(or how I act when ignorance is not bliss)
There’s still a lot I don’t understand in life. Well…duh, I can practically hear you think it out loud. I am still trying to though, even when my brain is working very hard to convince me otherwise.
Acceptance is such an underestimated value in most peoples life’s. Incomprehension is a much more common shared state of mind nowadays. In a time where almost anything ‘should-be-tolerated-to-avoid-any-form-of-racism’, there’s a lot going on. And we often placate ourselves with the thought: ‘If it’s beyond something I can actually understand or at least name, it’s probably not worth a second thought, why bother. I have enough to worry about already’. And most often we do.
I seem to (at times) possess the very annoying habit to want to know the ‘Why’ behind people’s reasoning and their actions. My level of incomprehensibility (wow, that’s ONE word), is reaching new heights these days and it sometimes makes me feel I am living under a rock, which has been the case these last months to be honest.
Maybe it stems from my own experience with how people used to respond to me when I was younger. I understood even then, the people in my village weren’t really used to colored people yet… I mean, it wasn’t rocket science, figuring out why they sometimes responded to me the way they did. They might not have realized it, but I DID speak Dutch. I cannot really remember if these kind of things were even talked about at home. I just dealt with it the way I saw fit.
Funniest part for me always has been, I was born in the North of The Netherlands (Friesland), where the people are very proud of ‘their’ county. Doesn’t get much more Dutch than that in my eyes… Just to see people’s eyes bug out just a little when mentioning that, was so much fun.
Now I never really suffered from it. Did I like it? No, not particularly either. But I kind of understood. It meant I did not take their behavior personally, even when it was meant that way. I even felt sorry for them sometimes, I mean… Here they were commenting on my skin tone ( and I am putting this nicely) and they would pride themselves to spend a lot of money on a holiday to sunbath for a couple of weeks and still not come close. I just saw the ridiculousness of it all. I understood, though I just didn’t get that they failed to see it the same way.
When some random person would start ‘talking’ to me, faking an Asian language – preferably Chinese- and it was perfectly clear they were making fun of me, I just laughed. And thought they were a bunch of idiots anyway.
Once I was traveling by train to visit a friend. I was sharing a compartment with a couple of young people, who started to talk to me in their language. I couldn’t tell where they originated from, I had no idea and I did not speak their language. They got really angry when I did not reply after they repeated what they apparently asked.
You see, we all know it’s not all that black and white – pun intended. Among all the different nationalities living in one country, the same happens… But still, I kind of understood, they thought to recognize me as one of their own and concluded I felt too good to honor them with an answer, which got them angry. It didn’t matter I tried to explain, they just didn’t believe me. They went with what they thought was real. It felt the atmosphere turning hostile really quickly and I was lucky that I reached the point where I could get off the train.
It sometimes feels like trying to understand other people and their actions has been weaving through my whole life. I am not saying I am trying to excuse their behavior, not at all. And my smart mouth did not always help calm down any heated situation, on the contrary. Most people don’t appreciate it when they get bested by the one they are trying to bully, especially by using words only. Their intelligence is at stake you know…
But understanding where people are coming from, sometimes helps me to accept – not condone – their behavior. When I am in a really good mood, I will even pity them. If they have the misfortune to catch me on a bad day, well…I think you might pity them too…
Of course a lot has changed since then, or has it? The current discussion fueled by a racist action, has the world fuming. Though it’s not only this topic I am talking about, it’s as good an example as any. We all have so many reasons why we do the things we do and as I said, some days we can just handle things better than others. And real change does not happen overnight, but it starts with a little acceptance.
I’ve been called so many names, children from my own age back then, trying to get to me. The most hilarious one was when they called me a ***** Russian… Yeah go figure… If that didn’t show me their complete and utter ignorance – and I am sure the parents were the real guilty ones – I wouldn’t know what would. And there was only one correct answer in such case: just to laugh and Do it Loud.
When our kids were younger, they sometimes had questions about any racism they encountered and how we dealt with it in the past. It was one thing to tell them how to best deal with it, but we’re not all the same and we all react differently. I know for sure, our daughter had to deal with several situations, in which she was clearly discriminated, by the parents of her friends. Grownups, assumed examples.
And it doesn’t matter how much we wanted to protect our kids, it’s impossible to keep them away from the real world. They need to learn to fend for themselves, although these things can be tough. By teaching them to stay true to themselves, they also learned how important it is to know you’re loved and accepted, flaws and all. It’s so easy to disregard someone because of something that just doesn’t ‘fit’in our comfort zone. Our kids dealt with it in their own ways. It wasn’t always easy, but they did not grow up to hate.
So maybe these experiences helped us in a roundabout way, to make an effort to not dismiss people too easy. To not repay ignorance with the same attitude and lower ourselves to that standard. Sounds all so easy, but it’s not. It’s a choice to make and in all fairness, I do not always want to choose the right thing. I do not always want to ‘understand’ and I certainly don’t want to accept people’s behavior all the time.
It’s a fine balance between fending for oneself and accepting some people will not change, no matter what. Understanding would work both ways in a perfect world, unfortunately this world is far from it…Now if I could just accept that…