Words matter: why offensive race comments are unacceptable

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Throughout our lives, many of us have felt the impact of poor, degrading word choice used by others. These experiences have helped to shape us into who we are today, something that is essential to our identity. However, oftentimes, we keep these experiences to ourselves as we think they may seem trivial or unimportant. But this is not true. We need to share our stories. Our stories are not trivial. Our stories are important. Our stories can make a difference.

So let us start sharing! 

This year, in early September, while walking down the hallway at school, I turned to see my friend shout at someone, “What the heck man, why did you do that? Go make me some tacos!” Soon after, the same friend jokingly told me, “Stop it or else we are watching your movie, Mulan!”   

What was wrong with these seemingly innocent comments, you may ask?  Absolutely nothing when they stand alone. However, in the context of the conversations being held and the circumstances at hand, these were highly offensive remarks.

Adopted from China as a young child, I have always been more acutely aware of the importance of cultural sensitivity than many of my counterparts. Throughout high school, I have continued to cultivate a more global perspective, standing up for children’s rights and embracing different cultures through my work with UNICEF. The combination of my personal background and my community engagement work shaped my code of ethics and the way I view the world today.

Although I always try my best to keep my mind open to differences in ethical boundaries, for me, offensive race comments are unacceptable.

With this, I realized that I needed to stand up for what I believed in no matter the cost. In this particular situation, I believed, and still believe, that my friend needed to stop using race to add to his sarcastic comments and angry outbursts. Now although I always try my best to keep my mind open to differences in ethical boundaries, for me, offensive race comments are unacceptable. 

In the end, the values I held steadfast to my heart cost me a close friend. After numerous conversations, my inability to be content with my friend’s choice of words, along with his inability to see the overarching problem caused us to cease being close friends. 

Do I wish that I could have changed my friend and helped him to begin to see the importance of cultural sensitivity? Of course I do. However, after this experience, I began to realize the greater importance of standing up for what is right, no matter who it is or at what cost.

Today, we need to help to educate our peers on the impact in which words have on others. Words matter. Let us all be responsible for the words we use. Let us make a difference, one word at a time.

I shared my story, now it is your turn....

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