Columbia University Application Essay Sample on Racial or Cultural Differences

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Columbia University Application Essay on Racial or Cultural Differences

Essay by Antoinette Mack

I have always been a very rational and logical thinker. This is why I enjoy almost all math and science courses. So here's an equation for you:

The easiest way for me to solve any problem is to put it in a form that will make it easier to understand and solve. For this particular problem I will give you a personal experience that incorporates all of the above variables and we'll find out together what the answer to this equation is and just maybe how to solve it.

It was a regular Friday afternoon in December when I experienced an act of prejudice towards me. It wasn't the first, but I was old enough to evaluate this situation on my own. I was at a basketball game with my best friend when an older woman began talking to us. She told us who her grandson was (he was on the opposing team) and that she was visiting for the holidays all the way from Iowa. When the conversation came to a halt she asked us whether or not we were students at Peddie or with the visiting team. We informed her that we were indeed boarding students at Peddie. Her next statement was, "Isn't that great. This is a real expensive school. Do you two play sports?" We looked at each other with bewilderment, and responded in a light hearted manner, "Well we play for fun, but we aren't masters at any sport." That led her to ask, "Well are you on financial aid?" Needless to say, we were speechless.

Now let's look at the equation in regards with my experience. Two different kinds of assumptions? CHECK. Ignorance on her behalf? CHECK. Were we different? CHECK. Everything seems to fit, now let's break it down to understand more effectively. This woman assumed that since we were African American we had to play a sport, and when she found out that we didn't her next guess was immediately to assume we needed financial aid. Where did these assumptions come from? This is where the second part of our equation comes in: ignorance. Her ignorance—not mean spiritedness, but ignorance—led her to believe certain things about a race of people. And ignorance comes from not knowing or understanding people's differences. Add everything up and what do you get: stereotypes.

Now looking back on this experience I have come to realize that there were some stereotypical actions on my behalf as well. Did I assume that the woman was assuming that I was poor because of my race? Yes. Was it my ignorance or blindness that made my mind go straight to racism and not think of any other possibilities? Yes. Was it the differences between us, older white woman and teenage black girl, that made me automatically point the finger at this woman? Replaying the sequence of events back in mind I would have to say, YES! This makes me think, stereotypes are everywhere. They don't solely exist within the majority. Everyone, even the minority, are capable of being stereotypical and judgmental.

Now, let's review,

This is where I come in; I propose a new equation that will help fix the problems with stereotypes on any level. After some deep thought and inner monologue here is the new and improved equation:

If we replace our assumptions and preconceived notions with actual facts and truth, half of the problem with prejudice is already solved. Now add education into the mix, and we empower people to think for themselves and not listen to the heightened half truths being told all over. Lastly, when there is acceptance of everyone's differences (because differences are inevitable), then and only then will we achieve: understanding. And understanding is what is needed for everything to prosper.

Taking a second look, I might have jumped the gun, because this older woman seemed harmless, she might have simply been coming from a curious place. I needed a little more understanding and maybe I could have been a little more sensitive. Or maybe she did mean it in the racist way, we'll never know. But this is what life's about, learning from your past decisions and using those experiences to shape your future choices. Without this incident, I might not have been forced to think about stereotypes and open my eyes to the fact that they really do exist.

Antoinette Mack attends Columbia University.

Essay Review

an equation for understanding

Several clever twists help make author Antoinette Mack's essay stand out. Her first device is relatively simple: a mathematical equation for stereotypes. Readers who are so inclined could devise a similar equation to address a topic of their choice, though Antoinette's essay has particular impact because of the issue of diversity. But Antoinette has another turn in store, a second equation that suggests maybe she was hasty in her initial thinking. Whether or not she was, Antoinette shows herself to be an unusually self-aware young woman. "I had many meetings with my college advisor and talked to my mom a lot in order to zero in on my main point," says Antoinette. "I kept asking myself, 'What is the essential element I want the reader to know about me?'"

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