When reflecting back on the days spent in high school, most people choose one of two approaches. The first approach involves misty-eyed reminiscing, while the second is with wry cynicism. While I did receive an excellent education and I have a fair share of cherished memories, I will admit that I am a member of the latter group. This is partially due to the fact that I was one of the few conservatives hidden amongst a vast liberal campus. I went to a small, private K-12 school. While most people might think that a program like this would encourage each and every individual opinion, it didn’t for me. For eleven years, I assumed the role of “closet conservative” only talking politics with my other conservative friends. I only knew one guy, who didn’t call me a woman-hating bigot if I voiced a different opinion than his. I always found it so ironic that my school made sure we all knew it was okay to be unique and different, but put down or reduced any conservative beliefs. This sentiment was highlighted during one assembly my sophomore year.
The whole high school gathered in the gym to listen to an inspirational speaker. Admittedly, I would have endured anything that got me out of math and didn’t mind listening to the bubbly man standing before us. Trust me, I would have been better off in math class. He instructed all of us to stand in a circle around the outside of the basketball court and then he stood in the middle. He said he was going to read some characteristics off of a list. If we identified with them, we were to step inside the circle. Being a veteran of these “kumbaya games,” I was under the impressions that this was going to be a harmless game where we would compare favorite colors and whether we were morning people or night owls. That naive vision was shattered quickly with the first statement. He called over the microphone, “if you are Asian step forward.” Wow, I thought, as I hesitantly stepped forward with the two other Asian students, he didn’t waste any time. He made us stand there inside of the circle and called for silence. I looked around completely horrified. Here I was, one of the few Asian students in my entire high school, standing in the middle of a circle while my peers stood there and stared. I felt like an animal at the zoo. He didn’t stop there. He moved on to religion, sexuality, and mental health, calling for those who identified as gay, Christian, atheist or mentally unstable into the circle for their turn to be gawked at. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, one of the girls in my advisory whispered, “I can’t believe how dishonest everyone is being, I mean everyone knows that he is so clearly gay.” There was no winning in this sick game. You were judged for stepping in the circle and criticized if you did not.
Towards the end of my time at that school, I found that there was very little one could do without being judged like this. The teachers and the kids would talk a good game about acceptance and equality, but then turn around and make a racist joke or mock anything remotely conservative or even Christian. I remember my French teacher telling us that race and beliefs do not matter and that everyone is equal, but then showed us a John Stewart video where he claimed that every Republican was an idiot and homophobic. One time, my Spanish teacher who wrote “Trump is an ass” as a translation phrase for a test. I remember being told I would be a horrible driver because I was an Asian female. Another time, one of the seniors on the student council calling one of my latino friends “chimichanga.” Diverse students were flaunted to perspective families like show ponies, but then bullied and teased by their peers. I felt like I was allowed to be diverse when it best suited everyone else. I also felt like I could identify with anything as long as it wasn’t the Republican party.