Sunshine in the Rocks

It would be interesting to study the effects of repressive discrimination on a person’s personality. I’ve noticed this in gay men and other groups of minorities, and have only had a taste of it myself. For example, my last roommate was aware that my parents did not approve of his lifestyle and that underneath the pleasantries, they considered him an unrepentant sinner. In response, he tried to ‘win’ them over by being polite, kind, and generous, and by censoring any homo-or sex/gender-related humor. However, it was killing him inside to not be accepted for who he was and to have the burden of the reputation of his ‘people’ on every move.

Minorities often feel they have to be on their best behavior to fight commonly-held negative group stereotypes. For example, if we are believed to be lazy, we will work twice as hard as you to distinguish ourselves, and god forbid you slip up or you will be dismissed as that lazy ‘_______’.

When I visited Pakistan, I got a taste of the pressure of a minority. I couldn’t be modest or traditional enough to ever fully have the respect of the natives. Like it was Halloween, I pretended to be modest and covered my arms, legs, and head. But to know that I could never wear a bathing suit to a beach or wear the shorter, cooler clothes I was accustomed to was quite annoying toward the end. To make up for my ‘shortcomings,’ I was on my best behavior at all times, so as not to have Americans judged more negatively.

In all three cases, it may come down to how hard one has to work to earn the respect of others in their environment. Everyone has to conform somewhat to local social norms, but what a struggle some people go through when they are a minority.