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+2“I’m from Manhattan” “Oh Cool! So how far are you from the city?” Before I left for college, my mother looked at me with deep sincerity in her eyes and said to me, “Mad,” she said, “just don’t become a Red Sox fan.” My decision to go to school in Massachusetts felt like the ultimate betrayal to my home (not to mention the fact that “Massachusetts” is really hard to spell!!!!). I was born and raised a die-hard Yankee fan, I can feel the pinstripes coursing through my veins. I grew up with players like Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi and Paul O’Neil, Mariano Rivera, Jose Posada and my favorite Bernie Williams. They were my heroes, the faces of New York City. When I got to Massachusetts, my roommate said “You know how in rivalries there is always a good guy and a bad guy? The Yankees are definitely the bad guys.” It hurts even to write it. “Derek Jeter is an asshole,” another friend said. “But the Yankees are good people!” I proclaim to indifferent ears, “The Yankees have never thrown the first punch, pitch or any other sort of provocation.” (Personally, I think the Red Sox are still bitter about Babe). I was completely ignorant to the fact that Red Sox fans think the Yankees are evil and corrupt money lovers and ne’er-do-wells: that maybe, there was another way to perceive the ancient rivalry that exists between these two iconic teams. Ignorance has been defined as a lack of knowledge or information and is therefore the one true hindrance of acceptance and openness. Perception is heavily influenced by ignorance. A girl down the hall was going on and on about the Bronx, “The Bronx is dangerous” she said with conviction. “You’ve never been there.” I retorted. “Yeah,” she said, “but it’s still dangerous…but you know what I’m really scared of? …Lower Manhattan.” “I live in Lower Manhattan,” I reminded her. Perhaps it is also insensitivity. If no one has ever told them that saying those kinds of things is not okay, they have no reason to think it is not okay. A guy from my building told me that he had visited New York while we were folding laundry. When I asked him “whereabouts?” he answered, “The gay part.” Another friend was wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off and she announced “This is my dike shirt because it makes me look like a dike.” When driving around Amherst talking about the 5 colleges, the car proclaimed that Smith and Holyoke are where “All the lesbians go”. Was this just a coincidence? How could so many people respond to the topic in this way? Why are gay people a different species here? Why is it okay? Is it just the lack of exposure? Pure ignorance? Ignorance is definitely a big part of it. When I was little I myself referred to Chelsea as the place where “all the gays lived” this however was before I had really spent any time in Chelsea nor spent time with any gay people. Therefore, perhaps we don’t really know something is not okay to say until we have our own personal reason not to say it. And lack of exposure can prevent the occurrences of such personal experiences that give us these reasons to think a certain way or perceive things in a certain way. In high school, some of the boys spent more time on their hair than the girls and wore wedges to class. If you were to wander the school on any given day you would see girls walking down the hallway hand in hand, spunky innovators coloring on the walls and the oddest collection of people you’ve ever seen clumped together making beautiful music. It was the only place where it was weird to be “normal”. If there wasn’t something interesting about you, if you didn’t have some kind of kink or quirk, you were boring. For some, this experience would have been a major culture shock, but for me, it opened my mind to the world. It was truly reflective of New York’s ability to celebrate differences. New York is the only place in the world where you can walk around in a neon bunny suit riding a bicycle and not receive head turns or dirty looks (most of the time). It is a place where you can have a conversation on the bus with someone who just came back from the Meth Clinic down the street. It is a place where you are greeted by chess games on milk cartons, fortune tellers on street corners and the familiar face of your favorite homeless man playing the electric guitar. We were built up from a pool of people who came from all across the world from all different backgrounds. We let everybody in. We let them take a little piece of what we have and call it their own. And then we came together to create this beautiful cacophony of diversity. We became the symbol for diversity. New York does not only have one face. Everyone in New York is different and different has always been a good thing. Different is exciting in New York. New York THRIVES on different. By accepting our differences we feel a sense of belonging. We’re all different, but that’s why we belong here together. We accept and embrace each other’s differences. Here it just doesn’t seem as though people are as excited about and accepting of different. Different doesn’t make you feel special, different makes you feel alienated. On the other hand, maybe I am so focused on the people here not being accepting that I am not being accepting of them. Perhaps we are so used to our acceptance and mindset and values that it is difficult for us to imagine anything different thus turning us off to the viewpoints of others. Does that mean that by not being accepting of unaccepting people we too are unaccepting? More
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