Did He Really Just Say That?

Did He Really Just Say That?

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Being a foreigner in America, or anywhere else for that matter, is tough. There is always a cultural and language barrier that takes some getting used to, the climate is different, and even the Burger King menus can vary. As someone who is not from the States, one of the main problems that make this transition to mainland America hard are those “Did he really just say that?” moments.

Before I go on, let’s define this term. A “Did he really just say that?” moment occurs when a person, male or female, intentionally or unintentionally makes a racist, stereotypical, rude, or ignorant comment toward someone who is not from that place. One would think that this would not be a problem in the 21st century, but it happens much too often.

In my case, I have been born and raised in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, but I would come to the mainland United States for summer programs. Fast forward a few years: I’m in my sophomore year of college at Liberty University - very far from home. Even now, I still find myself experiencing “Did he really just say that?” moment.

Coming from Puerto Rico, some of the top comments I have heard that caused these moments were:

1. You're Latino, how come you don’t like spicy food?

2. Why do you say you’re American, Puerto Rico isn’t even a state?

3. Was it hard to get a passport to come here?

4. You must really like salsa music, right?

5. I would have thought it was the Puerto Rican …

And finally …

6. How long was the drive from Puerto Rico to here?

There have been many other moments, but these should help you get an idea of the problem. Keep in mind, however, that this not something that is experienced by only one or two people; chances are a lot of people near you go through this. I would encourage you to talk with students from your school’s international office or even friends from other places. Ask them what their experience has been.

For example, a friend from Chile was asked how close it was to Mexico. Similarly, a friend from Germany was asked if people there still believed in Hitler’s ideals, a friend from Russia was told that he would never go to Russia because it’s so dangerous, a friend from Colombia was jokingly asked if he had brought drugs with him, and so on. These things are actually happening in America in the year 2015.

So now the question is: what do we do now? Well, there’s no single or absolute answer. Racism, stereotypes, and ignorance aren’t defeated in a day. But if you’re still reading this, then that means you probably want to know what you can do to help.

I believe the best thing locals can do to avoid causing these moments is to stay informed and have empathy. Being informed means you won’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. If you’re not sure of something, look it up or wait a while, but don’t just say what’s on your mind. On the other hand, empathy is being able to understand what a person is experiencing. Keep in mind that these people are far from home, most probably everything is new to them, and chances are they’ve probably gone through a few “Did he really just say that?” moments already. Being empathic in these situations means showing them around, teaching them the new culture, helping them understand this new place, trying not to remind them of the place they are no longer in, but helping them see the beauty and good of where they are now.

I had someone like that when I came to the States for college. To be honest, if it weren’t because of this person who went out of their way to do these things and understand me, I probably would have gone and dropped out or gotten depressed.

Be that person for someone. Neither of you will regret it, and you will make a friend for life.

Cover Image Credit: http://giphy.com/search/loki-facepalm

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering Is How We Got Extremist Abortion Bans

This is a pressing issue that is often swept under the rug.

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Several states have recently passed legislation restricting a mother's access to abortion, and several others are projected to do the same. Alabama has passed the most severe legislation by banning the majority of abortions, including cases of rape and incest, and abortion providers now face up to 99 years in prison for noncompliance. Georgia's governor has signed legislation banning most abortions after six weeks, with mother's facing prosecution for terminating their pregnancies after this date. A few other states, including Missouri and Louisiana, are in the process of approving similar legislation.

Nationwide outrage over this legislation has taken over many social media platforms, prompting political discourse across the aisle. Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator well-known for her outspoken nature, even tweeted her disdain for the legislation:

"I will be attacked by fellow conservatives for saying this but so be it, this Alabama abortion ban is too restrictive. It doesn't save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries. You don't encourage life via blanket government mandate!" — Tomi Lahren

I side with the many men and women who are horrified at this decision for many reasons. Apart from Governor Kay Ivey's blurred understanding of what separation of church and state really mean when invoking God as a reason for her approval of the country's most restrictive abortion legislation, there are many reasons states have successfully passed such controversial legislation. One such reason is gerrymandering.

As someone who has grown up in the most gerrymandered state in the country, North Carolina, I have witnessed through much of my life the effects gerrymandering has on legislation. Gerrymandering describes the act of redrawing district lines to establish a political advantage for a party. This is a practice done by both Democrats and Republicans and through two primary methods, packing and cracking.

Packing attempts to condense members of an opposing party into few districts in order for the opposing party to dominate in the remaining districts. On the other end, cracking attempts to break apart an opposing party amongst districts in order to dilute the vote of their members by becoming outnumbered by members of the governing party.

Georgia's district lines are a perfect example of packing. Following the 2010 census, Republicans were able to redraw district lines and packed Democrats into as few districts as possible. This decision has led to extremely uncompetitive elections, with many candidates running unopposed because of the district's voter makeup. The impacts of gerrymandering in Georgia were evident during the last gubernatorial election between Brian Kemp (R) and Stacey Abrams (D).

Kemp won barely the election by around 55,000, at 50.8% of the popular vote, yet Republicans hold over sixty percent of the state's legislative seats. This demonstrates how districts can be determined to favor a political party in terms of representation, though not reflect the constituency of the state. This has allowed Republicans to hold the majority of state seats, which contributed to the approval of the abortion bill.

Voter suppression is a serious issue that is often swept under the rug because it allows those who have been in power to remain in power. While it is unfortunate it took this long for many to understand its implications, it is important that the same energy aimed at fighting this legislation is aimed at remedying the long-standing problem of gerrymandering that allows such unsavory legislation to pass.

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