This I Believe

Emily - Bennington, Vermont
Entered on January 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Racial prejudice is something I thought had mostly subsided until one day in English class. Upon discussing the hard drive that allows its sellers in China to view all files that the user puts on it, I heard a few very disturbing comments from fellow classmates of mine that were extremely demeaning to the Chinese population, not specifically to the hard drive sellers, but to the entire Chinese race. At the moment, I became too enraged to defend the Chinese, but now I find it essential to express my feelings.

Last summer, I spent a month exploring China with American and Chinese students, and I formed extremely close relationships with both groups. Each day, I observed the daily lives of common Chinese citizens, and I have found them to be human. Shocking! I know. My point is that there is no need to discriminate against the Chinese. They lead lives similar to those of us Americans, except in general, the Chinese are more polite and much thinner than the average American.

I have lived in the United States my entire life. I have been to the large cities such as New York and the small towns such as Bennington, Vermont. In China, I was fortunate enough to explore the large cities of Beijing and Chengde along with the small rural villages like Buyang. In Chengde, a few of us American students were blindfolded and sent out in a taxi to a random place within the city. By asking strangers for directions, we were to find our way back to our hotel. In this activity, each random Chinese person that we approached to ask for directions was patient while listening to our mangled Chinese, and polite in response. In New York City, if a slow speaking foreigner was to go up to random people and ask for directions to a certain place, what are the chances that every American would help this person?

After a month in China, I can count on one hand the entire number of obese Chinese people that I saw. I cannot say the same for my small town of Bennington, Vermont, let alone for my high school. The worldwide stereotype of Americans is that we are rude and overweight. Before my travels to China, I thought this was absurd. But with comments such as, “I don’t trust the Chinese,” and, “I hate the Chinese,” coming from my own classmates, I can see how half of this stereotype was formed. By entering a fast food restaurant, I can see how the other half of this stereotype was formed.

Without knowing and without ever having gone to China to meet a Chinese citizen, I fail to understand how some of my classmates were able to conclude such demeaning things about 1.3 billion people. But I do not blame my classmates for making such comments. I believe that a lack of exploration has led them to their conclusions. So I encourage anyone to start exploring the world and its people and help reduce racial prejudices by showing the world that not all Americans are rude and overweight, and later explaining to Americans that the various people of the world are people too.