Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don't let stereotypes deter interracial friendships

China Rae Dukes, of Augusta, is entering her junior year at Gull Lake High School. There, she has served as class president and participated in the Model United Nations. She is captain of the Color Guard and has participated in concert band, softball and sideline and competitive cheering. Her mentor is Stephanie Esters.
Click to read her article on interracial friendships.
By China DukesOn the Rise!
Michael Cody admits that he had some preconceived notions about one of his friends, a 15-year-old biracial teen who looks African-American.
"I thought that my friend listened to just rap, but when I met (him), he liked to listen to Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and that's the music I like," said 14-year-old Michael, who is entering his sophomore year at Gull Lake High School.
Cody, who is predominantly white, says that there are a lot of stereotypes out there and a lot of preconceived notions about different nationalities, but that still hasn't prevented the two from becoming best friends.
While some might think that having friends of a different race shouldn't be a problem, it still can be.
Interracial friendships are an "act of revolution" and "a triumph of imagination," writes one of the authors in "Some of My Best Friends," a book about interracial friendships.In fact, believing in or trying to perpetuate stereotypes of differing ethnic groups actually keeps people of differing backgrounds from developing healthy friendships, said one local expert.
Zawdie Abiade, a consultant on issues of diversity, said people should realize that interracial friendships allow them to grow, "to expand their thinking."
"I think it's important (to have friends of other races), and it goes back to my concept of the 'other,'" said Abiade, who runs Abiade & Abiade Associates.
He said he has good friends of many different races; Abiade, who is African-American, said his best friend is his wife, whom he describes as European and of German descent."Having relationships with people from other cultures and races challenges us to expand our thinking in ways that we cannot do in a homogenous environment -- but the assumption is that we want to expand our thinking," Abiade said.
"Interracial friendship is a way to expand your thinking," he said. "People of various cultures process things differently."
Sabrina Burnett, a 14-year-old student at Gull Lake High School, says that her ethnicity has led people to have preconceived notions about her. Her own ethnic background is a mix of Potawatomi Indian, Caucasian and African-American.
"When you don't communicate with people, all they have to depend on is stereotypes," Abiade said. "We become comfortable with our stereotype, then our stereotype inhibits us from checking in with other people ... and then it becomes difficult to check in with each other."

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