Something to Ponder Over When You Leave for Colleges

 By Kollengode S Venkataraman

 Our graduating list gets more impressive every year. Over sixty of you young men and women are leaving for universities, and three or four times that many are entering high school this Fall from our area. Congratulations, and a few words for you to ponder over before you start your classes.

By now all of you would have read Dharun Ravi’s case in New Jersey. Ravi was sentenced to a 30-day jail term for videotaping while at Rutgers his gay college mate Tyler Clementi’s intimate private moments, and then tormenting him by making the information public. Feeling harassed by the involuntary exposure of his homosexuality, Clementi killed himself by jumping off a New York bridge.

 Beyond the narrow legalities, there are ethical issues here for you.

 Being a minority yourself on many counts, while growing up here, some of you would have felt uncomfortable for getting singled out and made fun of, often unintentionally and in jest, by your “mainstream” buddies. This experience has been a rite of passage for every new immigrant group in the US who came before us – Italians, the Irish, the Polish, Jews… . The Black experience is very harsh on account of slavery and race.

This experience notwithstanding, when you go to school this Fall, most of you will actively seek entry and acceptance into the “American mainstream,” however you define it. An easy way to achieve this, you may think, is to outdo your “mainstream” buddies in internalizing their collective likes and dislikes, do’s and dont’s. This is natural, unavoidable, even understandable.

In your efforts to meld with the American mainstream, you will be serving yourself better by reminding yourself that as the latest arrival into this country, you are yourself a minority. Also remember, by many objective measures, many of you belong to what can be called a “privileged minority.”

 Therefore, whatever you do to find acceptance, do not offend or humiliate your classmates on account of who they are and what they are.

After all, you had no say on where you were born and which family you were born into; or the ethnic and religious background you inherit. And, you certainly had no choice on the combinations of chromosomes and the DNA with which you were born.

 So, temper your youthful, tribal instincts to find acceptance into your group, and use your sense of fairness, and do not do to others what you would not like done to you.

All the best in Fall. Have fun and widen your horizon with what you see and hear both inside and outside the classroom.

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