Sunday, December 19, 2010

People Who Don't Look Like Me

I had an interesting conversation with a friend. After a quick, and probably unnecessary, spiel about differing opinions within my family about immigration and political reform, I was confronted with an uncomfortable question. For the sake of not getting awkwardly personal, I would like to pose the question to all readers (if there actually are any of you): How do our friends and family react to interracial relationships? I answered honestly and sadly that I don't think my family and I are on the same page. I couldn't decide which was sadder: having to say that people are prejudiced or knowing that others really believe there are benefits to a kind of subtle segregation between those who look like us and those who don't. I love that I live in a country where so many cultures are represented. I think interracial marriages are every bit as wonderful and loving as non-interracial ones. But the question was not about what I think: It was about how my social network feels.

Initially, I found this to be a valid question. A question of curiosity. Afterall, how one's family feels about certain circumstances would have some kind of effect on their life, right? But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the question. At the risk of sounding selfish or overly idealistic, or, horror of horrors, cliche, I would like to say that I don't give a darn. Yes, I am a product of my culture. I have been influenced by my community's, parents', and religion's beliefs. Perhaps I will never realize the extent to which I have been affected by these institutions. BUT I also have agency. I can make my own choices, and I don't have to subscribe to the beliefs of anyone or anything I disagree with. I'll date and marry who I want, because I know what I believe, and I know what I think is right. At the end of the day, I have to answer for my choices and my actions, not the opinions of someone else.

That being said, I would like to take a quick look at a problem that, I believe, is adding to the prejudism that needs to be overcome. Too often we say, "it's not going to matter in the next life, in 10 years, or even tomorrow." I have a better motto: "It doesn't matter." Period. That means now. If I were to tell my child (which I don't have one, yet, don't worry) that in Heaven it doesn't matter what color our skin is, and I leave it at that, what am I teaching? That the hardships and ethnocentric beliefs of the present are a harmless temporal reality? No! The fact is, the way things are today is not necessarily the way things should be. "The way things are" needs to be changed, and I can't change that if I resign to appeasing my social network for the sake of appeasing them. I'm sorry social network, but I will love and be as close to people who don't look like me as I want. I will be friends with immigrants, legal or illegal. I will hold hands with a boy that I like whether his native language is English or not. I will marry who I marry because I love them for the person they are and not their ethnic makeup.

To all those of you who tire of this subtle discrimination, I advise you to say something, because it matters today.

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