Think back to your first year of college for a moment. Think about the types of people you have turned to. Did they look like you? For most people, the answer is yes. Although it’s probably unconscious, it’s still something you should question. I’m multiracial, so I’m used to not looking like anyone in the same room as me. I talk to people of different ethnicities all the time, and while I don’t mind it, I always wonder why other people don’t tend to do the same.
The high school I went to was very diverse, considering it was in Long Island, New York (a place notorious for its lack of diversity). Despite its diversity, it always felt like everyone separated by ethnicity. When I started college, I expected things to be different. Everyone talks about how college is an opportunity to meet all kinds of people with different life experiences. Nonetheless, I noticed the same patterns I had seen all my life. So how did we get here?
It comes from the beginning of our childhood. Maybe all of our parents’ friends looked like them. Maybe we didn’t grow up in a very diverse neighborhood. Maybe on our first day of kindergarten, we felt nervous about talking to the kid who looked nothing like us, so we never did. We grew up, and it seemed normal. We have become accustomed to this habit of looking at those we consider to be the same as us. We don’t even think twice now. That’s the scariest part of it all for me. Avoiding those we perceive as different shouldn’t seem natural, especially in 2022.
We have come a long way as a society. However, recent events have shown us how far we must go. Many people think that it is enough to believe in equality. They get along well with other races and ethnicities, but they don’t see the need to incorporate them into their lives. For my part, I have a diverse group of close friends. I learned so much from each of them that I never would have known otherwise. I had the chance to discover their different cultures. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I believe that because I know them, I am a more empathetic and understanding human being who likes to discover cultures other than my own.
The past few years have shown me that many problems can be solved through acceptance. We make all these assumptions about people we’ve never even spoken to. We don’t understand their culture, so we think the things they do are weird or bad. We make judgments based on things we don’t understand. Even though none of this is intentional, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.
The path to a more tolerant society is through interracial friendships. Understanding other cultures requires talking to them, befriending them, and learning from them. The more we do this, the more we will appreciate our differences. rather than running away from them. Instead of thinking about all the myths and stereotypes we’ve heard over the years, we’ll see people for who they really are. Acceptance isn’t just about saying you don’t have a problem with other ethnicities; it shows it. The next time you find yourself in a new situation (starting a new job, for example), consider stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to the person who looks different from you. They just might be your next best friend.