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Race shouldn’t always be an issue

I work at a local ice cream store, and I was recently called a racist while on the job.

A young black lady came in with her mother, and she ordered a shake from the store’s low-fat menu. When I gave her the shake, her mother asked what kind of shakes we could make. I explained that the store employees could make any ice cream-flavored shake. Her daughter immediately took the straw from her mouth and demanded I exchange her shake for a regular shake at no charge. I told her I couldn’t do that, and that she would be charged again. Her mother turned to her and loudly said: “If we was white, we wouldn’t be charged.”

I stood there in shock.

I am one of the least racist people I know. I have friends of seemingly every color. I do not judge people based on the color of their skin and can count on one hand the number of people I know who do.

As a white person, I am constantly aware of how people in minority groups feel I judge them. In one of my prerequisite education classes, teaching diverse students, the teacher said that education students always have to remember that Hispanic and black students are just as capable as their white classmates. “Because most of you are white,” she went on, “you will probably think less of the capabilities of your diverse students.”

That’s a pretty great statement to hear from a representative of the College of Education, whose ideals include ethics and diversity.

Frankly, I am sick of racial lines being drawn, because they reinforce stereotypes and transform societal conflict into racial issues far too often. Take, for example, the protests held in reaction to the verdict of the Martin Lee Anderson case. Anderson was the 14-year-old black boy who was beaten to death at a boot camp, and those charged with his death were acquitted.

There is no doubt in my mind that the verdict was unjust, as I have seen the footage of Anderson being beaten, but there is also no doubt in my mind that if the tables were turned, and those accused of killing a white boy were acquitted, those same students would not feel the need to protest. The likes of the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would not make statements declaring racism against the victim, either.

Just this month, America’s Next Top Model and My Fair Brady star Adrianne Curry drew a firestorm of criticism because of her MySpace blogs, which explained her disdain for the need to segregate oneself based on race. She explained how she wanted to do away with Black History Month in favor of a two-month celebration of American history. Curry asked why it was socially acceptable to have Black Entertainment Television, a channel created solely for one race. Curry received almost 1,000 comments on her blog – which has since been taken down – and most of them were declaring her insensitive and ignorant. Is she so wrong to think Americans should cast away racial barriers and “be one”?

America is still in an era where it’s considered acceptable to have the United Negro College fund, the Black Student Union, and traditionally Hispanic sororities. Currently, there are 11 organizations through the Multicultural Activities at USF that declare a race or ethnicity in their title, and they are all minorities. If Caucasian people were to create a scholarship fund solely for white students, a white student union, or a white sorority, they would immediately be called racists and be pressured by organizations that represent minorities to close, citing racial inequities. It does not make sense that it’s fine if a minority group segregates itself, but that if a white group wanted to do the same thing, that group would be considered racist.

College students are supposed to be the best and brightest of their generation. Isn’t it high time students embraced one another based on qualities other than race? Students as a whole must look at each other as people, as Americans and as equals – without using race.

Mandy Easter is a senior majoring in education.