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Frequently Asked Questions for Women of Color

Janani Kalyan, Staff Writer

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As a woman of color, I receive many questions on the daily pertaining to my background. To see if other women of color relate to my personal Indian-American experiences, I decided to interview two extraordinary women, Sri Lankan-American Alina Razi, and Salvadoran-American Stephanie Mata-Granados.

I thought it’d be insightful and interesting to interview two women of color about frequently asked questions they recieve to obtain a better understanding of how it must be like to live in someone else’s shoes.

Alina Razi, a 10th grader at Cleveland High School, opened up about her experiences  with questions she’s asked relating to her religion. Alina has grown up following the Islam faith and religiously identifies as a Muslim.

She’s frequently asked questions pertaining to her hijab and clothing such as, “Why do you wear that?” “Aren’t you hot in that?” “Don’t you want to wear shorts?”

In addition, she gets questions that imply, “ Why would you wear long sleeves and jeans in this weather? Don’t worry we’re all American so we won’t judge you for wearing shorts.”

Here’s what Alina said.

“I wear my hijab for myself. It may be simple to just say that it’s for my religion, but that isn’t the case, and it absolutely isn’t to “cover up a bad hair day”. No, it’s for my own self-empowerment.

“My hijab is another testament to my own freedom as a person. That I don’t have to be treated as an object through the concept of societal beauty. But also, it gives me a sense of my own individuality, it adds to my culture and overall background.

“ It has helped me just understand myself and understand that beauty is character. As a hijabi Muslim, I wear long, mainly loose fitted clothing. It’s another representation of modesty, but to me, it gets rid of that factor of outer appearances rather than focusing on what is within.

“But the most important thing is that I believe that anyone can reach their own sense of empowerment through whatever they see seems fit. Just because I accomplished that this way, doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to go, it doesn’t mean that anyone else is invalid.

“ It just goes to show how many different people there are in the world, with different personalities, and that itself is individuality.”

At the end of my interview with  Alina, I asked her what advice she’d give to others to remain considerate of others’ interests or message she’d like to convey to other women of color, to which she preached,

“To all the women who have to really put up with any kind of mean or ignorant comments about their body or anything on it, don’t let it get to you. People don’t have any right to assume things about you based on what you’re wearing, or your background.

“So, if you are faced with that kind of situation know that you do not have to put up with any of that, that you are who you want to be and nothing you wear can give others the right to assume anything about you.

“And to the women of color who can get negative comments from out of nowhere, especially within families, know that that you really are your own amazing person and nothing anyone else says about you can change that, not as long as you keep true to yourself, whomever that may be.

“Also to literally everyone, be kind to others and think before you speak. Ask yourself, “Would this be offensive in any way?” or, “Will they take this the wrong way?”, it really helps.””

Stephanie Mata-Granados, a 9th grader at Cleveland, is a proud Latina who religiously identifies as a Christian. She enlightened me about her positive outlook on life as a woman of color and what she hopes to advise others about.

Stephanie is often asked where she’s from, her culture, and what living the life of a Latina entails. To this she voiced, “I am a proud Latina! My ethnicity has truly shaped who I am.

Being a part of a racial and gender minority group has placed obstacles along my journey, but it has also given my life so much meaning.

Being around strong and hardworking Latinas has taught me so much. I’ve learned to never stop pursuing a better life and to dream big. Being a woman of color has made me stronger and I couldn’t be more appreciative.”

Stephanie always strives to create a non-judgemental community of love that she conveyed when she told me what she’d like to say to her audience.

“We live in a world where racism and prejudice exist, especially towards people of color. We need to empower and uplift one another because it’s so easy to become discouraged. It’s crucial to remember that we are human and we are capable of greatness, no matter ethnicity or gender.”

Listening to both these of these ladies really inspired me and made me proud to be who I am. Said by my own sister at it’s best, “Women of color should not feel obligated to have to answer these frequently asked questions. It is simply their reality, and it is an unfortunate one.”

After leaving these interviews, I felt more confident about my knowledge not only about these women, but about how to respect and help embrace one another’s ethnicities. I hope these interviews helped you as much as they helped me. Thank you.

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The Student News Site of Cleveland Charter High School
Frequently Asked Questions for Women of Color