Watching the jerky movements of my reflection in the plate glass window I savor the thoughts of the coming satisfaction of black, hot coffee. Walking along the sidewalk, passing the many small stores standing end to end, I make my way to the local coffee shop. Living in a rural, southern, Carolina town, good coffee shops aren’t lurking on every corner. At this particular coffee shop, I’m a regular. Being a college student and likewise being off at school a majority of the time, I make certain to get my cup of Joe when I’m home. With the strap of my bag that holds my laptop weighing heavy on my shoulder, I enter the coffee shop. It’s a rather small place and on this day it was almost empty. Only the laughs from a small group of people broke the silence. Noticeably of Arab descent an older gentlemen in the group sports the stereotypical appeal, wearing a turbine like headdress. I walk by them, step up to the register, and order my usual. “Small, black, regular,” I mumble to the young girl behind the counter. I’m such a regular at this particular coffee shop that most of the employees know my usual order and rarely ask to see my student ID when I remind them I’m a student and can get the discount.
This coffee shop offers free internet access, so after getting my cup of Joe I pull out my laptop and begin going about my usual internet activities; checking the email, scanning the news and headlines, and surfing recent blogs for any interesting perspectives on recent events. Sadly the recent political climate and world events make it difficult not to notice persons of Arab descent, so I’m shamefully aware of the people across the room. The family occupied a table in roughly the center of the coffee shop, all of them leaning forward towards the center of the table. They were laughing, whispering, and chatting amongst themselves. As I sit browsing the internet I felt a certain amount of pride. No, not pride; solidarity. Solidarity in knowing that even in a small southern town where history doesn’t always showcase cohesion between cultures and acceptance of differences, people of differing backgrounds mix so freely. Even during a time when the sight of persons of certain ethnicities that fit certain stereotypes in an airport might stir the nerves of many, daily life isn’t affected. People of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds can enjoy the same freedoms.
I think this story best illustrates what I believe. I believe in the ability to look past stereotypes, see around religious differences and look for the good in all people. Even when world events saturated in media hype push some to create faulty stereotypes and mind suppressing prejudice, I believe in a day when people are seen for the whole person they are and not just the aggregate of their many parts.
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