I spent some time roaming around the University at Albany campus center asking students if they had ever had to deal with racism on a personal level. What I found was interesting, to say the least.
When my class was given this assignment, my teaching assistant made me realize one thing: I would have instinctively sought out African-American students for gripping quotes and striking accounts.
My tendency to gravitate toward African-American students doesn’t stem from me harboring racism, but rather the (not-so-true) stigma that African-Americans are the only demographic that are forced to deal with some sort of racism or discrimination on a daily basis.
So, for this assignment, I decided to seek out those who I might not have thought would have to deal with racism and discrimination.
The first person I came across was Tara Kane, 20-year-old white female from Goshen, N.Y. With a surprisingly small amount of prodding from yours truly, she said “All the time I get told white girls can’t dance. I’ve also been told the way I speak is “white,” like if I’m speaking to a black girl. They’re always like “oh, you’re such a white girl.”
While being called a “white girl” may not seem all that hurtful, it obviously stuck with this one person long enough for her to bring it up to me.
Maynard Gonzalez, a 20-year-old Hispanic male, didn’t personally encounter racism on a dance floor, but rather on a basketball court. Gonzalez offered a short anecdote, saying, “One time during a high school basketball game a kid called me a spic after I fouled him. It didn’t bother me that much, but it’s sad how people don’t think before they say unnecessary things like that.”
Ryan Terrill, a white student and former athlete, couldn’t escape racism in sports either.
“Growing up playing sports I was always around all different kinds of people, so I’ve seen racism in a bunch of different ways. I’ve heard ‘white boy’ on the wrestling mat but I haven’t been called much worse,” said Terrill.
The stark contrast between Gonzalez’s experience and the following account shows the discrepancy between malice-based racism and seemingly harmless jabs among friends. While neither can be condoned and should be looked at with disapproval, the latter seems to leave less of an emotional scar.
21-year-old Brian Chung revealed some of the jokes he hears from his friends from day-to-day, “All my friends call me Asian and make fun of my mustache. They say that I don’t deserve a mustache and that I’m insecure about being Asian. They’re kidding but, yes, they actually say that.”
I couldn’t really tell you how someone could be undeserving of a mustache, but Chung didn’t come off as insecure about his ethnicity during the five minutes that I spent with him. In fact, he had a better mustache than I can grow.
Chung isn’t the only person I spoke to who dealt with racism from his own friends.
Zach Levy, a junior at the university, said, “I got a lot of crap in middle school and high school because my dad is Jewish so my family celebrates the major Jewish holidays. It was pretty much all from my friends so it wasn’t that big of a deal but it definitely got annoying. I haven’t had to deal with that in a while though.”
Many people would point to strangers or unfriendly acquaintances as the source of racism and discrimination, but based on this small sample size, it is often friends who like to engage in the ugly practice.
Don’t hate, readers.