A time when you were the “Other”

dave chapelle“Treat me the same but respect my difference.” — Keith Williams

Inspired by our conversations in Visual Rhetoric, I want to leverage the blog to explore what is perhaps a widely shared view: That individuals and groups who feel slighted or offended should just get over it, that they are being too sensitive, that we shouldn’t be so concerned with what we might call ‘political correctness.’ This theme is from our examination of the Popeye’s ads.

Before I ask for your reactions, a few thoughts:

First, as I shared in class, a general principle holds that if a group sees that there is the possibility that they are being insulted by another, it will. This is how we are hard-wired. We are always on guard. We like to think the best of FILL IN THE BLANK HERE (Northerners, white people, the French, whomever), but we don’t.

We will default to our worst fears. For an African American viewing the Popeye’s Annie, he or she will fear you are perpetuating Aunt Jemima. Consider if Annie were white. The black stereotype and historical antecedents disappear. The default fear is gone. (We still might think about the portrayal of gender, too. Annie as the stereotypical woman in the kitchen taking care of us.)

So if we think there is any chance of intent to slight us, we will feel slighted. We live in a culture of indignation. Some are hacked off because we got it wrong. Some are hacked off because we got it right. This is the key: We should care about the first; we don’t necessarily have to lose sleep about the second.

Second, is it up to us to determine when another people group should or should not feel insulted, regardless of intent? When we don’t share that group’s history, culture or even language, how can we judge? We do not relinquish our own “right” to decide when we’ve been slighted, I wonder how it is that we are so quick to decide for others.

Third, our goals in the course are ethical decision-making, ethical image-making, ethical communication. And ethics requires a process. We need diverse people in the room. We also need a process for systematic dialogue and conversation, so we can be deliberate, thoughtful and persuasive. So we can say what we mean, not something else. To discuss how a group or groups might be unintentionally offended, alienated or even victimized by our messages costs very little before the message goes out. As we’ve seen in our in-class examples, it can become quite costly after.

Perhaps a good guide for us is the Keith Woods quote, which gets to the universal sameness of difference and diversity. Don’t we all share this sentiment?

So how do we better appreciate difference? We all are guilty to some degree of staying in our comfort zone, of failing to notice much less engage with the ‘Other,’ with those outside our group, whoever that might mean. I have a trio of exercises that will help us better appreciate difference and what it means to be on the outside looking in, exercises that get increasingly difficult. Don’t worry; all of them should be fun, if you buy into the point or ‘takeaway’ here.

So, to get us started, the first exercise:

Write a response to this post that tells the rest of us of a time when you were the ‘Other,’ a time when you didn’t fit in, when you were excluded. Say something about what that felt like, and about what you wish the dominant or ‘in’ group knew or considered or valued. This exercise is required.

Deadline: 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28 (before you leave for Spring Break!)

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34 Responses to A time when you were the “Other”

  1. Gabby Guevara says:

    When I first started public school my sophomore year of high school, I used to wear a lot of dark clothing. The “in” group used to think my friends and I were strange and quiet, but that particular group of people never tried to talk to me to see if I was actually like that. It felt like I was constantly being judged for a personality that I didnt have purely based on the way that I look. I always wanted them to at least attempt to see if my inner personality matched the outside, but they were so quick to stereotype.

  2. Vickie Tallent says:

    I visited a friend in Long Island, New York, who was a former neighbor when I lived in Atlanta. At the time my hair was fairly blonde, and I stuck out among all the “typical” residents there. My friend was Italian herself. Everywhere we went I was stared at, people wanting me to talk to hear my “accent”, asked me all sorts of questions about Atlanta and such. I was uncomfortable for the most part, but I was downright insulted when one guy told me I wasn’t as “dumb”, as most Southerners. I have Northern friends here that always tease us about our snow driving, but I didn’t realize there was this conception we were ignorant here.

  3. Rebecca Frantz says:

    I went to ChinaTown in NYC when I was in high school on a band trip. The whole time we were there we noticed that people kept staring at us and whispering to their friends about us because we were the only white people in the area. We went into a store and the owner had her son follow us around the entire time to make sure we wouldn’t steal anything. It was frustrating because everyone I was with, including myself, have strong morals and would never steal anything. However, I’m glad it happened because it gave me a better understanding of how minorities may feel when they have experiences similar to this.

  4. alexbrizzi says:

    When I was a sophomore in high school, I traveled to South Korea for my brother’s wedding. My hair was a very light blonde at the time and a majority of elderly people in Korea have never seen blonde hair before. I got stared at, pointed at, and whispered about. Some people would even come up to me and play with my hair (without my approval) and call me Barbie. It was somewhat entertaining to see people so shocked by hair color but it also made me self conscious whenever we walked around town because I didn’t like drawing that much attention, positive or negative.

