It was the first Saturday at college. My roommates and I ventured to the diner for our first taste of diner food. My thoughts were on high at this moment, thinking about the start of my college career. As we made it to the front doors, I almost didn’t notice the girl handing me a flyer for a multicultural event on campus.
I took it eagerly because anything to do with diversity is right up my alley. I constantly notice that I’m the only person-of-color in most situations so meeting people like me always feels great. So when the girl and I went our separate ways, I marked the event in my mental calendar while trying to contain my excitement for it.
After loading our plates up with a feast fit for a king, my friends and I settled down and started planning out our weekend. Everyone tossed around their ideas like taking the metro to D.C., going to the open mic, watching a screening of some indie movie and maybe even trying our luck at game night.
Our options sounded fun enough, but why didn’t they mention the multicultural fair? The flyer was right there in the middle of the table.
“I just don’t want to be the only white girl.”
My friend’s response me shocked me so much I couldn’t find the words to reply. How did that sentence really go through her brain?
More importantly, how did she think it was okay to actually say it?
I don’t know what felt worse, the fact she said that or the fact no one blinked an eye at her remark. Now, there are few things I’ll make a scene over but this situation made an exception. What was her problem? Did the idea of mingling with people of different ethnicities really turn her off so much? Did she not like feeling inferior?
I wondered why on earth she wouldn’t like the minority label… oh, right. Well, neither do we.
I thought of some colorful words to tell her, but for the sake of our peaceful breakfast, I kept them to myself. I settled with a gentle reminder for everyone at the table that not all of us had were Caucasian.
“I’m the only Asian girl here.”
It wasn’t until I called my friend out for her ignorance that anyone else did anything about it. Everyone nodded their heads or slipped out a casual “true that.” Their solidarity comforted me, but it still bothered me they didn’t seem to care until I, the designated person-of-color, said something.
If you only care about something for the publicity points, then how much do you really care about it?
In this moment, I really experienced a majority and minority complex firsthand. I had the fortune of growing up in a privileged household and neighborhood. As much as I looked or felt different compared to the other kids around me, I still lived a life with pantries overloaded with food, a new car on my 17th birthday and the option to go to the college I wanted and not the college that made the most financial sense.
So my friend’s seemingly harmless comment struck deeper than I thought it would. It sent the message that you shouldn’t mix your whites and your colors. But real life isn’t a washing machine and my friend’s mindset just isn’t right.
Real life is living with real people. That means meeting other human beings that come from other places. Not everyone will look like you, talk like you, or act like you and there is nothing wrong if they don’t.
No one can think their whole world fits inside a tiny social bubble because it is bound to pop. And when it does, embrace it. There are hundreds of other languages and cultures in the world. Expecting everyone you meet to fall under yours is impossible.
Diversity should not cause shame but rejecting it should.