I believe in respecting cultures and taking pride in your own. I am a Pakistani Italian living between my school and community where half the people are Jewish and the other half are Spanish. I went to a public school in Hallandale, Florida, just north of Miami, where 93% of the population is Hispanic. I blended in just fine with my tan complexion and dark, thick hair. It was after the September 11th attacks that things began to change.
I had a lot of friends who probably saw it as a mere joke with their slick remarks here and there. Little did they know I got offended more and more each time. They might have got a few laughs out of the “Where’s Osama?” or the “Don’t go and fly a plane into my house,” but after a while it got pretty old. Getting only amusement from what they said, they felt no guilt at all from their stereotypical comments and associations of Pakistan with the terrorists from Afghanistan. There’s good and bad people everywhere, in every country. So what? Are we just not going to trust anyone these days?
My own mother can’t even walk into an airport without the additional harassment from security guards who think she’s smuggling something or plotting to bomb the plane. It seems as though people are getting even more arrogant and critical as the years go on. This only starts the roots for worldwide discrimination. Now I attend a small private school in Fort Lauderdale where the majority of the students are Jewish. I might be a minority everywhere I go, but I was still brought up to respect every other culture and race.
What makes me different makes me great. I may have a different background than everyone else, but that’s what makes me exciting. What’s the sense in everyone coming from the same place, doing things the same exact way, and looking the same? That’s just plain boring! As the old saying goes, “you all laugh because I’m different; I laugh because you’re all the same.” Whether people want to realize it or not, I have a lot to offer to the world. It’s just up to them to want to discover that.
I was never ashamed of my ethnicity, but I restrained from telling too many people because of the reactions I tend to get. Now I take pride in every part of my culture everywhere I go and encourage those who are “different” to do the same. Although it is just as hard to do, it is equally as important to value one another’s customs and respect everyone for their ways of life.
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