“Maybe it was cowardice to not confront her.”
Hold a Conversation
In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.
- What causes the conflict between the speaker and her roommate?
- Describe the way the speaker reacts to that conflict.
- Why does the speaker say she reacts this way?
- What does the speaker mean by cowardice?
- In what ways does the speaker react to William’s close-mindedness and racism?
- Does the way the speaker respond to William match how you expected her to react? Why/not?
- What allows the speaker to be such close friends with William in spite of their conflict?
- What else could explain the different responses the speaker had to her roommate and William?
- Why does the speaker shut down with her roommate? Is that a good thing? Would you say it’s wrong?
- What should we expect from each other when we encounter a painful difference?
- When do we make the decision to bridge painful differences like the speaker does with William? When do we choose not to?
- How does this clip challenge or complicate our ideas about discrimination?
Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.
Transcript for How Her Statement Made Me Feel
So I’ve lived in a lot of different areas, a lot of different communities. And my life has really been changed by a lot of different cultures and a lot of different people. So I really wouldn’t pick one particular place as my hometown where I grew up, and I really can’t say, you know, this is the type of community that I grew up in, because it’s been, um, so vast and so much variety.
My father is Iranian, he’s Persian. And my mother was African American, and my father was a Muslim — is a Muslim, but he converted to Christianity when he married my mother, who was a Lutheran minister.
When I first became aware of the political terms, of, um, let’s say race and things like that, were when I was in preschool. I remember just being on the playground, the kids that are like “I’m not gonna play with her because she’s black” and all this stuff. And then I remember coming home, me and my sister — I have an older sister; she’s two years older than me — and, um, we went to the same elementary school. And, the kids would tell me that I was white and she was black, because she’s darker than me. And we were standing in the mirror and I was saying “Oh, Shahlla, I’m white and you’re black,” and she was like, “No, stupid. We’re African American Persian.” So my mom sat down with us and she was like “This is what you are. This is your culture. This is your background. You know, be proud of who you are. Never let anyone tell you differently.”
And my roommate here actually, she’s Missouri Synod Lutheran. And she was so excited when she met me. She was like “Oh you’re Lutheran, too! That’s great!” and I was like “Oh yeah, I’m Lutheran. I’m ELCA.” And we got to talking and whatever and I told her, “Yeah my mother was a pastor” and she was like, “What? How is that possible?” And I said, “What do you mean how is that possible? She was a pastor in the Lutheran church.” She was like, “That’s not allowed.” So for me to think that, you know, my mother, it was her, you know, it was her life to be give back and be of service to other people. And the Missouri Synod completely disregards that. You know to think about how many women in the Missouri Synod can make an impact on this country, on this world, and they’re not being allowed to because of some rule some man decided that women are not allowed to be pastors, is just ridiculous to me.
So, after I had the conversation with my roommate about the differences between Missouri Synod and ELCA, I think there was a distancing on my part really, not really on her part, because she still viewed me as one of her friends. Because she didn’t have a lot of friends on campus because she was new here as well, and she went to the law school. So, um, I think that the distancing was more on my part, in the fact that I chose not to, you know, share things with her, personal things, more things about my family where she has continued to share the same amount with me. So, um, maybe it was a little, um, I don’t know, I don’t want to say rude, but cowardice of me to not confront her about how her statement made me feel, you know. And instead I just chose to distance myself, because I felt like, maybe she didn’t have as many, um, she kind of, I felt like she kind of had a sheltered lifestyle, so I felt like, um, you know, I’m not going to sit her and try to educate her about anything or like share any new beliefs with her because I felt like she needed to learn those things on her own. And I don’t know, maybe that was wrong of me to distance myself from her, but I felt like for me that was best in order for me to feel comfortable in that living environment with her. But we are still friends.
So I met someone in my graduate program named William and um, he is not Chinese, he’s Taiwanese [laughter]. But um, yeah, I don’t know we became close friends in the orientation and, I don’t know, he didn’t stop bothering me since [laughter]. So, it was, for me, it was really he said, he said down to me, “You’re yellow, What are you?” And I was like, “I’m Persian and black.” “Oh okay, you’re just Persian then cause it’s — you’re yellow. You look Persian.” So I learned a lot from him throughout the year, cause he, honestly, he is close-minded. You know? He would say very racist things sometimes, you know, “Oh, uh, I” — he’s a photographer, so he would say—”Oh, I had to go film these black people wedding, and they were so dark, I had to use so much light.” You know, it took a lot for me to, um, answer him in a manner by saying, “You know, William, that, that’s not polite to say that. That’s racist, and that’s ignorant.”
Well when he told me that I was only Persian, I had to, you know, keep telling him. And it’s not just one time. He said this all the time. You know, um, and he — we got to talking after a while that, you know, he has this view of black people for a reason. And we talked about in Taiwan, um, the different stereotypes they have about black people, and the different, um, uh…superstitions and just weird things like that, you know, and how Taiwanese people they want to be lighter. They want to be…they want to look white because they think that’s the prettiest, they think that’s beautiful. And you know, he was able to share with me honesty—honestly those beliefs that he had. And why he, you know, would say, oh, “You’re Persian,” you know, because he was like, “Black is ugly.” And, and because of me, he met other black people, and he was able to, I think, now he is less racist — if that can be possible. So he’s beginning to open his mind up.