Being a Spanish-Nigerian woman in Utah County, I’ve inevitably dealt a lot with race. I’m by no means an expert on it, but here is a list of common things I’ve come across throughout my years in the Valley.
DON’T ask someone “what are you?” I would probably answer by saying “a human being” or “a woman.” If you’re not sure of someone’s background or race, simply ask, “what is your ethnicity?”
DO treat people of other races and cultures as individuals. This may seem like a no brainer, but it is very easy to rely on popular stereotypes to try to understand people around us. This, however, can be a mistake because everyone thinks and act differently. Not all black people listen to hip-hop, not all Hispanics are Mexican and not all White people love country music.
DON’T use racially offensive terms ever, even if you’re referring to your own race. It’s demeaning, disrespectful and unnecessary. If you don’t want other races using those terms, don’t use them yourself.
DO ask people of different cultures questions about where they come from. It’s natural to be curious, so as long as you’re respectful and sincere, it’s okay to inquire about one’s background. That doesn’t mean you should hound them and overwhelm them with questions, but just a few to get to know someone better is just fine.
DON’T ever say, “you people.” Nothing good can even come from it, and usually what follows “you people” isn’t very nice. No one likes it, it’s offensive and there’s no need for it.
DO think before you speak. Race can be a very touchy subject and some people can be really sensitive about it. Saying the first thing that comes to mind is usually the worst thing you can do and it often makes people look ignorant.
DON’T assume. You know what they say about people who assume, so don’t do it. Just like you wouldn’t assume a woman is pregnant, you don’t assume you know something about a person by just looking at them. Skin and features come in many different shapes and sizes, and not just in the U.S. Europeans, Africans, Asians, Hispanics, etc., come in all shades. Someone who you may think is African could really be Hispanic, while someone you may think is Hispanic could be mixed. It can get confusing, so you’d be wise to not assume.
DO remember you can’t please everyone. Some people will choose to be offended regardless of what you do, and you can’t help that. As long as you’re respectful and considerate, don’t take it personal.
By Vanessa Fraga Perkins – News Editor