  5. Katie Farmer says:

    A few summers ago I enrolled in a class to learn American Sign Language. As the final activity for the class we all went to dinner with many individuals who were Deaf, as well as other fluent signers. Although this was a situation in which I knew I would be of the minority, I was still surprised to see how uncomfortable it is to not fit in completely to your surroundings. I could understand some of the signing conversation at dinner; however, it was evident that I was not fully understanding. It was embarrassing for the other signers to have to slow down their signing or repeat themselves in order for me to keep up. I feel that they did a great job of trying to include me in the conversation, and it gave me a new insight into the feelings of those of the “out” group.

  6. Liz Bradford says:

    I am from a small town- one stop light small- that is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Being close to the woods I grew up in an area where its normal to go hunting, riding in to woods, mudding on 4wheelers, and shoot guns. Although I do enjoy many of these things, I would not consider myself a redneck or a hick. One particular incident I was talking to someone in Orlando and mentioned I was from Umatila, automatically I was labeled as a redneck country girl that had no class. Without even knowing me simply based on where I grew up I was stereotyped and considered a lower class than those in the big city of Orlando. As much as I love my town, it hurt to be labeled so quickly, and because of it I was quickly the outsider of the group since there was no way a girl from Umatilla could have anything in common with them.

  7. Ciara Stephens says:

    In my youth group in high school, I was the only person who went to public school out of about twelve people. Being around them made me realize that not all homeschoolers are antisocial and awkward as they are often stereotyped as, but I was never included in this group. I was always felt left out around them especially when they bashed public school based on things they had heard or saw on TV and movies. Whenever I joined a conversation it would somehow always turn to something homeschool-related and something I knew nothing about. With them, I always felt like the odd one out because I wasn’t a homeschooler. I wish they would have opened up their group to include people who aren’t just like them.

  8. After my senior year in high school I went to Spain with my AP Spanish teacher and a few members of the class. When we traveled, we stayed as a group and had a tour guide for part of the time. When we went into restaurants everyone looked at us because no matter how hard we tried, we looked like tourists. I always had my camera with me and the group would pose for pictures in front of rememberable locations. In stores they would either try to speak English or would speak really slow Spanish because they didn’t think I, or anyone else in the group, could comprehend the language. I felt like I had to prove them wrong and realized how people traveling to the U.S. might feel. When I got back, my family and I made a day trip to DC and I had a new perspective on the foreign tourists because I understood how they felt.

  9. Louie Spivak says:

    I grew up in a Messianic Jewish congregation in south west Florida. Although I had many friends from Protestant congregations, I did not become familiar with mainstream Christianity until we moved to north Georgia, where the “Bible Belt” left little room for anything other than Baptists. When I first visited a church in Blairsville, Georgia I quickly discovered that although people welcomed me a newcomer, they did not understand my ethnic heritage nor did they want to learn about it other than to incorporate it with their current view of Christianity. Over time, I managed to provide a deeper understanding of my childhood faith to my peers, but for awhile, I remained a welcomed outsider. There traditional upbringing clashed with my fusion of faiths.

