What I have learned

10 10 2010

I recently quitted my job and I had a weird exit interview. Needless to say, I was my polite self and did not say what was on my mind, partly out of respect for my elders, partly because I knew by experience that whatever I said would not make a difference and because the “boss” could still cause trouble for me (self-preservation)

I was asked by somebody in the company to talk about my “diversity experience”  and this got me thinking of what would I say. So I will share with you, what I did not share with them.

I had to think hard because I felt betrayed when I realized I had been lied, used and manipulated for a long time. For those of you that have read since the beginning  you may know my struggles to understand the racial make up of this country and I happen to end up working in the eye of a racial storm; it felt like that to me. I was overwhelmed and naive.

I can say I learned a lot, I acquired new skills, I learned how to navigate the company and I grew as a person. I had some good times when I thought I belonged and had friends, untill they turned out to be using me as a political/racial pawn.

I learned what it felt to be discriminated against because of  my perceived/assigned race. By my coworkers and the clients we served. I was excluded because I was not of the appropriate race, I constantly hear racially charged comments against Latinos, Asians but the favorite was the evil White people. Many times some of our clients were rude, would not speak to me or reject me all together because they thought I was white.

I learned that racism is not a one way street, it is a highway with several lanes in multiple directions. I learned that neither group wants to acknowledge their own racist and bigot issues against others but are extremely prompt to point those of other towards them. So racism is not a White against Black issue, it hasn’t been for many years. The biggest thing is racism STILL EXISTS and there are people working hard not to let IT die!?!?! Who new??

I have learned that we are scared of the unknown and some of us don’t have the desire to learn more and give the other a chance.

We make gross group generalizations instead of taking the time to know others. I worked with others from my same region of the galaxy, and my employers could not distinguish one from the other, we did not look a like and had very distinct personalities, but to them when one talked we were all in the same boat and therefore in the same trouble. Is like what is happening with Muslims right now, we don’t understand their religion, their customs, their beliefs, their culture, and a few of them are radicals so we are afraid of all of them. For some people fear makes them stay away, for others it means attacking. It is like assuming that all Latinos are Mexican and  illegal, that all Asians are foreigners, that All Russians are mobsters or spies, wait, we already believe that.

You can tell I am still a bit bitter, but thankfully I cannot hold a grudge. I know that I cannot hold all people from a certain group to the experience I had with a few and I am friends with all types of people from all walks of life.

I was listening on a radio show were the speaker was Canadian and he was explaining that in Canada they welcome people as they are, they are expected to get integrated into society and Canadian life but not to lose their culture and customs. In contrast here you are expected to “become American” lose the background and become one of us. I was talking to this man the other day and he said yes, you come here you must speak English at all times and forget your old culture, assimilate to the American Culture.

Thankfully it is impossible for me to do that, I love many things in the american culture, but I don’t like the bigotry, racism and arrogance, so I won’t be incorporating those, thank you. Plus the majority of Americans are not like that, the majority that we don’t hear from, are kind, hardworking, generous, and caring.

I learned that I am strong and I can move one, with new skills to navige this strange new world. I know I am not supposed to choose what parts of the culture to assimilate, but what would you expect, I am an Alien, I am crazy like that!

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2 responses

15 12 2010
Paloma Pentarian

As an American overseas, often having problems similar to yours in my new country, I have found your blog fascinating to see with my new “expat eyes” what immigrants in America are dealing with. Thank you again for this most enlightening post.

23 11 2013
TFred

I, too, am an American who moved overseas. In America I was used to people speaking different languages on a daily basis. In the German-owned company I worked for in the States, although everyone spoke English fluently, the Latinos in my office generally conversed with each other in Spanish and the Germans conversed with each other in German. No one had issues with that. Before I moved to my new home I took a year of intense language courses to learn the language and the only time I speak English is when I call home to friends and family in the States. I have traveled to many countries (Kenya, Puerto Rico, Spain, Finland, Iraq, Mexico, Poland, Zimbabwe, Belgium, India, Venezuela, Czech Republic, US, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Antigua, Dominican Republic, Belize, Barbados, Portugal, Guatemala, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Greece,Tunisia, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, UAE, China, Egypt, Bahamas, Israel, Turkey, France, Ireland, UK, British Virgin Islands, Ukraine, St Lucia, Chile, Denmark, Indonesia, Argentina, Austria, Russia, Germany, Philippines, Nigeria, Albania) and have often come across intolerant people. We all have our own experiences, but I firmly believe that people generalize Americans more than people from any other country. Sadly, I notice that many ex-pats start to go along with the “American’s are so un-cultured” mentality when they are trying to fit into a new culture (often feeding into the belief and responding with something like “oh yes, that’s why I just HAD to get out of there”). I am very happy where I currently live, but I am proud of where I came from, too. There are wonderful and horrible people everywhere you go in this world. Racism and intolerance DO exist…everywhere.

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