Seven seconds is the time it takes for people to form their opinions of people. I imagine only a few years back, it might have taken four seconds to cast judgment against someone only by registering the color of someone’s skin, different from one’s own. The less time it takes to communicate, the more quickly intolerance sprints.
Racism and intolerance are concepts that reliably provoke discomfort when brought up. Why? When I spoke with two people of different ethnicities, there was a strikingly similar pattern in their responses to the topic of racial inequality. One interviewee provided me the cutting insight that I was not alone in witnessing racism; discrimination is never very elusive. But the body language of the second was also telling: despite his readiness to praise human unity, I could see him literally wince at the prospect of changing old ways.
It was once difficult for me to comprehend the severity of racism. For instance, whenever the compliment “you’re so smart” was followed by “because you’re Asian,” I felt insulted. With no manifest negative connotations, what’s my concern? The inflection in people’s voices as they tell me I “am smart because I am Asian” is like adding salt to an open wound, even though I recognize the intentions are benign. The trope of the lovable but unattractive Asian nerd is not vicious, but such sweeping generalizations are a block to human evolution.
We humans may have advanced in our thinking, but false evidence lingers in memories of the past. Even the milder prejudices I have been subjected to are etched in my mind. When I was in 1st grade, the way others stared when I talked to my family in their words let me know we were “different.” One day, a non-Asian woman asked my mother for directions, enunciating her words slowly. My mother replied with a mixture of her words and mine, but the woman impatiently demanded the same answer from me; I replied hesitantly. The woman’s audible annoyance rang in my ears. At that moment, I did what an upset child might: I blamed my mother for the woman’s mistakes. Years have passed now and I would do anything to reverse my childish betrayal, but as this is impossible, I apologized to my mother in her words, our language.
Mina Choi / Marymount High School 10th Grade
<Mina Choi / Marymount High School 10th Grade