  10. Rick R says:

    I spent most of my childhood feeling different than everybody else…like an outsider. From a very early age I knew I was gay. I also knew it was extremely unlikely that I would be accepted for being gay by those closest to me. My lack of acceptance came from many different sources. The number one source was my upbringing in a predominately Latino Catholic family, that consistently told that to be gay meant that there was something inherently sinful and shameful about that existence. I do want to clarify though, that when I refer to my family I do not mean my immediate family, (they are truly a blessing to me and have always supported the person that I am), but rather, I am referring to my extended family. Growing up, I remember how my relatives would persistently feel the need to belittle and debase anyone that happened to be gay, especially while in my presence. At such an impressionable age, I absorbed everything they were saying and believed it to be true. The negative sentiment most of them held toward the gay community had thrown me into a vortex of unyielding depression and self-deprecation. I began believing that if only I could change myself and somehow turn straight, then I would gain their acceptance and everything would be okay. Obviously, this did mot work! As I grew older and reached my late teens, I slowly began to accept the fact that I was gay. I had become so accepting of myself that I took a huge risk by divulging this information to my cousin. In hindsight, it probably was not the best idea for me to have come out to this particular cousin, as I trusted her least compared to other relatives. Nonetheless, as soon as I had told her I had felt as though I could breathe a huge sigh of relief, like I had finally come clean about something I had kept bottle up for so long. I felt as though for the first time in a long time I had control over my fears about being honest with others about myself.. Unfortunately, those happy feelings had subsided for a brief time after I found out what my cousin had done with I had told her. She decided to take what I told her in confidence and tell pretty much my entire family. By this time, I had already told my mom, and the awesome woman that she is completely accepted me without hesitation. In fact, she was elated I had finally mustered up the confidence to come out to her. However, things between my relatives and me were not so great after they found about my being gay. It was awkward at first. Whenever I would go to family get-togethers I felt like I had a million eyes on me, like everybody was gawking at me, watching me as if I had just landed from the moon or something. This made me feel really uncomfortable. Fortunately, with time, things got less and less awkward whenever I would see my relatives. I began to notice a shift in my family’s attitudes toward gay people. Instead of hearing how sinful they thought it was to be gay, I instead started hearing things like “To each his own” and “I love and respect you regardless of your sexuality”. Things had gotten better between my family and me. They embraced me more and more as time went on. I believe their love for me was stronger than there disdain for gays. Even though I had been really hurt by their actions, I decided I was not going to lose faith in them. They have shown me a different side of themselves, that they truly do care about me and that they were just stuck in a mindset that had been passed down to them from generations ago. Although there are still some family members that disagree, they are more discreet about it, which is fine by me. I think my family having a relative who is gay, really taught them a wealth of knowledge and helped them to question the conjectures they had been brought up to believe all their lives. Generally, it is easier to label and criticize people you really don’t have any type of relationship to, but when you do have a relationship with those very people, your view of them tends to change. You start to look past what pre-conceived notions you had toward certain people and based on your own experiences and encounters with them you begin to form your own opinions.
    Through this ordeal, I had experienced what it was like to be the “other”, to not fit the mold properly, and to be something looked down upon. I believe this feeling of “otherness” is a feeling most people feel from time to time, some more often than others. It is thr feeling of “otherness” that helps us to be able to understand the core of who we are as individuals. In my case, the old adage “every cloud has a silver lining” resonates with me. I believe that as painful as is was to feel like the “other” I had indeed learned a great deal about building courage and acceptance of myself, no matter what others had thoughts or felt about me. Now, I live my life without being a slave to the opinions of others – I am free!

  11. Michael says:

    When I met my first girlfriend, she and I always got along great, however, after we had been dating for awhile, we started to invite eachother to see our friends more often. One time she invited me to a Halloween party at a friends house, I was expecting the typical suburban, homey family. When I got there, I realized it was almost a mansion. Her friend’s family were high-class and it quickly showed that I didn’t have the same “elegance in tastes”. The entire night I felt completely left out because none of her friends wanted to associate themselves with me and she didn’t want to be seen differently by associating herself with me. Obviously it hurt, and was one of the major reasons we decided to break up. It would’ve been nice if they at least tried to get to know me before they dubbed me as low class.

  12. Jayme Neitzel says:

    Meeting your older brother’s friends for the first time is normally not a stressful thing, but I was worried about them judging me. When people find out that you go to (or graduated from) an international boarding high school, they tend to make assumptions about what type of person you are. Most of the time they assume one or more of the following: your parents are extremely rich (and often think you’re a snob), you’re some sort of genius, you speak a ridiculous amount of languages, and/or you were a troublesome kid who got sent away. These were some of expectation my brother’s friends had of me when I came home to meet them one weekend. Walking into my own home I was expecting to be judged, and I was. I was right on their expectations, but as we continued to hang out I was able to change their view of me. This was not the first or last time people have jumped to conclusions about who I am because I attended boarding school. But I try to help people understand that not everything you see in movies about these types of schools are true.

  13. annakate shepherd says:

    I have gone to private school my entire life. I went to a private elementary and middle school. Then I attended a private high school. Now, I am in a private college. With the label “private school” others often identify the stereotype with money and snobby personality. The look I get from my peers at state schools when I tell them I go to a private college is immediate judgment. They expect me to act entitled without getting the chance to know me. Although there is a lot of truth to the “snobby” tendencies that go along with attending a private school, a majority of the people I have encountered at Berry are far from snobby or entitled. It is a shame that one simple word can put those judgments in the eyes of others.

