Race, Politics & the American Promise
I am a Chinese national and currently studying in California, USA. I have come across various manifestations of racism, bias, discrimination and favoritism that are ingrained in educational institutions and other social places located within the vicinity of educational institutions. There are various instances when a fellow student limits his time and even willingness to interact with a foreign student like me simply because my looks and appearance portray that I am Chinese. Some students even fear sharing their time and resources with anyone who does not speak their language fluently.
Racism in most schools that I have attended is mainly shown through stereotypical beliefs and actions that are not based on reason. There are times when students refuse joining discussion groups or a school team simply because they believe their ideas and contribution will not be granted much attention due to their origins in terms of race. Some students in our university fear engaging with me in discussions simply because they know my accent is not as theirs. There are others who make me feel bored when I notice that they are unwilling to accommodate me in class discussions and team work. Such actions bring feelings of hate and prejudice upon me simply because I am from a different racial background. I normally prefer joining discussion groups that are made up of other immigrants to the US since the university admits students from all over the world.
The most interesting thing is that I sympathize with these students because they forget to realize that there is so much that we can share. This is due to the stark contrasts that are evident between various cultural, social, political and even economic beliefs between our Chinese culture and their westernized culture. If we can leverage on these differences, we can empower ourselves and society so that tangible achievements in these areas can be made.
The main thing that I fear in racism in schools is that it can destroy the academic life of foreign or minority students. This is because the manifestations of racism among the student community sometimes spread to the classroom. I have faced several instances where some Caucasian tutors fail to accord me an equal opportunity in class simply because of my race. When they are seeking the opinions of students on an issue, they mostly side with the majority leaving me and others who are foreign to be just followers. This is degrading and discriminatory and portrays a negative image on the university. I believe it is people like I and others from different races who should first be given a chance to express our sentiments on an issue before the majority. This would make them accommodate our views and concerns into their plans and we feel recognized.
The demonstration by some tutors and professionals of open favoritism may make foreign students like I lose the morale and motivation to learn and may portray a negative image to the institution. However, these acts of favoritism are subtle and not widespread since the institution has adopted policies that ensure each and every student is accorded maximum attention to give realize his potential. But what hurts me is the pervasive consensus that seems to exist through mental models in the student and teaching community that people like me should just conform to what has been decided. This is even against the main democratic principles of where the majority should have their way but allow the minority to have their say. There are also some tutors and students who do not even bother to know my name yet they expect me to know theirs. They only point or make funny hissing noises when referring to me and the whole experience seems oppressing and derogatory.
I have a great admiration to the principles that are advocated for by the American constitution. The principles of liberty and freedom are the hallmark of all human activity in most of the American society (Green 11). In fact, it is these ideals from time immemorial that have made the USA be referred to as the land of opportunities. I have experienced great comfort and satisfaction when interacting with various people outside the university. These are individuals who are interested to know and hear more about China. They are mainly interested in knowing what they do differently from the Chinese and even request for short appointments where we discuss pervasive issues over a cup of tea or coffee.
I have therefore understood that differences exist due to various cognitions that develop in us over time. The behavior of some students especially whites has made me believe that there is a need for educational institutions to sensitize their students of the red flags so as to minimize any behavior that may be construed as racist or discriminatory. This is because most of their behavior is unintentional and sometimes so subtle that it may be invisible. However, this invisibility and subtleness does not mean that these behaviors do not hurt people like me.
There are various institutions especially those in the American society that have given me much confidence in adapting to these differences that I normally go through. The American court system is one of the most developed in the world. Their demonization of any acts of discrimination gives me much confidence that what I see is just inconsequential in the short run. This is because the strong respect for the rule of law and appreciation of diversity demonstrates a sensitive society (Turner 36). I have much confidence that as I progress in my studies in the university, these differences and their embodiments will gradually disappear. This is due to my personal appreciation for engagement and interaction across cultures. I strongly believe that we can leverage on our various differences in terms of cultural and social differences to emerge stronger in our perceptions of the world.
Another institution that has influenced my understanding of difference is the family setup in America. There are families that have adopted children from other races and accepted them as their own. This demonstrates that the racial divide is closing at a higher rate and that this society is on the right track. It implies that most of the few and isolated cases that I have come against are only temporary since they have no recognition or manifestation in society.
The educational institutions have also been on the alert against any member of their community who acts in a way that is degrading or demeaning to other members. It implies that educational institutions have realized that institutional racism is major contributor to achievement gaps that may be seen in schools. Such gaps make students not live to their full potential and undermine the goals of the educational system. Teachers and students in most of the educational institutions have gone extra miles to ensure that their behaviors and acts do not in any way insinuate discrimination. The realization of the dangers of racism by institutions in society creates promise and hope that what one might have witnessed is unintended. It is therefore my sincere hope that other aspiring learners and professionals will seek to cross boarders and explore the various opportunities presented by the world so as to appreciate diversity.
Green, Francis. Differences in American Society. New York. Jossey-Bass. 2009. Print.
Turner, Christin. Racism in Schools: Unintentional But Damaging. Cambridge. Cambridge university press. 2011. Print.
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