by Winnie Zheng
Beep! Beep! Beep! It was 9:55 already. I turned my alarm off, hopped off my bed, and looked over to see if my roommate was awake. She wasn’t. We stayed up until 4 a.m. watching a romcom. I fell asleep about halfway through, but she stayed awake the whole two hours. I peeked out the blinds to see if it was raining. If it was I could cancel my swimming plans. I love to swim, but hate not sleeping enough. I groaned. The sky was clear. The sun was shining. There was no storm cloud in sight.
I stumbled to the front of the dorm, to my closet. I go to a residential high school, so I have a roommate and essentially, live at school. I let out a big sigh and went through my section of the closet to find a swimsuit.
“Which one?” I said to myself. I had brought three swimsuits to school. I was on my school’s competitive swim team, and it was easier to change out suits rather than going through the constant trouble of waiting for a suit to dry. I ended up picking my navy blue speedo and went to the bathroom to change.
Beep! Beep! Beep! It was 9:59. I grabbed my towel, cap, and goggles, and then sprinted downstairs.
“You ready?” Anna asked.
“I need to fill up my water bottle real quick,” I replied. I walked to the cafeteria and filled up my water bottle.
The walk from school to the local YMCA took roughly ten minutes. Anna and I chatted about our classes, homework, teachers, and what workout we were going to do at the pool. The swim season had already ended, so I wasn’t too focused on building strength or speed. I was more focused on keeping my endurance up for the coming soccer season. Anna ran cross-country and track. She wasn’t a competitive swimmer; she just wanted to mix up her workouts, and swim for a change.
“How was your workout?” Anna asked.
“It was pretty good, what about you?”
“It was good, I guess. It’s nice to switch up the type of workout I do.”
I smiled. We both hopped out of the pool and gathered our kickboards and pull buoys.
Ignoring the man yelling at me, I walked straight into the storage room and put our kickboards on the shelf and pull buoys in the big bucket. I kept calm.
“Nihao! Konichiwa! What are you?” the man shouted again, then laughed. My face started to turn red. I could feel my face and ears getting hot. I was embarrassed. I acted like I didn’t hear him and quickly walked into the women’s locker room.
Racism is such a big issue in South Carolina. It’s very ironic how the South is known for its delightful sweet tea, comforting soul food, and accommodating Southern hospitality, yet I am frequently hit with hateful racist remarks whenever I leave my school’s campus.
It probably doesn’t take much now for you to realize that I am (or at least look) East Asian. I used to be so ashamed of my race, my heritage. But later, I realized I wasn’t the problem. Racist people are. Why is it that people are racist? Is it because they don’t know any better? Perhaps that is the case, but does that mean their behavior is excusable? It is 2020, and it is only now, during a pandemic, that suddenly Black Lives Matter. Minority lives have always mattered, but not everyone has cared enough to care.
South Carolinians need to be educated on more than just stereotypes and perceptions. We need a more rounded-out education system where the histories of different cultures and ethnic groups are studied. We need more variety in the types of ideologies and ideals studied in our public schools. Racism doesn’t just start overnight. People are brought up with racist ideas. People are brought up thinking that their perceptions of others are accurate, and that people are races, not people. My skin color and someone’s perception of my heritage are not enough to justify “Nihao” and “Konichiwa.”
I don’t know if racism will ever just go away. But I do think that incorporating well-rounded perspectives in schools and at home will allow people to disregard stereotypes and be more open-minded. And that way we will move forward towards a better South Carolina.