  14. Olivia says:

    One summer my mom and I went on a trip to Ireland to visit family. Just to preface, my mom grew up in Ireland but has been living in the US since she was 10 so, to me, she doesn’t really have an accent, and I have never thought of myself as having a thick accent. While driving to a family member’s house, we couldn’t find the road we were looking for, so we had to pull over and ask someone for directions. Luckily there was a man checking his mail in front of us so we stopped. I rolled down the window and asked him if we could ask him a question. When he came over to the car my mom asked him if he could help us find the road our family’s house was on. Before he said anything else he looked at my mom and me, and in a horribly over-exaggerated southern accent, he replied, “Of course I can help you sweet little ladies.” After an awkward moment of silence he slowly told us that the road we were looking for was just down the road. While driving away, my mom and I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. We spoke the same language and my mom was from Ireland, but because of our accent the Irishman figured that we weren’t as intelligent as he was. I wish he had been slower to judge us just because of the way we spoke.

  15. Jake Emche says:

    When i first started dating my girlfriend her friends and I were very different. Since hunting and fishing are a big part of my life, they thought I was just some low class redneck before they even got to really know me. I always felt weird being around them because I constantly felt like I was being judged or talked about behind my back. Eventually they began to accept me more once they got to know me better, but it was still difficult going through that and being treated as the “other”.

  16. Chantal Guerrero says:

    In one of my high school classes, I had a teacher who felt very strongly about a certain issue going on in the world! She agreed with it and didn’t see anything wrong with it, as to where I felt a very different way than she did! I was pretty much the only person in that whole class that apparently felt that way, or the only person who would argue the other way. I felt as though I was being disregarded just because I was younger or didn’t know what I was talking about just because I wasn’t the teacher. I knew other students agreed with me but were to afraid to speak up and say so, leaving me feeling alone and looked down on in this situation. I eventually realized that sometimes that that was a thing that was going to happen in life; sometimes I would be the only standing for what I thought was right but that doesn’t mean I should abandon those values.

  17. Shenandoah Phillips says:

    Ever since I was a little girl I was always “bigger” then everyone else. You know that girl in the second grade who towers over all of her peers and looks like she is in fifth? Well that was me, and that did not change until I was in high school and some of the boys growth spurts surpassed mine. I remember people always commenting on my hight and calling me “big” which not only caused me to be self-conscious about my hight but my weight as well. I remember comparing the size of my clothes with my smaller friends and being so embarrassed that the size on my tag was larger then those of my peers. Being “the tall girl” I remember always always scrunching up my shoulders and slouching trying to be on the same level as my female friends. I remember not feeling pretty and thinking something was wrong with me because boys did not treat me the same as my shorter and smaller friends. Being called names such as gigantor, behemoth, Big Bird, and Jolly Green Giant made me feel ostracized and lead me to dislike my physical appearance and wish I was something that I was not. Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I have learned to love my hight and body, and I am thankful for the time of me feeling like the “other” for I grew from it and it also allows me to empathize with others.

  18. Alyssa Maker says:

    Growing up half Lebanese and coming from an Arab family, some of my family has been discriminated against in some situations. My grandfather would sometimes get stopped in the airport because he is Arab. The time I felt like an “other” was in high school. It was years after 9/11 hit, but people do not forget that. Some people called me a terrorist and told me to go back to where I came from. Some people said, “look what you people did.” My brother and my mom converted to Islam 5-6 years ago, and I would always get remarks about that because they assumed I was Muslim as well. I would explain my beliefs, that are close to Islamic beliefs, but I do not identify as a Muslim. To them it did not matter. Arab = Muslim = Terrorist. That is how they thought. To this day, I don’t hear a lot of remarks like I did in high school, but still hear some every once in awhile when people find out that I am Lebanese.

  19. Lizzy Jones says:

    Upon receiving this assignment the first experience that stuck out to me was one that occurred within the last few weeks. A few friends and I decided to attend a public relations networking conference in downtown Atlanta that was to feature executives from the top public relations firms in the world. We arrived early and went ahead and took our seats. However, there was only one executive there at the time. This was about 20 minutes before the event was to begin. Thirty minutes after the start time the keynote speaker finally arrived. 40 minutes after the start time we got up and left. Yes, we were upset because they did not start on time. But more importantly we were outraged that they thought they didn’t need to give us an explanation. At no point during the 40 minutes of waiting did anyone offer us a reason for the delay. They merely sat around chatting and occasionally glancing at us. I felt as if they thought they were by far our superiors because they had a good job and because of that they could do whatever they pleased. However, as the outsider, as the college student trying to obtain a job, I was outraged. It felt like we were being looked down upon and inferior to these executives who could waste our time and money as much as they pleased.

  20. Melissa Fortnash says:

    I feel like a lot of times women are treated like “others.” I’m not trying be all Feminist here, but there are photos plastered all over the media about what “true beauty” really is, like what size you should be and what makeup you should wear and blah blah blah, and if you don’t look exactly like these women then you’re an “other.” I take this very personally because I feel like in order to be accepted I have to be the prettiest and the skinniest just like these women, but since I’m not a photoshopped human I feel outcasted because I’m not perfect like these other women are.

