Beneath the Skin

Daniel - Louisville, Kentucky
Entered on March 6, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

There are more than 190 independent countries worldwide and countless cultural lifestyles. I believe that all people should be seen for who they are, regardless of their race. Everyone should be treated equally and live with pride; I believe respect is a universal right.

To be clear about my ethnic background, I am a mix of Chinese, Filipino, and Thai. For future reference, I cannot speak, understand, or read any Asian language, my favorite school subject is not math nor am I a ninja. My diet does not merely compose of egg rolls, rice, and sushi and “oriental” is a word that basically describes furniture.

Racism developed from ignorance is a prevalent problem today and negatively affects minorities such as myself. Since my early childhood, I have been taught to hide and to be ashamed of my cultural identity. I remember going to new schools where a common icebreaker was, “What are you?” Every time I was asked this question, I was tempted to respond with a cold “your worst nightmare” before finally backing down and saying I was Chinese. It was much simpler and less embarrassing than being asked to repeat the names of the other unheard, unfamiliar places. Of course, I could understand the curiosity, but I was antagonized by the constant questions and by the fact that I was often referred to as “that Chinese kid.” I can also recall moments where my academic achievements had been smeared, as if what I had done was innate to all Asians and could not be accredited to my hard work or determination. Initially, this cruel alienation concerning my race crushed my spirit, but it eventually forced me to embrace my heritage and that of others around me. I learned to accept others more easily and to try to see beneath the skin. What if we all looked, acted, and sounded the same? Differences should be celebrated because they remove people from their comfort zones and offer new, exciting opportunities. Yes, differences are necessary, but they should not define us.

I believe that there is more to a person than the physical features, accents, rituals, and social stigmas that follow. Instead, I believe in the soul. Although it is an entity separated from others in its diversity and complexity, it can be ultimately linked to form a unified race: the human race, one connected by love.