Nichols: To avoid giving offense, be mindful of audience

Ian Nichols

One of the unfortunate issues of America’s past is the issue of racism. It is something that will probably be around for a lot longer as well. I am very much against racism and have had to deal with it growing up even though I have lived in America my whole life. One thing about racism and stereotypes that most people don’t realize is that a lot of them come from truth and facts.

One race that deals with a great deal of racism in America are African-Americans. They are the most distinguishably different-colored race. The history of slavery in our country with them not being treated as equals is where the racism toward them started. It is an unfortunate part of our history, but leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. began movements for equality in civil rights.

Gangs in inner cities gave the stereotype that all black people are going to murder everybody. The killing of Trayvon Martin is a horrible example of taking this stereotype way too far. This young black boy from Florida was killed walking home one night by a “neighborhood watch” man. This news is receiving huge national headlines as it is very obvious this was a white man stereotyping a black boy and killing him. They are currently doing voice testing on the 911 call to confirm that the killer even used a racial slur.

I experienced several types of racism and stereotypes against me. I was born in South Korea, so I’ve dealt with the normal Asian stereotypes. Most of these are true as they deal with who we are and our culture, but they still can be offensive.

“All Asians are horrible drivers.” This is one that has always bothered me. Most of the Asians that this stereotype is referring to are ones who are just getting to America. Essentially, their driving skill is the same as a 14-year-old just getting their driver’s permit. Most Asians don’t drive back in Asia and there is no “driver’s ed” for them to take.

“All Asians are ninjas.” I have never had a problem with this one. Most martial arts like kung fu, karate and taekwondo were formed and perfected in Asia. “All Asians are super smart at calculus.” Have you ever really looked at the work ethic that Asians have? Parents push their kids to succeed and work hard. Now I’m not saying that normal white people don’t, but the Asian culture of hard work ethic is being shown here. The white people who work hard and are able to absorb the material are just as smart; it has nothing to do with their race.

The Hispanic population deals with a very specific type of racism. The stereotype is all Hispanics are illegal aliens. Comedy shows such as “South Park” even had an episode specifically for this. Hispanics from Mexico and Cuba have illegally gotten into the United States by either crossing the border or the water. Are all Hispanics illegal? No, of course not, there are around 50 million legal Hispanics in the United States, which is the largest minority group. Because of those who have come here illegally, they have been given that stereotype.

The last type of main race that deals with a large amount of racism are Arabs from the Middle East. “Hey, he is a terrorist.” A big stereotype that started after 9/11 was that all Arabs are terrorists. Are they all terrorists? Absolutely not, but the stereotype comes from these attacks and others. In one of the “Harold and Kumar” films, Kumar is stereotyped by an old lady in the airplane just because he looked close to Arab.

Most racist comments and stereotypes have reasoning behind why they are said, but this in no means gives people the right to say or use them. Racism is offending people based on their race. In high school, I had many nicknames based on my race: “Ian the Korean,” “Yoshi,” “Jackie Chan,” “Korian” with it spelled wrong to match my name and others. I am not offended by these terms directed toward me, but that doesn’t mean another Asian would not be offended. I am not offended as those who call me that are my friends. If some random person were to go up to me and yell “Asian!” yes, that would be a little offensive.

Is a statement only racist if the person who hears it is offended? In a way, yes. But an easy solution would be for us to just always be careful with what we say and who we say it to.