  21. Sarah Carroll says:

    “Lesbian! Lesbian! Lesbian!” They chant.
    I’m surrounded by a group of high school boys in a pool. No way out. Shit. Eventually, they stop sneering and swim off.

    The reason for their taunts was because I was wearing a one-piece, Nike swimsuit. It was summer camp, and all the girls were wearing cute, string bikinis. Tassels, neon and cheetah print galore. Earlier in the room, they had whispered to each other, shooting me withering looks. One even shamefacedly offered me one of her bikinis, as an act of charity. I said no thanks.

    Because I chose to not wear what everyone else was wearing, I was treated like an outcast. And according to the jerk-offs in the pool, somehow the type of swimsuit you wear is directly correlated with your sexuality. Right.

    The next time I saw the leader of that group of boys, I slapped him across the face. Hard. I don’t regret it. And at the end of camp, he apologized.

    Although initially I was upset and hurt and confused, I grew from that experience. It taught me that I can either pathetically hide in a corner and cry my self-pitying heart out because of derisive, ignorant words, or I can do something about it.

  22. Cait Buckalew says:

    I tend to shop in the men’s section of department stores for shirts. Men’s shirts are made of more durable and more comfortable fabric and I tend to like the styles better. I was recently shopping in the men’s section of the TJ Maxx in Rome and spent the entire time I was looking in the men’s section receiving nasty looks from fellow customers. There were several men in the section giving me very confused looks and several mothers shopping with their children who were giving me hateful looks, muttering under their breath, and pointing at me. It was hurtful to receive nasty looks and to know people were talking about me when I was doing nothing wrong. All I wanted to do was buy some flannel shirts to keep warm and instead I got one of the most uncomfortable shopping experiences of my life. It was obvious that these people did not want me in the store after they had made their judgments of me based on my appearance.

  23. AnnaBeth says:

    At the beginning of sixth grade, I was faced with a scary situation. I was going to a new school and I did not know whom I was going to be friends with. Unfortunately, I attached to people too quickly, without realizing who they really were. One of these girls, Ashlyn, was the kind of girl that made me wonder if she would like what I was wearing when I got dressed in the mornings, the kind that made me feel like I was not cool enough to say what I wanted to say.This, though, did not compare to what happened later that year.
    Earlier in the year, I became diagnosed with asthma and had to inhale before gym every day. This meant staying in the locker room after everyone had left to finish the five-minute process of exhaling and inhaling. About that time, items began disappearing from the locker room. As I was the last one in the locker room each day, I was the obvious suspect. Girls would crowd around my lunch table and locker demanding I give their stuff back, while I would have no idea what they were talking about. That first day, Ashlyn was the only one that held me together. The next day, it got worse. I got to school to find that Ashlyn was completely ignoring me. She said that she believed that I was the thief and she could no longer be friends with me. This brought me into a world of confusion, as I was once again friendless and alone, but this time in a place where everyone believed me to be the gym room robber. It was a scary situation at first, but the fervor died down. However, the trouble with Ashlyn was not yet over. One night, while watching TV with my family, she called me and said that she could not be friends with me any longer, because she did not want anyone to know that she talked to me. She said that if we were to continue being friends it would only have to be after school. At this point, I stopped caring. That was a wonderful release for me.I had to come to the realization that I wasn’t going to let anyone make me feel like an “other” again and from that moment on I would find happiness with other people or create my own happiness with myself.

  24. Tiffany Rockwell says:

    I remember my first weekend at Berry distinctly. I had made one friend and she had invited me to this guy’s room where some people were hanging out. Being a freshman for a whopping three days, I was desperate to meet people. It was fine, at first. People were nice enough. We chatted about Viking Venture. And then came the watermelon vodka. It was being passed around the circle and it got to me and I simply replied, “No thanks.” I wasn’t making a judgment call on their decisions; I was simply deciding that it was not for me. Immediately, people started saying “Oh, I wasn’t aware we had a saint on our hands.” One guy asked if I was ordained so he could “confess” to me later that night. My simple “no thanks” had labeled me as someone who was there to judge and condemn, but in reality, I was the one who was being judged and condemned. Every conversation, no matter its topic, ended in, “But we can’t talk about that… Tiffany’s innocent ears are probably melting off at this point.” And it was my least favorite night at Berry to date. In hindsight, being others to people so mean really isn’t a huge concern, but in the moment, it felt so alienating.

