Challenging labels, including my own

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I grew up in a single-parent, Japanese-American household. I guess we were your average single mother and kid. I was always around a lot of different people – racially and politically — but it wasn’t really until I started going to school when I witnessed stereotyping.

Being half Asian never really seemed like a big deal to me. I mean, it’s not something I could control or change, so why should it be? I remember in kindergarten or first grade, kids would call me “yellow” and tell me to go build a railroad. I would get picked on and all of the usual things. I suppose you could say it continues to this day, when I am 18.

Opinion: Challenging labels, including my own • Published by ThreeSixty, re-published by permission.

I realize that the things that people say are things they believe in and things they grew up hearing. That is why they feel it is so right to let me know how “inferior” I am. My grasp on this is that you can’t change what color you are, your sex, your hair, your eyes, your economic standing or anything like that, so why should you feel pride or shame in it? Why should you feel like less of a human being because of that? I say you shouldn’t, no matter your color, your economic status or anything else.

I don’t think stereotyping should be condoned in any form. Yet at times I find myself doing it. I am a raging liberal punk teenager, and I find myself stereotyping Republicans and business people, but in no way is that more acceptable then a racist stereotyping me.

Why would you want to generalize about people? Stereotypes dilute our individuality and place people into places they don’t belong. Stereotypes lead up to things like racism and hatred. To generalize someone into a group and view them as all the same is a hateful thing and not the least bit rational.

You really need to remember this: People are not going to change for you. Everyone has their own beliefs and views. They have them for different reasons, whether it’s because of how they were raised or because of what they experienced. There will always be someone who gives you a hard time because of who you are and how you are different from them, but it’s their own insecurities that cause them to take it out on others.

You can’t change who you are, but you can always talk to people. If someone calls you something that you aren’t okay with, ask them why they think that and show them how their actions are inappropriate and hurtful. Hopefully, they will right their wrongs. People won’t change for you, but they will change for themselves.

Nico McLellan is a freshman at the University of Minnesota.

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