He’s not mean to Me Version 1.0

He’s not mean to Me Version 1.0
The Importance of Race for a Person of Diverse/Mixed Cultures in Canada
Written by Grandpa Dinosaur

When I was in high school, there was a young man who would treat me as if I was sub-human and incapable of intellectual speech. It wasn’t anything new. Coloured people came as a to a surprise to the children who lived in my newly developed suburban neighbourhood and I was often attacked by kids with snowballs, telling me to “get out of their neighbourhood” because “I had a flat/fat face.” I was very upset as the teacher (Grade 10 Accounting) would allow him and his peers to bully coloured students that had opinions that differed from the norm. So upset, that I failed the course and gave up pursuing an education in business. This was also not new. Two years later, a close friend of mine was chatting with the same fellow and called on me to join the conversation. My mood quickly soured, as did his. She took notice of my discomfort saying that “I was being rude and inconsiderate”. I explained my torrid history with that particular gentleman, and in these exact words I said, “that guy is racist.”

Her reply, to this day; horrifies me.

She replied, without a missing a beat: “He’s not mean to me,” then continued to persuade me to be his friend as if it were up to me to reconcile with this gentleman, begin a friendship with him and through this; prove that I was a good person. I didn’t, because why should I even if she and I are “friends”? Besides, I had mastered Survival in the Concrete Jungle 101: Every Man for Himself. I walked away. I didn’t talk to her for days and she got smart so to speak and figured out that we were fighting. We fought for days, and in the end she apologized because I wouldn’t talk to her or cave in, but she never understood why she apologized or why what she said offended me so much.

We’ve been friends for seven years now and I recently met up with her and another friend of ours from high school for a birthday party (mine and another of our high school friends). I brought up the recent incident of racist graffiti on the doors of the Black Student Association at York University. Neither friend could comment much about the issue and kept trying to change the topic to a venue where they had grounds and knowledge in, so we suddenly had a feminist conversation. The most that they were able to say about racism was that it was unfair and that Native Peoples were treated unfairly.

I took note of this.

To clarify, I am not white, but I grew up in a predominately white neighbourhood and a majority of my friends are white. The friends I am with are white and I am not ashamed of having white friends (even though my Cambodian peers try to make me feel ashamed). BUT I am ashamed of their ignorance and inability to admit that they do not understand racism is a problem. We can talk about Moe Shows, Lolita’s, Sexuality, Beauty, but I cannot have an intellectual conversation with them about racism because they cannot comprehend my problem nor do they try to make the effort to understand and this saddens me…it is not the first time I have tried to engage in such dialogue and I do not know if it stems from their inability to put themselves in my shoes or that they have no experience (which I do not believe because I know someone must have treated them badly once or twice) with such matters.

The inability to talk to my peers about race and their denial that it is problem is a growing concern. Race is important, but most people believe that “race doesn’t matter.” To most people this means “you and me are the same, but our skin colour is different”. However, after the racist graffiti at the University I think the meaning has changed for me. Davita Cuttita and I had a conversation regarding the incident (she is Black) and put it best when she said, “Saying something doesn’t matter is the same as saying it’s not important.” Racism shouldn’t be trivialized or moved to the side, as if “it doesn’t matter, as long as we can get along.” In my head I’m imagining they other Asian guy down the row is thinking that “This guy is racist,” or he himself, is thinking racist thoughts. I believe it’s normal to be a little bit racist, I’ll admit I’m a little racist too.

And why are we listening to this mind control!? It’s pure optimistic bullshit and I’m a pessimist! What about my realistic and concrete ideas and feelings?! If race “doesn’t matter” why do I have such a hard time just being a Cambodian girl…not just with white people, but with other Cambodians?

Cambodians give me a hard time because they believe I’m white-washed, over-privileged, snobby and stuck-up girl because I have white friends and perhaps being a girl is the worst part; because on top of that I’m also “fat,” “not pretty” and “ashamed of my own culture” because I’m not spray-painting the Cambodian flag onto my car. Oh wait, I don’t have a car. I’m a Cambodian woman.

I once joked to Davita Cuttita that: “Oh! You know, I can’t be so hard on other people because us Cambodian people, we bathe in the same water we pee in.” There is a huge hypocrisy here which is why I have massive problems with Cambodian Youth as well. Mostly because while I’m not considered to be Cambodian, I’m considered Canadian, as I was I’m born here. I fulfill the “stereotype” in their minds. EXCUSE ME for wanting an education! For wanting to go to school and get my own career and do things that go against what Cambodian youth are supposed to do: drop out of school, get in fights, (for girls) get pregnant and beat their kids, and as a Cambodian youth collective, imitate Black people and Black culture. That sure is Cambodian!

On the other hand, I still don’t get along with that guy from high school for not living up to his stereotype of what an Asian person should be and being myself; which meant dressing how I wanted, reading what I wanted and doing as much 9or as little) homework as I wanted. The reason that he and I NEVER got along was because I wasn’t willing to do his math homework, I wasn’t willing to take crap from him (and his jokes weren’t even funny and I didn’t even have a fobbish accent!). For shame! (But seriously his jokes WERE SHIT, so I couldn’t even laugh at them). So I can’t be Canadian if I can’t get along with a Canadian guy who’s 100%, hockey loving, coffee drinking Canadian then I fail at life right?

The world lied when they said “be yourself!” Because not many people “are themselves.”

The world lied when they said “race doesn’t matter!” Because race crimes and profiling still exist!

Stop perpetuating untruths, myths and lies. Stop trying to be someone else even though you’re scared of who you are. Stop believing in other people’s words, even though you think it’s a mirror in which your reflection forms.

FORM YOUR OWN OPINIONS!

I’m going to be mean to you, dear reader, if it means being honest.

This world is full of people. Different people with different ideas, body types, languages, houses, statuses, ideas, lifestyles and dreams. We can’t keep pretending that race can become invisible, that racism will disappear. We can’t stop people from being themselves. We can’t destroy and re-construct other people’s cultures. But what we can do is communicate with one another, talk to one another and try to understand one another. Bullying someone until they “disappear” is impossible, the same can also be said about trying to “talk the problem away”.

We have to re-educate ourselves with reality, not just dreams and ideals. Dreams do not fill the mind with substance as well as knowledge. Ideals do not stand up to truths, truth and fact destroys everything even if the world loves lies.

One day, I hope my “friend” will understand why I was so upset at her friend.

He spoke to and treated me as if I wasn’t a human being; he never even let me speak in class.

That hurt my feelings and it was as simple as that.

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~ by l on March 1, 2008.

One Response to “He’s not mean to Me Version 1.0”

  1. The world lied. It’s true. They actually didn’t mean, “be yourself”, they meant, “be yourself in a way that’s acceptable, or else you’re going to be taken care of.”

    I feel a bit sad on the teacher’s inaction, but at the same time, having to take care of a classroom full of students is pretty hard. I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with a classroom full of kids that don’t care at all, and it’s very disheartening. Perhaps the teacher’s been worn out by then. Who knows. Doesn’t excuse the inaction.

    As for understanding racism without experiencing it … my friend comes from a mixed family, and she was amazed what some of them would say. Their roots are from the Caribbean, but they’re very much mixed, so much that there’s a generation where some of them were fairer skin than others. The adults have bad attitudes, probably because they grew up in very racist times, when the “west” colonized the world. You would think that the children would have better attitudes, growing up in more multicultural times.

    But they don’t. The next generation growing up in this sort of environment inevitably picks up some of their parents’ attitudes about the world.

    We can try and communicate with each other, but I don’t know how far we’ll be able to get if these sort of attitudes are passed down from generation to generation.

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