Race: Not just black and white

Izzy Meyers, Editor-in-chief

izzy in china
Junior Izzy Meyers and her parents in China.

by Izzy Meyers

As an Asian female who has experienced both ignorance and outright prejudice regarding my race, I am often impressed by everything Brookline has done to try to improve race relations both locally and nationally. Most importantly, I feel lucky that we know there is still a lot of work to do.

With the recent murders of young people of color in Ferguson, Staten Island and countless other places, the staggering injustice that people of color face in America is finally becoming obvious to the masses.

I want everyone to realize the stark differences between treatment of Whites and people of color. I want this inequality to be the top stories of news broadcasts and the front pages of magazines. I just do not want it made only Black and White.

Senior Gavin Hui speaks at the Race Day assembly on Asian-Americans.

Oftentimes race is something typically looked at under binary terms; either you benefit from the system or you don’t. You are always the oppressor or the oppressed, and there is no middle ground.

An article used to demonstrate the advantages that come with being white, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” by Peggy McIntosh, left me more confused once I had finished reading it than before.

Being Asian, I tick off approximately half of the points in her article. When shopping, I am never assumed to be shoplifting. But I have yet to see people of my skin color well represented in Hollywood. I am frequently made the poster child for my race, yet I have little reason to think the police will target me based on my skin color. “Flesh colored” Band-Aids only match my skin in the wintertime.

Needless to say, there is no “guide” included to find out which race you are based on how many privileges you check off. I am left somewhere in the grey area between white and black, with no tangible way of resolving to which side I ultimately fall, if any. When people talk about students of color, I frequently wonder if they are actively including me in their wording, or if they do not really mean to be talking about my race at all.

I think about Native American, Latino, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islanders and other races that also reside in this grey area, and whether they also wonder if the prejudices they face daily are enough to validate their oppression. I personally struggle with this daily.

Has an anti-Asian joke stung so hard it brought tears to my eyes in the middle of gym class? Yes. Do I regularly see people of my race murdered for the color of their skin? No. Are the seemingly in-between races destined to hover in the ambiguous territory between oppressor and oppressed? I hope not; we need a third category.

When we say “students of color” we cannot look at the world as a checkerboard. Race is more than two boxes to jump between. When we really mean “African-American students” or “Black students” could we actually just say that? It is heartbreaking to think your race is being included in a category only to find out the speaker did not intend to address your concerns.

It is extremely important to discuss race relations between White and Black people. I cannot stress this enough. We need to spend time, and much more of it, focusing on the pressing issues between these two races in particular. But saying there are more racial problems than just ones between Black and White people should in no way diminish the importance of the relationship between those two ethnic groups.

I think we as a society need to be aware of this grey area. We need to acknowledge that many minorities are confined to this space and not often talked about, and that their oppression should never be tolerated.

Look away from this page for a moment. The world around us is more than just ink on paper; its inhabitants are more than just two contrasting colors. Let’s acknowledge them all.

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