Party bird I am not. I enjoy being among a group of friends; but in a social gathering of strangers getting acquainted for the first time and engaging in small talks with people you are most unlikely to meet again, I always get an urge to flee.
In one respect, I realize, this is a curious thing. Seeing that I don’t mind standing out in my eccentricity, I should feel comfortable being a focus of attention no less than anyone at a party to an extent is. Reflecting on the matter, however, I realize that I was always shy as a child and, even after I learned to act sociable, I am still by nature averse to mingling. On further reflection, I also realize that the two sides of my personality are, in fact, in perfect unison; both the innate shyness and the desire to be conspicuous arise from my penchant to stand apart and remain an outsider. I’m no loner, however. While a party, presumptively of people of shared interests, estranges me, I am at home in one-on-one associations.
The International House Berkeley is a venerable institution. While attending the UC Berkeley I always felt ill at ease there, seeing that it was where students from diverse cultures abroad, categorized as “foreign students”; they were corralled together into one place as though they formed a natural group although what they shared in common was that they were all outsiders. For me, being a member of a group of outsiders denied being outside as an individual. My inclination was to be a foreigner independently, not among foreigners — in short, to be seen as an individual, not typecast.
This explains my firm belief that until we learn to identify one another as individuals rather than as types, whatever the category, race, religion, even gender; until we stop seeing each other as either black or white and recognize that we are all between black and white, racism will not cease to exist.