by Mahek Khetani | editor-in-chief

They say things get better in time, and with the new year just around the corner, we’re wondering how much truth there really is to that statement. Meaning as the years go by, are teenagers more or less committed to the idea of racial equality.  

“I think that we’re more progressive maybe cause we’re more aware of issues happening around the world due to social media, watching the news more and social media in general. But we may be aware of the issues and maybe we don’t act on them or we just kinda acknowledge it and go on with our lives, but some people actually talk about the issues in the world and then others just walk away,” senior Julia Ross said.

While we hold the trophy for obscure coffee shops, MTV shorts and seeing 50 shades of blue for every social media account we own, the mummified teenage mind has a few more shades than that. Good and bad.

“Of course when it comes to our school, we are more racially progressive. We are much more friendly; we are more accepting of who we are, but it is far from perfection because there are some people who feel privatized about themselves. And if they feel they tell someone the truth, they will be rejected, and for anybody who is a different race, sexuality, or mentality it’s far from over,” junior Garrett Christensen said.

It’s hard to put into perspective, especially if these predicaments are just briefly heard from your elders or from textbooks. But disregarding the past only gets us so far.

“I talk to my parents and about when they were growing up because they were Hispanic and were on the darker side, they had to sit near the ‘blacks’ and were deemed as second class citizens, and so to say that racism is totally gone is completely ignorant and biased of what’s going on,” senior Elena Hoffman said. “The Black Lives Matter group is so important but the fact that it has to be here is sad that there is still this influx of people murdering ‘blacks’ based off quick decisions. It’s this racism that is still embedded into our mindset that is holding us back.”

The problem with trying to educate others about race is that it’s often dismissed by various allegations. But the matter of discrimination isn’t always as direct as one may think. With millennials especially, some comments are made in the form of microaggressions, which are seemingly casual remarks that are often hostile or derogatory. From the hallways to the White House.

“[President] Obama has made all of these feats for the U.S. and [conservatives] can say whatever they want to discourage him, and it’s due to the fact that he’s black and ‘supposedly’ Muslim. And in personal terms the fact that that I’m walking through the halls and I have to hear one of my Muslim friends get called a terrorist as a joke, and when I go to Chicago I hear people call Mexicans ‘wetbacks’- it’s demeaning and insulting,” said Hoffman.

And the sad part is that it’s not just men like Donald Trump making these comments, its even the kids we share a class with. However, these same students don’t seem to fully understand the implications of their actions.

“Since 9/11, white people have been accusing all Muslims to be terrorists. There was a girl in the 6th grade that said I was Osama [Bin Laden’s] daughter and she kept calling me a terrorist and said I was gonna bomb the school. And I try not to take it to heart because they’re just accusing us because of what happened, and trying to get us mad. I think they try to hurt us and to them obviously it’s funny, and they are in fear because of 9/11,” junior Kinza Saleem said.

And the best part about xenophobia, defined as, “fear or hatred of strangers/foreigners”, is even though different cultures are mocked, the appropriation of it is happening all around. This includes talking about things like head scarves, henna tattoos, bindis and misuse of religious deities such as Ganesh, Buddha, and Krishna.

“I got a lot of hate for calling people out on cultural appropriation because I guess no one has ever told them that they’re wrong…most people who do that don’t really know the culture fully in depth,” junior Paul Flores said. “And being Hispanic, I feel like my culture is mine so when other people appropriate it, it’s kinda hypocritical or its like they try to incorporate it and make it their own, and it’s not there place to do so.”

Appreciating another person’s culture isn’t harmful but when it is turned into a tool for aesthetic purposes only, it deteriorates the value of something sacred.

“I love the blending of cultures; it’s really cool. I think it’s really progressive, but when people take it too far it gets really unbearable and kind of disrespectful to their religion. Because a lot of people accept religion or culture and they don’t think about the meaning of it, they just think it’s cool,” Ross said. “So when you do it [blend cultures] for the wrong reasons then it’s not really progressive. If anything it sets you back [because] you’re ignorant.”

It’s inconceivable how a person can insult a whole race or culture but think it’s acceptable to engage in the external decorative aspects of it.

Kinza Saleem dressed for the celebration of Eid, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan

Kinza Saleem dressed for the celebration of Eid, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

“People use costumes as cultural appropriation. Like, since we’re on Twitter I was talking about how it’s not okay to dress up [for Halloween] as border patrol, and illegal immigrants and [other] people were upset that I was mad about it. But these people are stereotyping us and it’s portraying a race in a false light. If you’re stripping the origins of a culture and trying to incorporate it in your daily life, that’s appropriation,” said Flores.

Dismissing appropriation for appreciation is damaging because people of color are mocked for dress but then many caucasians imitate the culture for the sake of mimicking a trend. But those who appropriate don’t live with the everyday stigma of said culture.

“I hate [culture appropriation] because it’s my ancestry and my great grandmother was a slave, and it’s really annoying cause those things were our’s and it was the only thing we could have that they [other people] couldn’t take away from us. Then all of a sudden, specifically caucasian people, take it from us again and it’s really upsetting,” Ross said. “They think that, ‘Oh I’m so accepting’ like we’re different [from them]. Its OK- you can acknowledge it, but don’t implement it. Its just disrespectful cause you’ve never gone through the struggle of being an African American and you never will.”

When it comes down to it, some people are just afraid of what they don’t understand. Some celebrate differences but others declare a war of the worlds. The dehumanization of people due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. is something that’s occuring every minute whether you see it or not, and the aftermath is horrifying. Women remove their Hijabs, men remove their Turbans, and kids start bleaching their skin just to blend in a little better. Others have a more violent fate. Don’t let your history books fool you- the fight isn’t over.

“I know they’re just trying to get us mad. I think they try to hurt us and to them obviously it’s funny and they are in fear because of things like 9/11, but it hurts people so much. But never… I would never feel ashamed of being Muslim,” said Saleem.

 

 

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About The Author

Mahek Khetani is a senior at Johnson High School and the co editor-in-chief of MyJagNews.

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