Adam C., 32
Las Vegas, NV
Most hated stereotype: That people who talk with a dialect, particularly Southern – black or white – aren’t smart. We can all agree that reading is fundamental and surely can lead to better things, but it doesn’t replace common sense.
When you see Adam’s red hair and hear his Southern twang, the culture that lies beneath his appearance may come as a surprise.
His fathers side of the family is entrenched in a small Northern Louisiana town, but his mother’s family sprouted from Hawaii.
“Growing up in the rural South with a brown-skinned grandmother gave me a different perspective,” he said. “So like it or not, that makes me mixed. Red hair, fair skin and all.”
While his outward appearance might put some at ease, his lived experience is quick to correct.
“What some people think when they’re dealing with me is that it’ll be cool to tell me a racist joke, maybe drop an N-word now and then,” he said. “Well, they’d be mistaken. I read the code, but I don’t speak it.”
Diversity is a constant in Adam’s life.
One night he might spend with his fellow Louisiana State University alumni and the next he’s guiding future journalists through his leadership position in the Asian American Journalists Association.
“I think diversity of race and background challenges me. It makes me reflect on my own values and ask whether I could do something differently or better or at least consider another perspective,” Adam said. “I got this from my parents, particularly my mom. I don’t know whether it was intentional on her part, but I think coming from a mixed-race relationship gave her a natural inclination to see things on more than one level – sort of a built in duality. And I picked up on it, even as a little redheaded kid with pale skin and a Southern accent who was a proud Hawaiian.”
The oldest of three children in a welcoming family, Adam is a people person. A journalist, he loves telling stories and hearing them too.
Growing into young adulthood just as the Internet was becoming accessible, Adam started making friends with people all over the country through a community service and scholarships program. After returning home he emailed new friends in New Hampshire and California and Colorado – all foreign places to a rural in Louisiana native.
“[There were] people who taught me about Buddhism when I told them about my Baptist church. People who lived in the desert when I was surrounded by pine trees and bayous. I was amazed that we were so far apart and seemingly different but so easily connected.”
I have a favorite saying that my maternal (white) grandmother used to say when I was having a disagreement with somebody: “You be right and let them be right, too.” It might seem like the opposite of what I said about duality. But looking back on my childhood, that was her way of teaching me about tolerance. Everyone has their own ideas, and we won’t always get a long. But we do live together, and that works better when everybody shows a little respect. Looking at it that way, I think diversity actually helps us build community, because we seek a common ground even with our differences.
Describe your family:
I come from a normal-sized immediate family. What may be less normal is that I’m tight with my extended family, and it’s big: my parents have 10 living siblings between them, and that means I have 23 first cousins, 27 second cousins and 2 third cousins. That’s not counting in-laws and divorces. For the most part, we’re not too formal. We like to eat, drink and have fun.
What do you want to be remembered for, long after you’re gone?
That I stood up for what was right, that I showed compassion and that I loved deeply.