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This I Believe: Ripping The Band-Aid Off

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS
N'Dea Walls - Lanphier High School

I believe in ripping the Band-Aid off. The Band-Aid of racial stereotypes that is.

Growing up, I went to a small private school. My school prided themselves on being a multicultural school, which was true, but that didn't mean everyone accepted each other and were friends. It didn't mean everyone was ethnic either. Most of the school was white with a sprinkle of Indian here, or a little African there and so on.

To the white kids I was always the "black best friend" or subject to "can I touch your hair?" and supposedly the reason some of my classmates felt entitled to say the n-word. I would get invited to parties only to be requested to play "my kind of music," and get awkward stares if I played anything other than rap. If they didn't make me feel like a petting zoo they sure had a way of making me feel like a freak show. "My kind of music?" I never knew what that really meant. "My kind of music" was everything. My mom made sure me and my siblings grew up around different cultures, foods, etc. We listened to all kinds of music and even spoke a couple languages.

We were taught (at least at my house) that different people do different things differently. We didn't think any other race was weird or strange and were taught to respect different customs, but I had to realize that not everyone was brought up like that. My not so ethnic classmates couldn't fathom me listening to country or rock music (which I like very much), and when I told them I didn't like watermelon, the way they looked at me you would've thought I killed their grandmother. From that day, I took it upon myself to teach my classmates a little something about racial stigmas.

I made them feel it. I would come up to them and ask to feel their hair and call it weird or make faces (like they did to me). Then I'd make stereotypical comments about their white culture (like they made fun of the ethnic cultures) but this time they deemed it rude and insensitive. A week went by and soon enough they grew tired of my antics and demanded for me to stop. They would say I made them feel bad. I told them that it didn't feel too great when they did it to me either.

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