Just once I wish I could be approached with the question “Where are you from?” Instead, I always get “What are you?”
I am an African-American born in Hawaii with an Irish first name and Lithuanian last name. So people tend to be a little confused with my ethnicity (as I sometimes am). I would be driving an Expedition right now if I had a quarter for every time I heard “You Puerto Rican, ain’t you?,” “You got Asian in you or something?,” or, my all-time favorite, “You must be Filipino, or some s— like that?”
Well the answer is none of the above. My decent includes African-American (obviously), Native American, West Indian and Lithuanian. I bring this up because of the statements made in a perspective written by Rosie Gonzalez and Anne Marie White in the Nov. 7 issue of Loquitur.
Although the topic of their discussion was completely merited, I took offense to some of the comments made by the two. One of the quotes referenced in the article, “I hung with white people,” were words uttered by me during a class discussion.
Out of context, this statement does sound as though I am “trying to make an excuse just to say that you do associate with people who are different from you,” according to Rosie and Anne Marie. However, my choice for surrounding myself with those of another race had to do with personal, academic and social goals I shared with my “white” friends that I did not find with others at my high school.
I personally was able to distinguish that Rosie and Anne Marie were of Latino decent when I first met them. Also, being the progeny of a New Yorker, I was able to recognize the accents. However, I understand that many on this campus were not able to do so.
Rosie and Anne Marie complain that this campus does not embrace diversity, but is that not the point of asking “Where are you from?” I see that question as a compliment; that someone would take enough interest to ask it in the first place. Delving into what your possible ethnic background may be, those who question are curious of your culture. You ask “Why does this intrigue our peers?” Intrigue is the first step in exploring things that are different; the beginning of the learning process to furthering our horizons.
Of course when you are in New York no one “questions why anyone else would sound different,” because “different” is the norm in New York. Cabrini, however, is a predominately white, middle-to-upper class campus in a Philadelphia suburb. If it is not a Philly accent, then it will be questioned.
I agree with the statement that everything is always a “black and white” issue. This should no longer be, especially considering that Latinos have surpassed African-Americans as the largest minority in the United States. I also agree the many at Cabrini do live in a “bubble.” However, I was very disturbed by the argument presented by Rosie and Anne Marie to support this reasoning.
They claim that they “have a better understanding of Eastern customs,” just because they are from New York. I realize that New York is a very culturally diverse city, which is easy to see (and sometimes smell) with just one trip to Penn Station. But they have basically made the assumption that “Cabrini people,” who are not from New York, are clueless to world issues.
I understand that they have personal relationships with people who suffered such devastation. However, I do not see how this supports the argument of increasing diversity initiatives on campus.
Just because people do not have a first-hand account of a situation does not mean that it is beyond their comprehension, which is why Cabrini offers an array of courses with curriculum that discusses issues such as suffrage of third world country citizens or the practice of female circumcision. Also, one cannot assume that just because we are from the suburbs of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, etc., that there are not some who may have had first-hand accounts of such issues.
Through several courses I have taken with New Yorkers, I have gotten the impression that they feel they know more about the world, just because they are from New York. Although this is not an attitude I have encountered through personal discussions with Rosie and Anne Marie, I find it among several Cabrini students who originate from our neighbor to the north.
I could probably upgrade my Expedition to an Escalade for all the times someone in a class started their comment with “Well, I’m from New York so.,” even when it is completely irrelevant to the topic. Maybe New Yorkers have created their own “bubble.”
Although Cabrini could use improvement in the area of encouraging the sharing of different cultures, I have found my conversations at this college about ethnic, religious and social issues to be very enlightening and hope that those who shared in these conversations also feel the same.