  25. I guess I’ve always been an “other.” I don’t have many friends, only a multitude of acquaintances. I really began to notice my junior year of high school how I was always an outsider and rarely included. I was rarely invited to hang out unless it was a birthday party or end of the year party, etc. I began to realize that I had no true friends. It wasn’t that I was discriminated against or was treated differently. I just wasn’t noticed by anyone. I was a nobody. Even my parents began treating me as such. To me, it seemed as if I wasn’t good enough for them and that I was too stupid to do anything right. By the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was ready for college and to leave my home and start fresh. The beginning of my freshman year was great and I felt like I belonged and was wanted by my friends. Then it started all over again. I began to fade away in the minds of my “friends.” Again, I was never invited to hang out. People would forget I even go to Berry College. I only have a few close friends, but I’m still background to them. It’s honestly miserable being invisible yet desiring to be wanted and liked. Maybe I’m just imagining that I’m an “other,” but no one has told me otherwise.

  26. Rachel Yeates says:

    As an introvert, people often assume I am uninterested in conversation or furthering friendships (and I recognize too that I add a lot of additional internal stress on myself because of this). I’ve been cast as pretentious and dispassionate purely because I was not extremely vocal. Those initial judgments hurt and made me more conscious of my speaking and lack thereof. I don’t think a person’s character, values, or interests should be disregarded because of how quickly and how much they engage in conversation. I also think people should be wary of dominating conversation or automatically attributing intelligence to those who do.

  27. Jess Bozeman says:

    I have a speech impediment that does not let me say some “r” words like normal people. I can’t hear it, but others can. I compete in forensics speaking. When competing in something when you are judged on how well you can speak and not being able to say some words, it as sometimes harder to compete to what I feel would be my best. At the same time, though, I learn from it. I put thoughts into what type of words i’m saying and how they sound. In a way, it makes me even happier when I do well.

  28. Chris Scott says:

    When I was in high school I went on a missionary trip to Nicaragua. While I was there me and the group I was with would sometimes play sports with the locals from the village we were working in. In Nicaragua, and basically all of Middle America, soccer is by far and away the most popular sport. So when we started playing soccer, our American group versus a group made up of Nicaraguans, the locals were definitely in their element. The reason behind me feeling like “the other” was not only because I was part of a group of people with very different cultural backgrounds than the majority of the population but also because we played the game on a neighborhood court. This was their turf and their sport. When I started playing soccer competently during the game they were all quite surprised. Their shock that a white American could play soccer furthered the feeling of “otherness”. I was not really offended by their assumptions about Americans and soccer because there is so many stereotypes that American soccer players project onto Hispanic players.

