Just when you quit thinking racism was a current problem…

I feel like over the past couple weeks I’ve seen a new side to people in general. I’ve realized that there actually still are people out there who think they are better than you because they were born into a specific race.

Of course I’m not oblivious, I knew that this was always an issue, however, I’ve seen the problem light up in areas where I never would have imagined to have stumbled upon rude, arrogant, and racist people. To put a name to the face I am highlighting, here is a bit of background info. Even though technically on “scantrons” at school I am classified to mark “white” or “caucasian,” after one look at me, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not the typical American’s version of what a white girl should look like. I have naturally tan skin, dark hair and eyes, and different facial features than the typical “white American girl.” People ask, “what are you” so often, that I actually get annoyed because I believe the question in itself is rude. First of all, “what are you” just makes it seem as though I’m not human or something just by the wording. Second of all, I don’t see why “what I am,” or as I like to call it – my race – has anything to do with who I am as a person. isn’t that what should matter?

To answer the question, “what am I,” my mother was born a caucasian Canadian, and my father in Iran. I actually never even noticed the difference between me and my friends growing up: race-wise. People were just people. It wasn’t until middle school when I had a project over my heritage that I noticed I was “different.” And funny enough, it wasn’t even while I was doing the research or presenting my findings to the class. It wasn’t until after I had presented my presentation over my Iranian heritage and a student asked a question…

“So does that mean your dad is a terrorist?”

I was shocked. I had never heard someone speak to me in such a blatantly rude and arrogant manner. I suppose when you are a child you either don’t pay attention to people talking about you, or the children around you are also too young to believe there is a difference between their friends (because there isn’t) until parents or adults around them point this out, or people are just nice to you because you are “cute.” I guess the last applies best to the situation, because quite frankly… the middle school years are those awkward and uncomfortable ones where only one or two of the entire class can be classified as “cute,” and those lucky kids become the popular kids. Until, of course, the unfortunate phase that is puberty finally hits them too.

So anyways, after this kid’s delightful comment/question on my presentation, I stopped telling people my race. Everyone is extremely vulnerable in middle school, and this kid had found my kryptonite. Better yet, he made my kryptonite. I made it seem as though I was just being facetious and jokingly avoiding telling my race in order to make people have to guess – and nine out of ten times they got it wrong- and sort of turned it into a game. When people would guess right though, I would feel a wave of defeat wash over me, and would actually feel ashamed that they now knew, and ashamed that yet again I had to admit to myself that I was half persian. Over the years, my grandmother and grandfather would try so hard to tempt me to learn the language, Farsi. My grandmother even offered to buy me anything I wanted if I’d just learn the language. The only problem with this is that I was so set on not learning the language. Or better yet, anything about my culture.

If I ignored my race, I didn’t have to deal with the inevitable truth that yes, I am half-Persian.

It wasn’t until late in my senior year of high school that I realized how stupid I had been.

You can’t ignore who you are.

Especially when who you are is staring you right in the face every single time you look in the mirror.

I believe realizing this fact made me a stronger person. Now, if someone were to ask the same question from years ago, “So does that mean your dad is a terrorist?” I would be ready for it. I’d have a witty response on the tip of my tongue ready, maybe even saying, “yeah, and you’re next,” in a sarcastic speech. And when I started college, I really started to regret never having been interested to learn about my culture, or even give the language half a chance. I knew Spanish better than I did Farsi, the language of my heritage! I even joined a club called, the Persian Student Society. I was absolutely determined to retrieve all of the missed years of heritage that I had let slip by. By now, I had learned that some people are just jerks. They actually exist in this world, and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, I ran into more racist and prejudice people right in the place I had least expected to. In this Persian club. And that is where the storyline plays into the present.

I recently have come across some of the meanest and most racist Persians I have ever met. Even meaner than person of any other race I have ever come across. The snooty attitudes of several grad students – of full Iranian decent and actually from the country of Iran, only in the U.S. for an education- have just gotten me frazzled. The club has recently been put on hold because of one in particular. He and his “real Iranians” – whatever that means – aren’t happy with the “American persians” in the club because we aren’t good enough for his standards or something. Being treated almost like a mutt because I am not full Iranian, or because I don’t speak the language to their standards. This same “leader” of the rude and racist Persians decided to let our club president know that he was starting a “real Iranian” club, where the officers weren’t “just American.” It’s frustrating. Especially since I am the treasurer of the other club, so he is referring to me specifically.

I just wish some people weren’t so arrogant and close-minded. Apartheid may have ended long ago, but racism sure hasn’t. I just don’t understand why some people think they are better than others. I don’t understand why they believe someone’s race should play a role. It shouldn’t matter what a person’s decent is. What matters is who a person is, not “what” they are. If anything, I believe that rude and racist people are saying more about themselves than the actual person they are tearing down. And it’s truly a shame because they are missing out on some truly amazing people. I think that is partially why I am so passionate about gay rights, and just helping out the under-represented in general. Partially why I want to go the medical school route, so that I can help the people who are in a position of need, and so that I can hopefully tend to that need and make them better.

I’m glad that I am different. I am glad that I am the race I am. I am glad that ignorant boy said something about my dad being a terrorist. I am glad because I believe that it has made me a stronger person. I am glad that those obstacles were placed in my path. I am thankful, actually. I would not be the person I am today if none of this has happened. I honestly probably would not be so moved to help others. I am though, and it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

I came across this  video today, and almost wanted to cry. It’s people like this – people placed in a situation of fate which they cannot control- who need help that make me want to do any and everything I can to give it. I didn’t just want to cry of sadness, but of happiness. That such a beautiful little girl can stick through, and still have the same interests and passions of any other little girl. Hopefully I will meet many beautiful people in the world like her, and I can help to make a difference in their lives. : ]

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