Monday, May 25, 2009

Some Racist Thoughts

One of the token expressions among the expat community is that Slovakia makes you racist.

The thinking behind such an expression is that people from all over the world come here to work, and when they see, day in, day out, the stereotypical Slovak (lazy and drunk), and have to wait in extremely long lines, and have to endure absolutely atrocious service (I use the term service liberally) they start to harbor a certain disdain. I was talking to Sarp about it and he said something I found to be extremely intriguing -everyone is just a product of their society. When I get on the bus and older Slovak men stare at me with what feels like ire, it's probably for a reason. These old men have seen things that I cannot imagine, including the exportation of over 12,000 jews, struggles with the perpetually unemployed and uneducated Roma people, coups for power by nazi germany, and communist USSR and corruption of the highest order. No wonder trust doesn't come easy and newcomers aren't always welcomed with open arms.

It's not racism, it's rationality.

For select parts of the last four years I felt extremely uncomfortable for being a white male (there, I finally said it.) It's also worth noting that for two years I worked beside the Social Issues Commission. Ignore the fact that my three best friends were brown and I have a William Ayers quote on my Facebook profile; if I wasn't out spending my day crusading against phobics of all sorts, I was just as bad as the aforementioned quasi-KKK members. That is racism, it's not rational.

Sorry but I honestly had other priorities, like passing school and trying to develop myself as a person.

After four years on a campus that was obsessed with the idea of "isms," ('oh wait those doesn't include "phobias" and might exclude another form of prejudice we haven't deemed important yet, better find a new umbrella to group all the haters under') then "sensitivity" ('hold up a minute, we can't call it being sensitive, that's offensive because it implies select groups will be offended if we aren't sensitive all the time') then finally "anti-oppression" ('I think we can call it anti-oppression, we certainly don't want to oppress anyone, I think that covers all our bases') I refute the idea of white privilege ruining the lives of so many at Queen's even more. Such obsession and need to persecute, rather than educate, served only to polarize the population further.

In the last few weeks I've met and seen people that have endured experiences anyone privileged enough to have made it to Queen's could not imagine. I do not mean to trivialize the negativity that some Queen's students may have experienced but honestly, you have no perspective (and I will be the first to admit I'm only just starting to gain some). After four years of being accused of enjoying my "white privilege" I finally come to a place where I meet people from all over the world that could very legitimately hold my CANADIAN privilege against me. And yet they don't. Everyone I have met here, no matter what they have inured has accepted me first as a person and taken me at face value, for that I feel more respect than a (insert your favourite type of) issues commissioner could ever demand out of me. They have not judged me but tried to learn from me and tried to teach me what values they hold as important. They could blame me and the Western world that I represent for innumerable things and make hundreds of excuses for themselves but they haven't. I'm embracing the idea of the global citizen, we're all people first.

I find it quite refreshing.

This is only a few thoughts and reflections on my past experiences. I have not articulated it as well as I had hoped, which probably means the thoughts aren't completely formed. I hope they don't ever completely form, as then they will atrophy. I don't seek to alienate, comments and discussion are always welcome and I'm sure I'll blog more about this topic when the mood strikes me or I feel like I've compiled a little more insight. I'm just getting started.

UPDATE: I hope nowhere in this blog does it sound like I'm hating on Slovakia. This place has been great so far.

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