Well, hell, everybody's different. But the hard truth of these encounters -- whether it's a kid making "ching chong" eyes at you on the playground, or someone taking a baseball bat to your head -- is that there are those who perceive you as different. And that difference, to them, makes you something other than human.
In this piece for The Daily Pennsylvanian, graduate student Dephanie Jao describes a recent seemingly innocuous street encounter where she, as a person of Asian descent, was dehumanized: Hunting Asians.
Basically, a Drexel University sorority recently held some kind of scavenger hunt event where one of required items was to "hook up with three Asians." Yeah. So on a Sunday night, Dephanie unexpectedly had to deal with some assholes:
On Sept. 28, when I saw two of my friends walking down Locust Walk, all I was expecting was an hour, perhaps two, when we could casually talk. We shared what was happening in our lives, our classes, our work. We were three Asian graduate students - two international, one American - sharing boring stories about our boring lives.She goes on to describe how the group aggressively tried to take a photo with her and her friends. I'm sure the group would try to pass this off as an innocent, harmless moment -- it's all in good fun, right? But this was racism. It's what happens when you're willing to view a group, whatever their background, as less than human. As Dephanie puts it:
Then around 9:40 p.m., we found ourselves approached by a group of five people. There were three women and two men - all white. They introduced themselves, explaining that they were part of a Drexel sorority event. Some sort of relay. A scavenger hunt. In order to complete this event, they needed our help. The prize for completion was $300 and they wanted to win.
"We need to hook up with three Asians."
"Racism occurs whenever people are viewed as less than full persons because of their race. The group that night did not see us as people or as students -- but as items who fit a convenient category on their scavenger hunt: three Asians."
UPDATE: More on this story: Penn student comes forward about a 'dehumanizing' confrontation.