“Em-fuh-sahyz” I carefully pronounced. “emphasize..” Fingering the corner of the page I read quietly, “to give emphasis to; lay stress upon.” I reviewed the words until I felt they were imprinted in my mind and turned the page. “Em-puth-thee” I began, but was shaken out of concentration when laughter echoing down the hallway reached me. I rose slightly and craned my neck to peer around the bookshelf and see who was entering the library, the dictionary tossed haphazardly to the side. A pack of familiar boys entered the library, acting out in a manner that the librarian wouldn’t have considered inappropriate, if our school had been able to afford one. I recognized them from my class, and resumed my previous position leaning against the computers. As I flipped through the pages to find my spot, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the boys headed in my direction. They crowded themselves at the row of computers that I had my back to. Raashi, the alpha of the group, was closest to me. He glanced over my shoulder to see what I was so invested in. “You read the dictionary? That’s stupid.” His friends didn’t seem to take notice of his statement, but he laughed anyway. Rolling my eyes, I slammed the book shut, stood up and moved to the other side of the bookshelf. I was used to these childish comments, and I was always advised by adults to turn the other cheek. I was still young though, and it still bothered me. I had wanted to dumb myself down, erode the solid stone of my education just to conform with the rest of my class. I felt guilty that this had made me upset. My parents has worked hard to get where they are and I should have been grateful for all that I had, but it just made the other kids uncomfortable. Once I remember plopping onto the bench near him one day at lunch. He grimaced at my presence and scooted himself away from me, muttering obscenities. It stung like a balloon had popped in my face. I flushed, and pulled my sleeves down my arms as far I could stretch them. I wanted to hide my skin, ashamed of my pigmentation. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t allowed to feel insulted when people judged me by my skin, because other people suffered more than I did. I had been told “You have white privilege, you don’t get to complain.”
One of the nicknames Raashi had given me was ‘white chick’. It started out with him addressing me as such and then it caught on with his extensive friend group. As a third grader this was perplexing. What did the color of my skin say about me? Why does my genetic makeup determine how others perceive me to be? I found it ridiculous that something so far out of my control meant so much. I was expected to behave in a certain manner; when I didn’t act accordingly I was considered outlandish. While I wasn’t snobby, I did fit a few stereotypes pushed onto me. I spoke and still do speak in a manner that society considers ‘proper’. They saw that I came from a good family, had college in my future and presumed I would spend my adult life surrounded by those of similar skin tones. I wore skirts, dresses, cute patterned socks but still played with Hot Wheels. I wasn’t the only one, but my skin made me stand out the most.
It was strange, once I started attending middle school, the ratio of black to white changed drastically. It went from two full classes of darker faces with three pale splotches to a diverse palette. The stereotypes were still there - but they weren’t as prevalent. It was then that I realized buy into notions with literacy based on backrounds. We judge people on physical appearance and speech; Forcing others into a box not glancing past the surface. This quote from an essay called ‘Who is Entitled to Be Heard?’ details more on the subject. “Moreover, without free speech, the “safe spaces” students crave will soon suffocate them. Social movements must evolve or they die. Ideological and even tactical evolution demands willingness to hear out heterodoxy.” It will take more than a small group of individuals to challenge the norms of society. Society doesn't think - the values of the people in power, the influential, affect the way the community thinks. Humans are biased beings, and we perceive people to fit into the stereotypes that we have experienced. Everyone is subjected to these biases, and some are more harmful than others. Racial differences in society can cause these offensive stereotypes, with Caucasian citizens generally being perceived as more intelligent and responsible than African Americans, many who are plagued with falsehoods based on their similarity of skin color the few that fit into these stereotypes. In this society I just happen to pull the ‘lucky’ straw.