Sunday, January 18, 2015

Discrimination in the U.S.A.

Discrimination is part of America's blood and foundation. And I agree with "SOUTH PACIFIC" that something like discrimination is taught and repeated from birth. I believe that exploring other perspectives and cultures - experiences that push comfort zones and put oneself into a minority - is always going to be terrifying. I also believe that those kind of experiences (in which I have had little bearing and control) are the experiences that have shaped me into a better human, one that tries to see an individual through her or his ideas, thoughts, and work.

Every day I see, read about, and support people who are willing to have an open mind, accepting that differences are different upbringings, genetics, person, environment, opinions. They trust their instincts, let the futile prejudices that are built within go little by little, and they gain a new perspective that creates an even more open mind.

Sometimes I think the only thing keeping people from being good, purely good, is the need to fact check and factually judge. "Oh, she is from Asia. Oh, she is twenty-six. Oh, her hands are different."

My Hands

It is damn not fair that I need to make other people feel better about my limbs. I have accumulated over my lifetime a nice stack of incidents and comments that I have suddenly realized I hate shuffling. I hate that I have these interactions to look back on and think about. Some days I wish I could make a statement, hold a press conference and just say, "Hello! Yes! I was born with a few less fingers than most people, same goes for the toes."

I do not really believe this would solve or prevent the insensitivity I have faced. I take an excerpt from TINA FEY'S BOSSYPANTS:

My whole life, people who ask about my scar within one week of knowing me have invariably turned out to be egomaniacs of average intelligence or less. And egomaniacs of average intelligence or less often end up in the field of TV journalism. So, you see, if I tell the whole story here, then I will be asked about it over and over by the hosts of Access Movietown and Entertainment Forever for the rest of my short-lived career.

Stating fact I was born this way, this is me does not stop what really bothers me about people gently asking what happened? It is not so much that I am tired of explaining (though I am tired of explaining) or that it tends to reflect an indecency of person but that it demonstrates a shortchanging of me. I had a teacher, a teacher I had liked, tell me that she initially thought I was special needs after she saw my hands.

I despise that. My ability and my worth should not have to be gained back like I am in-the-hole once my hands are taken into account. But you know, people are free to think that way. People are free to make judgements and think less of a person because of the way she or he looks or dresses or behaves. People are free to discriminate on their own time.

What offends me and what throws me into a contained fury is that this type of person, the type to ask what happened, acts as if they are my champion for imposing terrible encouragements you are doing such an amazing job. They become engorged with gross comments well your hands are super cool as they try to nonchalantly change the subject they have brought up. There is no great transition from knucklehead asshole.

Again, Tina Fey touches on this phenomenon. It is a desire to appear a better person to "seem brave or sensitive or wonderfully direct" when the truth is, people are just over-the-line curious to put it super cool politely.

Opportunity for Change

I brimmed over the edge of frustration about this personal discrimination recently. There are much more hot-headed words I could say, but what it boiled down to was a chance to change it. People are curious and confused when they notice my hands. I get that. I understand that. A grain of salt keeps me balanced and open-minded about it most of the time. Not every one has had an upbringing that teaches or an experience in dealing with burning curiosities about an individual that should be left as they are until they become a valid contributing factor or more likely, fade away into a forgetting why it mattered so much in the first place.

Dealing with such a personal disrespect is a learning opportunity at my expense I would say. I will be clear, I do not think discrimination is right; however, it is a reality. And what I have learned from every day living and from being in intentional teaching environments is that people do not learn or change through force fed ideas or talk-downs. A good teaching moment absorbs certain injustices, is patient, and lets the student observe, experience, and grow on his or her own terms.

I think my experience living in South Korea helped me discriminate less. It helped me look less importantly on how a person looks and ask more interesting questions, not necessarily about what a person does for a living or if she or he is single or not. With so many assumptions being made about me on a daily basis, all the cultural misunderstandings and grievances, and the incredulousness of the differences of thought and method, I became more aware that discrimination is much easier than working towards getting to know a person.

Stereotypes Are Stereotypes For A Reason, but I believe the more people push the boundaries of their own world and daily lives, ignoring societal pat-on-the-backs and status, stereotypes would become lighter and less deadly. 

Blunt identification foreigner, American, Asian, woman, girl with the claw hands always leaves me feeling sick and unnerved. Because they are accurate, but people should not have a mentality to make sound decisions based solely on personal views on race, gender, age, and physical appearance. Discrimination is not right. It is also incredibly inefficient, sloppy, and hurtful. I came to understand this better and better as people in my everyday were, conversely, kind and generous and genuinely interested in getting to know me when I lived in South Korea. Our relationships gained conversation, legitimate disagreement, and many laughs at our differences and learned new. 

What opportunity in a place like the United States to stop discriminating. America has a history of and a present day reputation for discrimination, yes, but it also tries to uphold an idea of diversity - as a country safe for people to immigrate to, as a melting pot, and as a land of opportunity and of equal rights for every one person. America is a huge country with lots of different, distinct people to interact with. It has pods of communities that mirror cultures from around the world. There are so many chances to enter into situations that are safe, different, and uncomfortable. 

Humans feel things and think thoughts for a reason. It is important to realize that some of these inklings are impulses taught and repeated. Others of these inklings are being intuitive. How to sort though the two? Read. Talk with your neighbor. Get to know more than titles. Listen to culture podcasts. Work in retail. Be a complete fool trying new foods. Be brave enough to make small changes in daily routines. Trust your instincts. Ask clarifying questions and ask for help. Relish in your mistakes and learn from them. Take a leap of faith. 

I think that an inevitable part of trying to change a mentality or a society or a behavior is feeling helpless most of the time. But it is in small actions, such as writing, that hope runs two steps ahead of doubt toward change. 

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