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Ethnicity and Culture

More "A" student writings!
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I have so many great students that I have to share more of their essays!

This first one is from Felisha Serpa, Fall 2010.

          I thought I knew where I stood on the class debate as to whether Muslims should be permitted to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. But after last week’s class I felt as if I was completely wrong about my opinion. My first reaction when I heard that a group of Muslims wanted to build a mosque near ground zero, was that I couldn’t believe such a thing would even be considered. I can’t say that I lost anyone in the horrible events of the September 11th attacks, but just like any other American I feel strongly against terrorism and was outraged to see what they did to our nation.

          I already had made my decision as to which side of the debate was going to win before it even began. When the group that was for allowing the mosque to be built started with their statements, it definitely touched a nerve in me. I was so upset to hear about the First Amendment and how if the Muslims couldn’t build the mosque it would go against their Constitutional rights. No matter what facts these students would state in their argument, I wasn’t going to agree with them.

          When the group that was against the idea stated that it’s been shown in the history of the locations of mosques that where Muslims decide to build them is on the land of victory. As soon as I heard this I was outraged. I mean there was the answer to all of this chaos that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the person who is behind this project, was trying to obviously prove with the building of the mosque. The only thing that kept going through my mind was how dare these people laugh in our faces with showing us that they had been victorious over Americans when they bombed our buildings and killed thousands of innocent victims.    

          Once both sides were done trying to prove which one of them was right, I was very confused. I didn’t know what I should think or how I should feel towards this major debate that’s currently going on in our country. When the teacher had her final discussion that’s when I started to realize what is happening to all of us Americans. I noticed that we are letting our emotions and our opinions of this horrible day in our country’s history overrule the fact that there are laws that must be obeyed in the US. This country is the land of the free and gives the opportunity to all of its citizens to have freedom to choose what they do within the law. If that’s the case, when did our emotions give us all the right to make a decision and disregard any Amendments that otherwise would have allowed it?

          What was definitely an eye opener for me was that as Americans we love the idea of being free to choose religion, sexual orientation, where we can live, work, etc., but with that we seem to always believe that what we feel is right should always be considered the right way. Who says that we aren’t being judgmental and racist against the Muslims and what they want to freely choose to do? Many believe that every Muslim wants to kill all Americans and that they want to take over this country, but the truth is there’s no truth to that at all. I had a friend in elementary school who was Muslim and she was one of the nicest girls in my class. I also deal with a lot of Muslim customers, and they are probably some of the nicest and have the most patience of any other culture. People hate to be judged and hate not being able to get a job based on their beliefs, yet it’s ok to have so much hatred toward the Muslims? The best example that I can come up with for how I see Americans treating Muslims after 9-11, is of Hitler. Hitler was Austrian and killed millions of Jewish people during World War II and was a hated and horrible person. So does that mean every single Austrian in the world today has the same plans and thoughts as Hitler did?

I don’t know what is going through Feisal Abdul Rauf’s mind and what his true intentions are, but who are we to stop someone’s actions who is not doing anything against the law? If America is a strong country and all it’s citizens feel strongly about our country and what it stands for, then why is this situation any different from another decision someone has made about building a church or any other building? We all believe that any individual or country can not take our dignity away from us, so if that’s the case who cares if the mosque is built? We are stronger than a building and if we let this debate separate our nation, then technically we are showing that the terrorists are winning. We must stick by our Constitution and what our country stands for to continue to be a strong nation.

This is from the summer of 2011, Stephen Moore:

 

Throughout my life I have been looked upon as the “Token Asian” within my community. I have always given myself the label of Asian because of the label society has given me which had become my reality. Not knowing what Race really meant I was always confused in what category or group I belonged to in my everyday life. I was sandwiched between two groups that have not really accepted me fully due to the life I choose to live and the traditions I choose to follow. Recently my eyes have been opened and have only one side to claim regardless if that group accepts me or not.  It is a label I will be proud to claim and I will be more than happy to explain how I have come to this conclusion.

            I come from a mixed demographic family of a mother that is first generation Filipina and my father who is first generation American. Even though the Philippines was a colony of United States for many years after WWII; it still holds its different traditions and values. My mother’s side of the family who would come to visit from the Philippines would make fun of me that I was a “white washed” Filipino who had forgotten the traditions of my so called “native land”. How do I forget something that I had not fully grasped in the first place? Even though my Mother worked hard to instill certain traditions and values to me as a child I had a hard time fully grasping these concepts due to the facts that the people around me outside my family did not follow them. Things were important in my household such as continuing to speak Tagalog (One of the many languages of the Philippines) to my mom and eating the same food she had eaten when she lived in the province of Tacloban.  She would also refer to her close Filipino/Filipina friends as Aunt or Uncle as signs of respect and continue to dress us children in traditional Filipino garments on special holidays and birthdays. The problem with this push of tradition was when my father would get involved and would naturally talk to us in English, feed our love of “Julienned fries”, let us stay overnight at friends houses that did not share the same traditions as us, and told us of  stories of the wild west and American History. Even though I happily accepted my mother’s “Philippine traditions”; she was outmatched with the traditions and culture that the United States immersed us with just by living here. Now it makes so much sense that I can now call myself American!

            Growing up most of my life in Pampa, Texas and Turlock, California I was absorbed into a community which was predominately white Americans. Growing up I was made fun of because I looked different. Even though my father was 6’4 and blonde hair with blue eyes; my mother had dominant genes which gave me black hair, 5’8 height, and slanty dark brown eyes. For some reason with having these features I am automatically put in the same category of Chinese immigrants who own laundry mats, donut shops, computer repair shops, and Chinese restaurants. I automatically become the brunt of jokes involving driving, Japanese tourists, Jackie Chan, and my favorite William Hung. My name disappears and it becomes replaced with “Asian” in everyone’s phone lists. Being born in America and knowing the ins and outs of American culture do not matter to people. The fact that I look different and I don’t fit the American “look” is the deciding factor of their response. The fact that I accepted the label of Asian and I too would make jokes about myself might not have helped either. I wonder now that I have finally accepted the fact that I’m an American that this outlook by others will change. Yes I have kept some of the traditions that my mother has instilled upon me at an early age but I still was born here in the United States and I have still grown within the walls of its culture. My father grew up in this great nation and I continue to live here. I served 5 years in the United States Navy as an American who just wanted to be accepted as an American. I plan to get an education here in the United States and eventually be a successful contributing member of society.

            Regardless of how each side looks upon me I will always be American. I hope that later in my life that my closer friends and family will look upon me as an insider within their community and see me as American as they are. The sandwich between traditions and cultures really confused me but I’m happy to finally come to grips that I’m not Filipino-American but just American.

 

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