By Matthew Cron
Almost every Sunday at Marsh we have an interdenominational book study. A topic was brought up in class that I felt very strongly about: the way in which people separate themselves between “us” and “them.” For some reason humans always feel the need to categorize other humans into specific groups. These are groups based on sex, nationality, skin color, language, etc.
I am one of the people in the US melting pot who cannot fit into the groups that society has predetermined for me. My mother and grandparents are immigrants to this country; thus, making me a first generation American. I do not have a Portuguese accent, act differently, or any look differently than any other caucasian male walking the streets in the US. But, sometimes it is easier for me to associate myself with people who do talk with accents, act differently, and look differently. Even though I am white and am seemingly just a normal 18 year old, I have experienced racism first hand.
My grandparents speak with an accent (sometimes it is thicker than other times), and it is clear to most people that they had immigrated here. Sometimes we go out to lunch together and I will help my grandfather order his food because Portuguese is his primary language and it is easier for me to articulate what he wants. There have been numerous occasions where people have said talked in demeaning tones to my grandfather or have been rude because I order for him, or because he does not speak English as fast or fluidly as them. Keep in mind that my grandparents are caucasian and that most of the people that I am talking about are also caucasian.
My grandparents are incredibly strong individuals and usually do not take notice to these things or take them to heart when they happen. However, I feel indirectly insulted by the actions of others. My grandparents are not some sort of degenerate subhumans just because they speak with an accent. Just because they are slightly more olive toned than other caucasians does not mean that they are suddenly less intelligent.
Although situations like these infuriate me, I do not blame the individuals who have done this to my family. I blame society as a whole and the implementation of an “us” and “them” mindset. People have been hyper-sensitized to other people who are slightly different than they are. This causes them to alienate those people and put them into stigmatized groups.
I believe that this is one of the reasons that there are racial tensions in the world today. Even when people are trying to be inclusive and have non-racist tendencies, they still maintain a stigma about the person. By labeling someone anything (black, white, spanish, mexican, brazilian, etc.), you are putting these people into a different group than yourself. This means you are being inadvertently and unintentionally racist. Instead of a these people all being put into the same group (American), they are now all broken into uneven and biased groups.
That is one of the major issues I see with society. We are so quick to label someone who is different than us and being different than us that we forget that we are all human. We forget that we are all from the same country (US). We are all Americans, no matter what we sound like or look like.
My baseball coach said it best; we were playing a team that was much better than us and my teammates and I were getting intimidated. He said, “They are just like you. They put their pants on like you, brush their teeth like you, drink water like you, go to school like you. The only difference is the name on the shirt. You have no reason to think they are any better than you, and you have no reason to think you are any better than them. The only thing you need to do is focus on yourselves.”
We need to do the same thing in society. Just because people sound different than us and look different than us, it does not mean they are less American than us. It does not mean that they are not as good as us. Because after all, these people still have to go to work like us. Still have to take care of their families like us. And most importantly, still put their pants on just like us.