A dear professor of mine from graduate school reminded me constantly of picking and choosing my battles. When I was younger, picking and choosing those battles were harder, as I had a voice and boy, did I want that voice to get heard. As I get older, I am realizing that I have the confidence to respond in a way that gets my point across in a much more subtly exasperated or humorous way. So when someone says, “wow, you speak such great English, “ I thank them and say, “you’re welcome, so do you.” It usually elicits a confused response in them, but mostly results in me internally high-fiving myself.
A flip side to these acts of cluelessness is a humorous account from years ago. A dear friend of mine from graduate school was looking at my wedding album. He had a confused look on his face when he came across a particular picture of a young woman standing next to me. Knowing him the way that I did, I had a feeling that he was reluctant to comment that this young woman looked like this mutual friend from graduate school, because he didn’t want to make the assumption that all Indians looked alike. We laughed heartily when I told him that she was indeed that person and almost 14 years later, it still makes us burst out into extreme laughter when we relive that moment of his racial sensitivity.
I myself have been guilty of seeing someone that is of color, or for that matter, even from the mainstream race and telling him or her that they look like someone else that is famous. At times, this might be the case, but other times it serves as a conversation filler because really, people mostly just want to be themselves. It’s also a form of prejudice that I have to be aware of and one that I have to make concerted efforts to avoid at all costs. Ultimately though, I think it is our inherent need as human beings to try to find a connection, some commonality, with one another and to like and be liked, even though the ways that we go about it may, at times, be dysfunctional. I know I have to find better ways to make that connection. In the mean time though, I’ll stick with my non-Sharon Stone looks, but I’ll definitely take her body.