  29. Adriana S. says:

    Shockingly enough, there have been multiple times where I have felt like the “other.” When you are a Latina of mixed race, a northerner and a “punk-goth emo-thingy” (someone else’s actual words, not mine), people tend to outcast you from time to time. Needless to say, even though my parents tried to make my childhood and adolescent years comfortable and pain-free, there were times when I felt left out and even victimized for being different. So now, I will discuss some of the key points in my life that showed me why I’m not like the majority, how it made me feel, what I wished people could understand, and how I kind of got over it.
    Let’s start with the big issue: my race. I was born to a full-blooded Peruvian mother and a mixed race Jamaican/Cuban/Irish father. Even though my parents are mostly Latin, most people would judge their origins by their skin color, since my mom looks white and my dad looks black. I’m not pale like my mom, but I’m not as “dark-skinned” as my dad; I just look like I have a healthy tan. Oftentimes, when we go out, people would look at my parents or myself and have a puzzled expression on their faces. Some would even ask questions like, “If your dad has dark skin, why do you have lighter skin?” or an even more blunt, “What are you?” Sometimes, we would even come across people that were not quite fond of interracial relationships and we would get verbal backlash because of it. I never really took those questions or slurs seriously (because I didn’t understand them), but there was one instance where I realized that being part of an obscure mix or race can lead to negative differences.
    The first time my race was brought up was in elementary school. I went to a predominantly white Catholic School growing up. Most everyone was of European descent, while there were only a handful of Asian and Black children (I say black because a “mulatto” friend of mine found the term African-American offensive, stating that not every black person is African, and I have to agree). I was the only Hispanic kid in the whole school, so that was a little daunting for a kindergartner to handle. I didn’t really encounter any problems with my race until second or third grade, when my dad came back from England after getting his medical degree. One day, both my parents came to pick me up from school, but let me play with the other children while they went to discuss my brother’s enrollment for next year. That was the first time any of my classmates actually saw my dad. As I was playing, a classmate came up to me and said, “I thought you said you were some type of Spanish or something.” To which I answered back, “I am.” The kid responded by saying, “You can’t be, because your dad is black.” I tried to explain that my dad might look black but he wasn’t, and once I started to explain that my father was of mixed race, my classmate rudely responded by saying, “You can’t be more than one color. There’s no such thing. You have to choose which one you really want to be. Otherwise then we won’t play with you anymore.” Needless to say, I didn’t get to play with that dumb kid anymore. I felt really confused when I heard that statement. How can I just choose which part of me I wish to represent? I can’t just separate myself into different parts and choose the one I like the most. And how can you choose one color when you are just one color? I never really understood the color concept and I still don’t. I try to see people for who they are, not what the color of their skin is. It’s obvious that we all look different, but that doesn’t make us any less human.
    Other than focusing on race, I’ve been mistreated by others because I’m from the state of New Jersey. When I say this now, I kind of chuckle at this ordeal, but when I was younger I was hurt and furious about it. I moved to Georgia when I was 11 years old because my father found a hospital that would allow him to do his residency. Even though I felt very out of place, I tried to make the most out of a bad situation (namely school). But the nanosecond I mentioned that I was from New Jersey, I was immediately ostracized. I even remember one girl stating, “I hate 99.999% of New Jersey,” and as an afterthought she remarked (with a big, fake smile on her face), “But don’t worry, you’re the 0.001% that we actually like.” I didn’t get it. What was so bad about New Jersey? It was the home I grew up in, and there was never a dull moment with all the different cultures, fun, and people hanging around. So why didn’t people down here like it? It wasn’t until later that I found out the bad rep people have been giving my home state. I would hear remarks about how we were unfriendly and how New Jersey was just a rip off of the oh so glorious and wonderful state of New York. And then shows like “The Jersey Shore” started popping up, making us seem like we go to the gym, we tan, and then we do laundry (GTL; news flash, the people who do that are really actors from Staten Island and their just visiting New Jersey). Seriously, it angered me to realize that people don’t like us because of now the media perceived us to be. I would get questions like, “You don’t seem as orange as I thought you’d be,” “Are you Italian? You must be in the Mafia!” or, “You seem too smart to be from there.” My favorite question by far would have to be, “That place is so polluted and disgusting. Do you guys even have trees there?” No, we’re only called “The Garden State” because every other viable name was taken. The questions weren’t the only attention I was getting. If I wasn’t getting questioned, I was getting remarks about how I was just another “Guido” or any other nasty comment people could come up with. People also assumed that I was “easy” since some of the depictions on reality TV portray Jersey girls as “looking for a good time,” thus leading to various disgusting offers from classmates and even friends alike. I just had to wonder, why? Why was I being outcasted for something out of my control? Why did they have to disrespect where I was from? Why couldn’t they listen to me when I try to tell them how New Jersey is not like that? And why couldn’t people understand how hurt I felt whenever I would be called names? If I called anyone a redneck down here, there would be hell to pay, but if they call me a Yankee or a stupid Oompa-Loompa, I’m just supposed to sit back and take it. I don’t think that’s fair, but I had no one to back me up. I wish I can just show people how much it hurts to be left out just because you were born in a different place, but I can’t unless they experience it.
    To put the cherry on top of a really long response, I feel I should close this rant up by citing my encounters with others that deem me “alternative.” When I was younger, I had an affinity for dark clothing and I was always interested in the dark and macabre; so it was a given that when I grew into a teenager, I would be put into the “gothic category.” I will say this now, I don’t believe I was ever “Goth,” but because of my dark clothing, my love for skulls and sinister pop culture (be it books, films, bands, or websites) and my attitude, most have usually stuck me into that label. I’ve gotten used to the stares, the remarks and the various assumptions about me (my favorite being that I used to sacrifice cats and drink their blood on full moons, because yeah I’d TOTALLY do that with my spare time). Some even tried to start fights because they thought I was too “threatening.” But what I hate most is when people assume I am atheist because of the way I dress and act and then try to convert me into the light and good-natured ways of the Lord. I remember when I was in high school there was this one boy that would always try to convert me. He would say that my dark clothes, my thoughts and my opinions would make me lose favor with God and that if I didn’t change my ways I would be given a one way ticket to hell. Every day he would bug me with the same shtick, and the funny thing is I grew up in a Roman Catholic household. Sure, I understand that people can feel impassioned about something they are really into, but I don’t need you to throw your opinions down my throat. How would he feel if I told him everything that was wrong with him; his looks, his personality, I don’t think he would feel very happy about that. Words hurt people more than a punch to the face, at least a black eye can go away, but words can get carved into you like scars, and sometimes they don’t fade. I eventually scared the guy off by laying his bible on the floor and pretending to pray to Satan, but seriously, I had to take some type of drastic measure to get him off my back. I sometimes wish people could understand that a person’s personality is more than just their appearance. The scariest biker dude in the world can be the friendliest of guys out there, just as easily as the nice girl next door could be a cold-blooded murderer. Just because someone looks or acts different doesn’t mean that they are a monstrosity. It’s not necessary to try to fix something or someone that isn’t broken.
    That is the end of my long response. I know it was only necessary to list one aspect where I have felt like the “other” but I felt it was important to discuss these three characteristics. I am a Mixed Latina, I am from New Jersey, and I suppose I am a “punk-goth emo-thingy.” These three things make up who I am and that will never change. I grew to learn that without these experiences, if I never accepted my race, my hometown or my love of dark things, that I would not be the same person I am today. So I’m thankful for the hardships because that just made me a better and more accepting person.

