I just wanted to dedicate some space to writing about something that’s a real issue for me at times , something that I only really feel affected by when I’m at University .
I started my second year at University 3 weeks ago, this time fully aware of the fact that it is NOT school, it is not as accepting and that while many of the students are all to eager to apply the racial stereotypes on you, they get awfully uncomfortable at the slight mention of race on your part. They don’t accept that you’re different, they ignore it (whilst unconsciously pointing the differences out in the stereotypical assumptions they make). And if you dare to come to terms with and acknowledge these differences yourself – to highlight something you are proud of, that pride is snatched away from you into the uncomfortable mood that engulfs the room at your mentioning of the topic.
But that’s okay, like I said, I’ve come to terms with it. I almost find it funny now actually, seeing them freeze up at the mention of ones race. Almost.
However, what I haven’t come to terms is the sheer ignorance amongst certain students, students studying subjects such as sociology or religion, subjects that require the analysis of inequality. The irony is, while they live and breathe the study of societal inequality, they have no problem implementing the same thought process themselves.
At the start of last year, I had this one girl ask me ‘what halls are you in?’ 3 times in two weeks. Correct me if I’m wrong but surely if she saw my value as a person as she would be able to remember that she’s asked one of the few brown girls (narrowed down to about 2 people out of all those she’s met at University by the presence of a headscarf) that question already? My University is full of southern white girls that fit her profile yet I still remembered her face so why couldn’t she remember mine??
I feel like, without realising they’re doing it, some people view you as inferior to them and therefore unimportant and not worth remembering.
The saddest thing was that last week one of my own friends, not some girl in my class like the one mentioned above, did the same thing.
I’ve noticed before that this friend would always make assumptions about the kind of food I ate (I’m of south Asian heritage) etc but I got over it because maybe she hasn’t met many non-whites. But what she did last week just completely shocked me. I live near Bradford (Bradford is a northern city often stereotyped as being full of south Asians) and this friend would always assume I’m from there. Again, I would just tell her that I’m not from Bradford and think maybe she got confused because they’re both in the north. But then last week, we had just come out of a seminar where we were talking about what city we’re from and the socio-economic divisions across that city etc and as soon as we left the seminar, on our way to the next lecture, she asked me something along the lines of ‘so is your street quite diverse or is it mainly Asian’. I replied saying that it’s diverse and then she says, ‘oh, my other friend who’s from Bradford says where she lives is very much Asian…’.
This made me so freaking angry I can’t even put it into words. Even when I think about it now, her ignorance never ceases to amaze me. I don’t want to sound petty but she’s known me for a year and we’d just come out of a seminar where we discussed which city we’re from! How ignorant can a person get? So much for being my friend eh?
But then it makes me think that maybe it’s more than ignorance, maybe in her eyes I’m not important as a person so the details about where I’m from etc aren’t of value. Maybe its some unconscious racial prejudice that I’m just going to have to learn to accept and live with. This ‘friend’ always goes on about feeling ‘unworthy’ when someone hasn’t texted her etc when she doesn’t even bother to listen to what I say; how’s that for feeling unworthy?
PS: There’s nothing wrong with living in Bradford, it just frustrated me that she’d automatically assumed I was from there because of skin colour and then continued to do so after I’d told her where I was from several times. 🙂