Saturday, September 28, 2002

My husband's reaction reminds me...

Today's experience reminds me of something.
Whenever I read the newspaper and I recognize a last name as one of my own nationality in connection with a crime, I'm ashamed.
I don't know this person.
They are not connected to me.
However, when you are an immigrant, even when you get your citizenship and belong to the country that you live in.
You still....well...kind of feel like a guest, in a way.
When someone of your nationality commits a crime, you feel just a smidge responsible for their bad conduct.
I guess it's the same thing that prompts my husband (sister-in-law, inlaws) to ask, "was he/she black?" when speaking about any crime committed in the city.
They all breathe a sigh of relief if you say "no".
I can see it in their faces.
I know I feel that way.
I know that my husband felt embarassment for that woman today.
That's why he kept repeating, "look at yourself" to her quietly.
He asked me when we left the store if I was, "ok".
It's the question I should have asked him.

I never....ok, I have.

My husband and I were out this morning running some errands together.
We stopped at an Asian Supermarket I frequent.
Hubby didn't want to go in, but I insisted.
We were waiting in line at one cash and lined up at cash next to ours were two middle aged West Indian women.
They seemed to be deciding whether they wanted to actually buy everything that they had in their basket and were quibbling about a box of mangoes. The cashier politely waited for a few moments and seeing that they were still in debate with one another, decided that they were not ready and waved my husband over.
We started unloading the basket when I heard one of the women tell my husband that he could have asked them if they were ready instead of "jumping" in front of them.
My husband replied that the cashier had called him over.
One of the women proceeded to give him a lecture on respecting "the black woman".
He listened to her for a bit as her voice got louder and louder telling him things like:
your mother was a black woman,
your grandmother was a black woman,
your great grandmother was a black woman, and so on.
She called him an idiot and a few other names.
Now, my husband is a very patient and respectful man.
The louder she got, the calmer he got.
It's the way he is.
She started shouting that just because he is with a white woman, it doesn't give him the right to disrespect black women.
She now had the attention of most of the patrons in the market.
The cashier looked at me and shook her head.
Then, my husband calmly said, "Look at yourself" and he kept repeating it quietly.
Well! That made her ballistic...she grabbed one side of her skirt and got louder...the only thing missing was a fish in the other hand to complete the picture.
She then turned on me; "my grandchildren are half-breeds, don't you let him disrespect you!" (whaaa?)
to which I replied, "he is disrespecting no one" and I took the bags and started to walk.
We were now the center of attention at the check out...the manager came over and put his hand on my husband's back and said something to him in broken English (my husband does not speak Mandarin) and my poor husband was just standing there watching this woman making an ass of herself in public.
I could see by his face that he just couldn't believe it.
We left the market with her yelling who knows what.
We just looked at each other in disbelief.
This was more drama than I have had in a very long time.
Was this outburst really about asking to step in front of someone that the cashier deemed "not ready to pay"?

Monday, September 16, 2002

I don't live up to the stereotypes of my culture.
However, I also know that intelligent society doesn't think in a vaccuum.
Unintelligent people do.
That said, I must add that this is a democracy and I do not have to agree with what is said, I only have to support another's right to say it.
As long as people are behaving in a civilized manner they are entitled to any opinion even if I think it's stupid.
Stereotypes are there because some people DO live up to them. Like it or don't like it, it's a fact.

There is a stereotype about my culture that the men are big drinkers. Guess what? In alot of cases, it's absolutely true. Another is that the men in my culture like to fight. You know what? Many have hot tempers and are very easily offended. They do fight alot. What am I going to say if someone brings up these stereotypes? That they're not true? Nonsense. They are.
There is such a thing as facing up to the truth, even if we don't like the portrayal or the mirror image of ourselves.
Let's just evolve and stop pretending that these things don't exist through semantics.
Political Correctness is just Western society's muzzle on freedom of thought and speech.
I'll say it again, I may not believe in what you're saying but I believe that you have a right to say it.

There's an old joke about TV in the old Soviet Union:
There are only two channels.
Channel One airs propaganda and Channel Two has a guy on telling you to turn back to Channel One.
That was my uncle's old joke...I still think it's funny...

Profiling is a hot topic too...
It's up to the majority to fight profiling and groups have fought it successfully.
People in authority profile in their minds right now. I'm not saying that it's right....but it's a fact.
All society can demand is that it isn't made legal. Hitler made it legal and look where it took people. Germans are still living down their stereotype and they have been making amends for the past 50 years. Now, they are one of the most diverse societies in Europe.
I'll tell you a little something,
I am married to an afro-latin american.
I am of Eastern European stock.
I never tell people I just meet that my husband is a person of colour.
Not because I don't want to, it's because it just never comes out in's not something that you can squeeze in without sounding kind of...well...stupid.
However, I have found this to be quite revealing of others.
Sometimes people work with me or know me for months sometimes years before they meet time.
When they do..the reactions are diverse. Sometimes the reaction is shock, sometimes no one skips a beat. My husband did it to someone just this morning. The man was obviously flabbergasted and looked like someone hit him in the head with a shovel.
Now, after someone has met my husband, the meeting tells me alot about that person.
Some people put their feet in their mouths and others are phoney about being liberal. We once invited one of my husband's collegues over for a bbq and I heard her husband on the phone telling someone on that he was at a black person's house and could they hear the Reggae music in the background. Is this the behaviour of an adult thinking person?
My point being that all you can do is educate people and hope that they learn from their experiences.
By my relationships with others who don't know my husband until much later...they are forced to form an opinion of me and then justify to themselves why they would feel any differently after they have met my husband.
All we can do is try to help people educate themselves to the differences in others and the whole idea that you never know who you are talking to....many people who have made off colour remarks about black people within my earshot have looked like shit when they see my husband.
Life is a learning experience every single day.
Just for the record...I'm not bleached blonde who gets braids done like black women do and I don't speak in ebonics like you see on Ricki Lake....I'm not the stereotype either :)
I'm a professional and that really throws shit to the wind for alot of people and I like it.

Similar to study groups that are given sugar pills in place of the medication that is being tested for the study. Often participants not in the control group claim to feel better even though they in reality have not been taking the medication themselves.
I think that the human race needs to have the feeling of being a "part" of something larger. We all have a need to belong and often feel validated when we are part of a group that has the same beliefs that we do.

In a way this also explains how normal people can become part of an angry mob and do things that they would never dream of doing alone.

It all comes down to influence and this is why I am trying to point out that it is the small individual experiences that mold our final opinions.
My family is a perfect example of this.
One of my uncles believed that most black people were like what he saw on cops(the tv show). His experience with black people was extremely limited.
He was angry when he found out about my husband before I married him but was evolved enough to meet him and his family.
My uncle's opinion changed.
Now, when someone says something negative about black people in his presence, he tells them off. Because his experience with my husband's people has changed his opinion. When he tells someone off about their attitude about blacks he is defending the people that knows and cares about.
However, I stray...yes, I do believe that it is through conditioning that we live up to those stereotypes and it is through conditioning that we hate. We are essentially like sheep in alot of different ways. Even those that strive to be "different", travel in cliques or groups that are composed of people similar to themselves behaving in similar ways.

Mentally ill people are the only people that are truly living within their own minds and not following the mores and ethics of the general population and attitudes towards the mentally ill are still negative even when the ill person is harmlessly ill...meaning that they are not violent people.
Mind you, if you are rich you are eccentric.
It's only when you are poor that you are considered crazy.