by Devina Gunawan
I hate people who identify others by skin color. Races should not be the dictator of who you should hang out with or not. They aren’t meant to be division or separation, they are diversity, and proof that men can go past boundaries and differences.
Colors do not mean different cultures and languages. I saw an article about a young man who wanted to ask Trump a question and the first thing Trump asked of him was of his nationality. To which, the man responded, “I am American.”
For all I care, he was born and raised an American, and he was no different than any other American raised man.
This applies to every country.
I was outraged when I heard that the current reigning Miss Japan, who is half African, was not considered ‘Japanese’ enough. She considers herself a Japanese, so why do the rest have to confuse her and tell her that she isn’t?
A friend of mine is half Chinese, and when she wanted to join a Chinese student group on campus, got rejected because she did not look ‘Asian’ enough. She was born to and raised by a Chinese woman, and her native language was Mandarin. She grew up with the cultures and traditions glued in her manners, and what made her so different?
Another friend of mine is half African, and even though she was raised Dutch, in her circle of friends they would not consider her fully Dutch. Why?
Now, I hate meeting people who would tell me I was not from where I said I was because of my skin color. And sadly, it has happened.
The whole, “You are too fair skinned,” or that “You don’t look like us,” might just be the tip of the iceberg.
At first, yes, it might be bearable. But even with time, it doesn’t get any easier.
What am I supposed to say to people when I hear that question?
“My parents are third generation [insert anything you want] and everyone was born and raised here. We belong here.”
“My family comes from many different places, but everyone was born and raised here. We look different due to all made up genes, but we are just like you. We value the same cultures and traditions. We belong here.”
Does that work?
There are some people who refuse to buy that. They think that skin color distinguishes everything. That it labels you and your cultures and your traditions and everything else that you are.
I have a friend who is African, and he is the most prince like person I have ever met in my life. And a lot of people wonder ‘how’ and ‘why,’ which I find to be amusing. What is so fascinating about it?
“He is black.” One would tell me. And I’d ask, “So?”
So it was fascinating. It was interesting, and different. “He’s one of a kind.”
Well, here you go President Obama!
I remember I ran into a friend who claimed to have traveled to many places and spoken many languages. We talked about our studies, International studies, and then we got to the worst part of the conversation:
“So I’m going to Brazil this summer, and I am excited to use my Spanish.”
“Have you learned some Portuguese?”
“Why would I? I am just confused as to why there are so many languages? The Brazilians should speak Spanish. The rest of the Latin America should speak Spanish. Just like how there are so many languages in Asia. Why can’t all of them just speak Mandarin? Like, choose a language and be done with it.”
Oh. The horror. And he continued,
“And speaking of which, why are you in Liberal Arts?”
“I mean, my parents are from Nigeria, they’re really cool with me being in International Studies. You, though, are different. You should be in Engineering or in Math, you know, like how your family should have wanted.”
I gave him the widest smile, told him I had some place to go, and then took off. I never talked to him again afterwards. It was just a waste of time.
I know a friend who had people telling him he was not Korean, because he was darker than the “usually very fair skinned” Korean men. People actually thought he was just trying to look ‘cooler’ by claiming to be Korean. Later on, he showed them his passport and shut them all up.
Another time, I was talking with some of my friends when they asked me about my partner. At this point, they had only seen him, and not spoken to him at all, because well, they had not gotten the chance to yet.
“What’s his first language?” And I told them, “English.”
They looked at me and said, “Oh Devina, are you sure? It must be Spanish.”
I did not know what to say, so I just stayed quiet and drank my coffee.
They assumed that his language was different. I already said it was English, and it was up to them to believe me or not.
When I was in France, some people would come up to me and ask, “How many languages do you speak in total?”
I knew if I said it was just one language, they would not believe me. Why?
“At least, one of your parents would speak his or her native language so you at least have two languages going, right?”
No matter what my answer was, there would always be another question to confirm my previous answer.
There was even a game created in one of the groups of students in my class, and it was to guess where everyone was from. I knew it took them awhile to figure out “What is Devina’s other ‘half’?” and it was all based on the color of my skin.
It was a good thing that they did not know that I was extremely tanned. They thought it was my natural color, and it took them the longest time to figure things out.
They tried to figure out everything from my skin tone to my features and the way I was, how I dressed, how I spoke, how I ate, everything.
Why? Skin color. It’s fascinating.
Instead of accepting people for their claimed identity, people like refusing them. It’s like refusing a child who was born and raised in South Africa her claimed African nationality because, “She’s white.”
Yes, unfortunately, I hear that a lot from people, how some people are not “real” African because they are white – and it is tragic.
And you can say that questioning is not the same as refusing. But you do not know the feeling we have when we have people pestering us on our “nationality” or “race” in our own home countries.
I thought we could move past all this. I thought we could move past all the differences. I thought we could give someone the freedom to choose, and not impose our judgment upon him or her.
Would I be happy if someone had labeled me something else that I did not think I was?
Would you be happy if someone refused your claim to a national identity because of your skin color?
I doubt it.
And I wish people would stop all voicing out their assumptions as if they are facts. I wish people would stop dividing groups just because they assume people don’t go hand in hand together. I wish people would just stop asking where people are from and announcing everybody’s differences. Because it makes people feel unwelcome. It makes people feel like they do not belong to their own home.
Few days ago I was hanging out with a group of guys. One of them said, “We should all embrace our nature that we are racist and sexist.” To his future girlfriend I say, “Good luck.”
It is already hard to look different, and do you have to make things harder?
Can’t you just wait until people open up themselves? Until people go, “Hey I am from [insert country] and I speak [insert language]” perhaps a lot of us should just remain quiet.
But even so, the most annoying thing is when people keep on asking and not believing our answers. Why is it so hard to just believe that there are people who are born and raised in the same place you are, but they just happen to look different? It doesn’t make them alien.
Why don’t we just be fair and accept both similarities and differences? That is the least we all can do. That not only do we say, “Oh yes, you look different,” but also, “Yes, we both belong here.” Instead of, “Oh yes, you look different,” and “And you do not belong here.”
That’s the beauty of diversity, that people can be more than just one thing. But sadly, it takes people awhile to just accept it. Everyone looks different, why don’t we just go with that?
I know, we all should just believe in what we believe, and that we should not take in what people say and assume of us. But to be fair, I am very annoyed. It has been a long while now, and I still have not had enough dose of coffee.