When asked about racism in her school, a thoughtful teenage friend wrote the following:
“I know from experience that it is hard to get along with people who are so different from me.
“In my class, there are four First Nations girls in particular with whom there has definitely been some friction within the class. I don’t think it’s because of racism, but rather because we have nothing to do with each other and seemingly have so little in common. So, any interaction we do have results in arguments.
“Sometimes it feels like the four girls are the ones who are starting the arguments, but I have to remember that I usually play a big role in fueling the flame, even if I don’t do it on purpose. For example, my group of friends and I can be quite arrogant, especially when it comes to grades. We make a big deal out of a less-than-perfect grade, because we’re all interested in academics and getting the highest mark possible. For those four girls, I can imagine that it must be tiring hearing about our minuscule struggles when I know they are dealing with some much bigger struggles of their own – including one who has had some difficulties with her parents and another who has gotten into some fights and been sent to court. When we sit there loudly complaining about how we should have gotten 100% on a test, I can imagine that it wouldn’t feel so uplifting to them when some of them struggle to keep passing grades.
“For most of the school year, the relationship between these girls and the rest of the class is strained because of an unwillingness to befriend others with such different interests. Nobody really makes an effort to talk with them for fear of starting an argument. And they don’t want to talk to us because all we seem to care about is school and grades. For most of the year, we keep our distance.
”But when volleyball or basketball season rolls around, our attitudes change. They are no longer the quick-tempered girls in the back of the class, but teammates. They’re pleasant and friendly, especially when you talk to them about sports. Being teammates helps us get along with each other, or maybe we just make more of an effort. Once we have something in common, like sports, we can overlook our differences and appreciate our similarities. When we’re strategizing about our next game, both groups realize that we’re very much alike in character.
“Yes, there is some friction created between the two groups, but I don’t think it’s because of racism. It’s not because of their First Nations backgrounds that we don’t always get along, but because of how each of us respond to certain circumstances. In their case, they don’t like how we react to our grades, and—in our case—we don’t like to need to argue about everything. I think this cause for division is the case in a lot of the classes in my high school. It’s not always because of racism between different cultures, but because of lack of interaction. Once we find something that draws us together, it is easier to get along and see each other as friends.
“In the future, I hope we can have this relationship all throughout the year, not just during a sports season. This coming year, I want to try to bring the volleyball court attitude into the classroom, in that we are always “teammates”. We are always encouraging each other when someone messes up, and congratulating each other in our successes. I also want to start up conversations with those four girls about something other than sports. When we find more things to connect on, it’s easier to be friends.
“One way to look past this divide between races is to find something you have in common with another from a different cultural background. Whether it’s a love for sports, an interest in music, or a fascination with trying new foods, I believe we can always find similarities between people of two very different cultures. That is how we can look past the divide…”