  30. Nick Vernon says:

    Throughout middle school and high school my friends berated me for my (to them) peculiar habitats of being extremely frugal and managing my personal money (mostly from lifeguarding/holidays) with great care. They repeatedly made jokes that I was a “Jew” because I managed my money in a similar way to the supposed stereotypical way Jewish people do. I laughed along with the jokes, but as they kept coming day after day, I could not help getting frustrated. So what I was stingier with my money than they were? You know what I called that? Responsibility! They were making these jokes in good fun, but the reason they found the jokes funny was because I was different than the majority. They didn’t know at the time that my mother’s side of the family were Polish Jews in Mississippi and were forced to change their family name from Shawblowski to Shaw when my mom was 12 years old. That, however, is not why I took offense. I am a white Christian American, so why would I be offended if someone is calling me a Jew? It’s simple, and it’s not because I don’t want to be associated with the group. The reason I was offended is simply because they were trying to make me an other – an outsider – and I did not want that.

  31. Zach Cleland says:

    I have very thin and light colored eyebrows, and when i was in middle school they were so blond that it looked like i didn’t have eyebrows at all. Look back on it it is quite funny, but when i first went into middle school (before then i was home schooled) and people started noticing and pointing it out it felt like this huge horrible difference. I still remember at lunch during one of the first few weeks when Becky Snyder was sitting across from me and suddenly asked in a shocked voice “what happened to your eyebrows?!?!” There was even days when i would use mascara to darken my eyebrows so that i would fit in. In the long run it had no real ill effects, i still made friends, i still found places and people to fit in with, and even though it now provides a wonderfully funny story, back then in the moment i felt like it was just one more thing separating me from my classmates.

  32. Austin Post says:

    In good, old Hiram, Georgia there is a place where countless athletes show up to showcase there skills on a basketball court. Ben Hill Strickland Park is home to many great hoopers, most of them being African American. One day i had the unusual craving for a good game of basketball, and since I always want to challenge myself, I asked around about where the best players play. I was eventually pointed to the park. Upon showing up, I realized that actually being able to play may be unrealistic simply because of the stereotype the white guys can’t ball. I’ve grown up my entire life around various different races, and cultures, so I thought nothing of me trying to play with everyone there at the time, even though I was the only white guy. Walking up to the court, I started hearing mutterings of “what’s this cracker think he’s doing?”, or even blatantly yelling at me to leave. I was being judged based solely off the color of my skin, not my basketball abilities, and it made me realize how many other races must’ve felt in times of civil inequality. I felt like I was inferior and not wanted, but i was given the chance to play in a pick up game just before the sun went down. Fighting against the pressure of having to play great to earn respect, I was nervous as could be, but It turned out that I played very well.

  33. Natalie Allen says:

    I played softball throughout middle and high school. Throughout all my years of playing ball there was always a stereotype amongst me and other girls on my team (and all other softball players) that we were lesbians. My friends outside of softball would commonly joke about it and I would bush them off or just tell them to cut it out, but it really got to me. If it wasn’t students outside of softball it were girls on opposing teams. Being a catcher I was often laughed at as I approached the back of home plate. They would chuckle and point because I didn’t look like an intimidating opponent. The best part about that was watching them grow more and more silent after they watched me perform. My decision to discontinue playing in college was ultimately caused by the discriminatory comments others would constantly make about me and my sport. They would joke about how I would really become a lesbian if I continued playing in college, especially since I was the catcher. It upsets me that I let the ignorance of others keep my from playing a game I love so dearly and I wish I had ignored them. It just proves what discrimination exists both in and out of certain elements.

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