As I walked around campus today, it was almost as if there was a word bubble over the entire student body’s heads reading, “I really don’t want to be here. Where did Spring Break go?” For those of us still moping about the brevity of our week of forgotten obligations and day drinking on the beach, let us take a collective moment of silence for our fallen friend: Spring Break 2013.
Until next year, dear friend.
I spent my spring break in Denver, Colorado, with my partner and her family. Denver was a whirlwind of food, sightseeing, pockets of Denver culture, and actual whirling, snowy wind. Don’t even get me started on the snow and temperature – the Miami girl in me is still shivering.
After strolling through the downtown area during our second day in the city, I immediately noticed the stark contrast between people who were white and those who were not. Every time I get into these situations where I am the only Asian person in sight, I get a little on edge and much more in tune to the demographics of the place I’m in. I immediately began to imagine what the people glancing our way at the airport must have thought about me with my white partner and her family – clearly, I was an abandoned baby girl from the One-Child Policy in China who a white family took mercy on and adopted as their own.
Of course, my thoughts drifted on the dramatic side, but I cant help what I think when I’m the only person of my race around. With 72% of the population being white, 12% black or African American, 31% Hispanic or Latino, and 3% Asian, Denver mirrors the racial composition of the United States, but with double the proportion of its Hispanic or Latino members.
After thinking back on my spring break, it finally hit me that this city is typical of modern America. Living in my liberal UF bubble with 8% Asian American students and several major Asian American student associations, I rarely considered my positionality on campus as a person of color. Only when there was no person like me in sight was I forced to become aware of myself and accept my identity.
So often in the United States, we treat race like it is no different than the color of our shirt or the brand of our shoes. We are taught to not talk about race, for fear being called a racist or for fear of offending, or for whatever fear that may keep us quiet. But it is important to have well-intentioned conversations about race. It is important to recognize and celebrate the differences between people, so that we don’t let our unspoken thoughts become engrained biases.
As people of color, we also have a responsibility to be open to difficult conversations. More often than not, I have found myself tensely waiting to hear an offensive remark or assuming the way a conversation will go when people around me talk about race. As people of color, we must be equally open-minded and willing to challenge ourselves, even if we think there is no more to learn.
In addition to its rolling hills, pockets of cool liberal indie Denver culture, and fantastic food, Denver has taught me to take who I am in stride, without hiding it or letting it define me. As the great Taylor Swift once said, “Just be yourself, there is no one better.”
And for all the Gator readers out there, have no fear – summer is only eight weeks away!
Photo by Kevina Lee.