry. I didn’t comprise the majority, but I was never discriminated against.
It was only when I came to Los Angeles that my skin color became important. Some people said they asked what I was because they were curious, which was a very vague explanation. Other people, who were strangers, would look at me as though I had committed some great injustice against them. I’m certain it was because of my physical appearance and because I had never spoken to them before.
At CSUN, I talked to an individual whose job entails placing much importance on ancestry. She repeatedly asked to know my last name and where my family was from. When I told her I was from another state in the U.S., she started behaving in a rude manner. Although I can’t conclusively claim I was being discriminated against, it felt as though I was being put through an ancestry screening process.
When a lot of emphasis is placed on the part of the world from which people’s families descend, it’s easy to assume their roots influence their actions. It’s easy to assume their actions are motivated by their descendants’ actions. And it’s easy to dismiss someone as a racist rather than to ask them why they acted in a certain way.
I was reared to disregard hubris to maintain civil ties with my fellow human beings. As a result, I practice caution before embracing beliefs wholeheartedly. While the practice has limited my beliefs and allowed a few people to bully me, hubris isn’t any better, as it helps foster racism as much as ignorance does.
Hubris allows people to determine their roots are better than other people’s roots. It allows people to expect others with the same skin color to embrace the same ideals. And excessive pride leads to baseless accusations of racism. It ultimately results in a lot of animosity.
It would bother me if people asked me what I am because they want to find out if we have something in common, as it causes me to assume they are close-minded if they would prefer to befriend someone with similar experiences and views. And diverse viewpoints are important.
Diverse viewpoints should be encouraged during class, when friends hang out, or anytime groups of people spend time with one another even if no one agrees. I voice opinions with which I don’t agree, as I encourage people to debunk my ideas if they’re wrong.
Assuming one’s way through life may result in taking the wrong path, as people become lost when they rely on superficial categories and don’t take the initiative to communicate with one another. It’s the difference between what’s right and what’s easy.
The following lists the race, culture and/or disability of reporters who have an article that’ll be published or has already been published during the series. The order in which articles were published is random. To receive more information on the series of articles or to suggest that the Sundial write an article about how an individual’s life is affected because of their race, culture and/or disability, please refer to the disclaimer.
African descent Mexican descent European descent Armenian descent Jewish descent Asian descent Middle Eastern descent LGBTQ Central/South American descent Deaf Other