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Between The Lines: Racism can't be understood without experience

I remember the first time someone made me feel inferior solely based on what I look like.

Unfortunately, that first time was when I was only a child. I stood in line in the cafeteria as a little girl with pigtails and $1.25 to buy myself a bag of chips and a small carton of milk. A boy stood in front of me while I dug the change out of my pockets. Suddenly, he turned around. What I didn’t expect would be the eye-opening experience that sadly, this wouldn’t be the only one.

“Chin-long Chong-ding!” He then proceeded to slant his eyes with his fingers and buck his teeth. Speechless, I stood there with my eyes misting over, covering my face with my hands. No one said anything. Not even an adult.

That wasn’t the last time someone made racial or prejudiced remarks about my ethnicity. My freshman year, I lived in a residence hall where some of my peers had written a poster with prejudiced remarks about the type of food that I ate and posted it on the door of our hallway.

It said, “Stanky Food Culprit better close their door and open the window if they want to eat that (stuff).”

How do you think you would react to that situation?

Another incident happened at Alden Library where a middle-aged man who was using a computer called me the “C” word when I accidentally set my book bag down a little too hard on a desk. How could a man who doesn’t even know remotely anything about me call me by a term that is on the same level as the “N” word?

To this day, I never forgot how my appearance was a thing that someone had singled me out for. I have never forgotten how my heart felt like it was burned with fire and my body going numb. How could this feeling exist? How could anyone feel like this?

My friends were sympathetic enough and said they were sorry about what happened and that they felt bad. It’s a frustrating thing; my friends who can learn all about prejudice and racism in the classroom or from their parents will never be able to feel the pain I felt or will feel. They will never have to go through something like that unless they’re a minority.

That isn’t just limited to racial discrimination. In no way am I singling anyone out. However, I want to raise this question: Will it ever be possible to truly know how to be in someone’s shoes until we’ve personally experienced something that defines us as different?

Ever since these experiences, I just learned to develop a thicker shell, but in the end the embarrassment and shame I felt from that first moment still exists. It still haunts me today.

Hannah Yang is a reporter for The Post. Email her at hy135010@ohiou.edu.

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