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Dear Prejudice

Dear Prejudice,

We have encountered each other far too often in my short nineteen years of living and I must be frank with you, nothing good came from our meetings. Everytime I see you, you’re busy judging those who are different from yourself. You raise yourself up by forcing others beneath your feet. Prejudice, I will get straight to the point: I don’t like you. In fact, I hate you with a passion. You’re the root of all forms of discrimination. You make weapons out of words and more than once aimed your sword at me. I try to fight back but your words do sting.

Prejudice, do you remember the time when I started playing tennis? You told me that I will lose my femininity by gaining unpleasant muscles and ugly tan lines. You said that sports are not meant for girls because of the risk of injuries. In your opinion, girls should not overexert themselves and stick to easier pastimes. You told me to quit but I refused to listen. Prejudice, I am glad that I chose tennis over you. Although I will acknowledge that tan lines are undesirable because of personal aesthetics, I do not detest them as you want me to. I embrace them because they are the proof of my hard work. I refuse to fulfill your expectations; also, I wouldn’t call my muscles unpleasant. I’m actually proud of them along with the injuries I have sustained and I do not understand why you think I would become less feminine by playing tennis. It’s one of the most graceful and mesmerizing sports out there. Prejudice, you also told me that I would not succeed in tennis because I look weak and small and that no one would take me seriously. I beg to differ as the ex-captain of my highschool team.

You make me angry, Prejudice. Not only do you belittle me as an athlete because I’m a female, my appearance seems to be of vital importance to you, though I don’t understand why you are concerned with my appearance. I cannot recall how it affects you in any way. If you happen to see me in a dress and heels with makeup on, you tell your friends that I’m trying too hard. If you see me bareface in comfortable clothes, you say that I’m not trying hard enough. What exactly do you want from me then? I don’t dress for you to criticize. I dress for my own satisfaction, not yours. I know that I cannot compare to the picture perfect beauties in your magazines, but let me tell you a little secret: magazine pictures are enhanced with digital software.

You make weapons out of words and, more than once, aimed your sword at me. I try to fight back but your words do sting.

My choice in clothing is not the only aspect of my appearance that you judge. Prejudice, you often have ridiculous expectations and make assumptions about me because of my race. I cannot count how many times you have asked me, “Are you Chinese?” or try to convince me that Japan and China are one and the same. For your information, Japan and China are two different countries with a historically bloody relationship. You automatically think that academics comes naturally to everyone in my race. You wouldn’t know how much school stresses me out and how much effort I put into studying. You’re also always shocked about my perfect English. I don’t know why you expect my English to be poor because I’m not a foreigner; I grew up in New Jersey.

Prejudice, at least when you stand alongside strangers, I have different means of releasing my frustration and anger. It’s much more difficult for me when you stand alongside the people I love, because I don’t know how to respond when you tempt the people precious to me into degrading strangers standing across the street. How do I respond when someone I love points out a tired looking man in dirty clothes and comments that the man is probably on drugs? This is all your fault, Prejudice. You corrupted their minds and I blame you for it.

It’s also strange when I feel your presence at family parties that you’re not welcome to. I rarely invite my friends to these parties because you make them uncomfortable with your presence. Eating habits, clothing choices, height, size, facial structure, and language are only a small portion of your judging criteria. You manipulate the people around me into consenting with your views and they are at your mercy. You’re the whispered insults and the crude jokes made about my friends’ weight; to which you expect me to laugh at, but I disappoint your expectations when I don’t. You’re the dirty looks given towards my friends who adorn tattoos and piercings and I know about your attempts in manipulating my parents into believing that my friends are terrible influences for my siblings and I. Unfortunately for you, I won’t fall victim to your games. I will choose who my friends are based solely on their character and nothing else.

I do have to give you credit for your fairness though, Prejudice. You judge everyone equally negative. You base your judgements on the wrongdoings of the a problematic minority and automatically apply it to the innocent majority. For this reason, you believe that Catholics are mindless puppets of the Church and Atheists are cold-hearted with no morals. You neither think about the progressive Catholics nor the charitable Atheists. To you, the affluents do not deserve their wealth but the homeless deserve their poverty. You forget that not all wealthy individuals are filled with greed and not all homeless people are lazy. You don’t consider personal hardships people face when making your judgements. You dismiss the younger generations because of their lack of experience and ignore the elderly because they’re not current with the times. You make assumptions about certain groups of people because the innocent majority don’t matter to you, as long as they’re affiliated with the problematic minority in any form. No one can escape your scrutiny.

Prejudice, you already know how much I hate you. I hate seeing you everywhere I go.You are in books, movies, and on social media. I hear you in the news and in the voices of strangers. What’s worse is that sometimes you appear on the faces of the people I love. I detest everything about you but, did you know there’s something else that I despise even more? I loathe most that I see you every morning in the mirror because as much as I try to distance myself away from you, you’re a part of me too.

Trinh Nguyen