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26      Racism in Uncle Sam’s Own Backyard

Ask anybody who has been or never been to New York City, they call it an global city, mixed with people from all over the world. True. But sad to say, racism is still well and alive here, in the city with such a great diversity in the world.

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of racism is 1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination (racial means of, relating to, or based on a race).

As we all know, in this world, there are Caucasians, Asians, Africans, Hispanics, etcetra. The most significant differences between these races are skin color, hair and facial features and language. Fortunately, the more advanced the world has become, the more interracial couples there are, hence the more broadminded our society has become. But, as natural as it is, there are always certain group of people with xenophobia towards others who look, speak, act differently than themselves.

Being an Asian of Chinese descent, I have encountered a number of racial events in reflection of racism. I remember vividly an incident which occured when I was about 9 years old, as I was passing by an alleway, being shouted at with lines, such as “Go back to China!”, “You don't belong here!” by young kids who were about my age then. I did not understand what they meant by that. Why did they want me to go back to China? Why China? Innocently, I asked my Mom about it and she asked me not to think about it and ignore them. So, I grew up without knowing the truth. What is the truth anyway? That I am ‘different’? That I am not one of them? That I am not belong here?

But then a traumatic incident came up to the surface, as far as race is concerned. An incident that should have never occured at all in any human history. Racism against a certain race as the Chinese Indonesians was so great that something as shameful as racial riots and victimization could happen in Indonesia. A friend of mine who happened to be there from the States to film a documentary on student movement, wrote an article on that matter. However, the situation there has become a lot better now.

There have been many times people, outside my race, assume that I cannot speak proper English or no English at all. Being somebody who grew up in three different countries with an accent, makes people look at me differently, somewhat in a weird way. In my life, I cannot recall how many times there have been when a total stranger would come up to me and ask me if I speak or understand English just because of my look per se (or race, in this case). It is upsetting to learn that in a major city as modern as New York, there are still people with such a mindset when it comes to living with others but their own race. A racial remark recently made by a white person on line at a post office in midtown Manhattan. She complained that the department of sanitation had not been doing anything when it came to cleaning the snow on the streets. When being asked “Why don't you apply for a job with the department? They always need people”, her respond was simply “That kind of job is made for the minorities only”.

According to Minority Rights Group International, there is no universally accepted definition of ‘minorities’. Unfortunately, our society is still immature. Certain group of people need to categorize and label certain other groups, combined with the need to feel superior, creates an environment that literally triggers bigotry. If we look beyond the racism itself, the upbringing even the media might be one of the reasons why racism is still present on the land of freedom. Articles in the newspaper and shows on television frequently highlight a certain race involving negative effects on our society that encourage prejudice.

Over years, apparently racism follows us wherever we go. Racism is all about hate and hate is a crime. The only difference between us and them is our realization that no matter who you are, what color you have, wherever you were born in, you are still a unique individual and they don't.