“Do you ever wish you were white?”
Just yesterday, my friend asked me this question. I couldn’t tell if he was just joking or if he really wanted my insight. Whatever his motives were, that question got me thinking. If given the chance, would I change the color of my skin?
When I was in the first grade, I attended a school filled with children who spoke English as a second language. At that time, I was also learning English as my second language: my parents spoke to me in Bengali at home. The majority of my classmates spoke Spanish, but, as a six year old, I didn’t realize the difference.
One day, while playing on the swings, my classmates Lily and Erica began speaking to me strangely. Their words were tight and spoken as if in an odd musical rhythm. I didn’t understand; they started to laugh and I began to cry. Even though we had the same skin color, the same hair color, and the same eye color, we were different.
As I reflect now, upon the moments that have shaped my character and the experiences that have influenced me most, I can finally grasp the answer to the question.
Yes, sometimes I do wish I were white. Sometimes, I wish I could live my life without being asked, “Where are you from?” I wish I would not have to explain my culture, my heritage, and my differences to accusing eyes, trying to place me in a brightly colored country on a brightly colored map.
But then I realize the beauty of my differences. My heritage and my culture have been passed down to me from my parents, from my grandparents, and many ancestors. The clothing that I wear is modest and unrevealing. The religion that I practice is one that I firmly believe in. The foods that I eat are ones that my mom has cooked using her mom’s recipes. The language that I speak is a mix of verbs conjugated differently from English verbs. The decisions that I make are all linked back to my differences.
Any minor inconvenience that I experience because of my skin color is always outweighed by the advantages to being myself. In any setting that I ever enter, whether it’s a classroom, a debate tournament, or a doctor’s office, I can guarantee myself that there is no one there who is just like me. There is no one, no one who can take my place in this world.
I believe in the beauty of our differences. Each person in our world contributes something different. A different viewpoint, a different idea, a different thought. If I were able to choose to be someone different, or if anyone were able to change their personal identities, the world wouldn’t be the same.
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