April 18, 2007 3:20 PM
Thoughts on Racism
I never thought about racism until I came to Berkeley. I never saw it at home. Most everyone was white, and we were happy for the diversity when they weren't. Dunno. It shocked me when I came here to Berkeley and in my Organic Chemistry course there were 3 other white people: a Sweede, a Russian, and one American. When people asked me where I was from, I'd say California. I'd talk about the city that I was raised in - the place that I call home. But that wasn't enough for most people. They asked where my parents were born, where their parents were born. They couldn't get over the fact that I couldn't point to a single specific ancestor that wasn't born in the United States. They couldn't believe that I was a focused student, that I got into Berkeley or even care about school in general. Their experience had been that every white person whose parents were raised in the US was lazy, and didn't care about school. Making assumptions is bad. The university environment is where you learn to get over stereotypes.
Berkeley is full of diversity. I can't walk down the street without seeing it. I rub shoulders in each classroom with incredible representatives of culture and kindness in the people that surround me. I'm happy for it. What an enriching opportunity!
In response to your comment, one bad apple does hurt the reputations of many. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18178194/site/newsweek/ There has been a backlash already. After 9/11, there was a racist backlash against people that were/looked Muslim. At first it was just talk. Then people got beat up. While I hope that the USA has become less racist since that time, I can still only hope. While I'm glad that Berkeley is diverse, the only difference between racism and diversity is that one has good intentions and the other doesn't.
Posted by Kristin | 2007-04-18
It's interesting that you mention the disbelief people have towards the idea that white Americans can be hardworking and industrious. In many courses and in the media, the concept of the striving "rags to riches" immigrant story is played out through and through. I feel that this premise is indeed true (based on the experiences of my own immigrant parents), but I can also see how this gives way to the perception of non-immigrants being privileged and spoiled, without the hardships encountered by other minority groups. In one of my English class a few weeks ago, the professor asked each of us to describe ourselves on paper, just whatever came into our heads at the spur of the moment. It turned out that in addition to gender and our hometowns, minority students almost always cited their race and were proud of their heritage, while white students were far more reticent about emphasizing their race, even if it could be traced back to a country outside of the US. In my opinion, that has to do with the taboo of "white pride," which has become synonymous with racism and oppression. Discussion about white stereotypes is especially interesting at Berkeley, where whites are a minority by number. The fact that Berkeley is so diverse means that many of our racial biases will surface, and we all have to learn to deal with them.
Posted by alex | 2007-04-25
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