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COLUMN: It's Because I'm Brown

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01

When my friend posted a diagram on Facebook entitled ‘Build Your Own Survival Team,’ I was initially tagged as the person ‘First To Die.’ There was obviously only one rational comment I could write.

"This is because I’m brown, isn’t it?"

It’s been my go-to phrase for the longest time. I’ve used it when my mac and cheese order at McElroy was mixed up and whenever my roommate wants me to throw him a water bottle. Even when I helped organize the Secret Santa for our floor last semester and discovered I was the last person to get picked the very last day before the gift-giving, I had only one response.

"It’s because I’m brown."

Needless to say, I’m joking whenever I whimsically declare such things. It’s great making my friends laugh with comments like that, especially when I know they’re unable to say such things. Although I may be brown-skinned, I also have to admit that I am extremely lucky to have never faced any sort of discrimination or prejudice at all. Growing up in a small town officially designated as a ‘hamlet’ and studying at a predominantly white university, I am more than grateful to have never legitimately blamed my skin or race for some sort of tribulation.

Some of my friends always ask me why I don’t hang out with more students from my culture and why the majority of my friends are white. Don’t get me wrong—I do believe that Boston College could benefit from obtaining a more variety of students, but the recurring question of why I don’t have many ‘brown’ friends irritates me. The real question is why is it necessary I should have brown friends? Why is there the need to group ethnicities and certain peoples together?

BC may not be the most diverse school in the world, but it definitely has some prominent culture clubs. The problem with these clubs, one of my friends says, is that "they form a large niche of people who only congregate for the reason of being ‘cultural.’" It’s important to note that this friend isn’t caucasian—she’s a Chinese-American born in Japan.

Many students growing up in America with diverse backgrounds face a culture clash—they’re different from the majority of people in the U.S., but at the same time cannot fit in with the established bubbles or ‘culture cliques’ at their schools. The opposite situation can also occur: another friend of mine on campus identifies as Hispanic, but when visiting her native country of Peru, she is viewed as a white American.

It may be difficult for some people, but I fully understand what my friends are trying to say. The feeling of not belonging to any specific group and being caught between two worlds is infuriating and confusing to say the least, which is why my Chinese-American friend stays away from culture clubs altogether. I’m open to interacting and being friends with anyone, regardless of their skin color or race, but I would be lying if I said I’m sometimes wary of being sucked into a culture clique. In my experience when I converse with people of the same background, many of them want to speak in their native language—despite the fact that they’re fluent in English.

Of course, I personally know people who can’t speak English very well or are more comfortable in their native tongues, and I understand; even I rarely have full conversations with my family in English, but as for those of the same background who willingly don’t want to speak in English, I’m a bit taken aback. It’s surprising to me that they want to sustain a public conversation in a foreign language, and I cannot help but think it alienates ourselves from those surrounding us who don’t grasp a word we’re saying.

I also comprehend the fact that some of these people want to preserve and retain their culture—and I’m totally fine with that and understand their sentiments. I personally know the pressure of attempting to maintain the integrity of a native culture while becoming a part of a new, more popular one. The aforementioned groups of people, however, create the feeling of exclusivity and act as if their culture is inassimilable with mainstream society, and I think that’s irrational. As a college student born and raised in America, I love my culture and background and have always been able to find a way to properly integrate them into my life. Who doesn’t love some samosas or halwa on a Thursday morning?

I don’t need to join other people of the same background to enjoy my culture, and I think the greater community needs to realize that as well. We all come from different places with different stories and different lifestyles. Some of us may have different colored skin and identify as Hispanic, Chinese, Peruvian, Japanese, or caucasian, but in no way should that prevent us from interacting and getting to know one another.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.

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