Sunday, January 30, 2011

I will not eat a Blow Fish

I absolutely pride myself on not being racist.  I have lived in many multicultural societies, travelled extensively around the world, actively embraced different cultures.  I have an unquenchable thirst for different cultures and I find the more I learn, the more I want to learn.  I am incredibly PC in this regard and I’m quick to jump to correct anyone who isn’t.  I actively encourage my children to relish and celebrate differences in cultures by hosting international exchange students and in a previous job, I looked after lots of children in my home all of different races.
Just to emphasise my commitment, during high school I competed at two Polynesian festivals, once for the Rarotongan group and once for the Samoan group where I was the only European representative (surprisingly).  Unfortunately I was placed in the front row, and if I didn’t stand out enough, I managed to get sunburnt the day before so I ended up looking more like a glow in the dark English Pocahontas.  However, it was an amazing experience, I mix and mingled and was accepted by my fellow performers and learnt a huge amount.  Yes, I do feel that Nelson Mandela and I are kindred spirits.
However, I have recently taken on a Japanese exchange student and have been forced to face an ashamedly ugly truth about myself.  It has become apparent that I have had an unconscious wall up around the Japanese and Chinese cultures and have at times, I am ashamed to say have contributed to racism against these cultures.  Why??  I am still trying to understand it myself.   Ignorance most probably.   
Could it be the fact that all the majority of asian constituents in New Zealand are exceptionally wealthy – they need a significant amount of funds to become a resident in New Zealand, and we are always suspicious of those who have more – rather than welcoming their contribution to our economy?
Could it be that almost everything we produce they can do it cheaper, faster, better??  Lets face it, that is pretty annoying, but we all don’t mind benefiting from it.
I once had an awful experience with a Japanese man.  I was travelling in a packed tube somewhere in London, standing up squashed like sardines against other commuters when I felt a hand start to caress my bottom.  I looked around in disgust, but couldn’t look down as everyone was too squashed together.  The man just looked me in the eye and was smiling.  This kept happening until I managed to get my hand free and grabbed him in the act. I then didn’t really know what to do and let him go and managed to get off at the next stop.  This seemed to cement my brick wall stronger than ever making it difficult to break down.  Now, I do know that one bad apple does not a race make, so why did it make me think this way?  Lets face it, he probably just mistook my plump bottom for a couple of firm peaches, who could blame him?
Just to be clear, I have never actively been racist against these cultures.  Protesters, please stay away.  I just have obviously harboured some issues, it is not everyday my bottom gets caressed.
My Japanese student arrived yesterday, and since her arrival my brick wall has been broken down in tremendous chunks at a time.  She is exceptionally friendly, polite, loving, caring, eager to learn.  She is just wonderful with my children and they already adore her.  I can not believe that I ever had a wall up at all, and now all I can think of is that I am so eager to learn everything about her and her family.  I can already sense that this is going to be an exceptionally rich experience for both of us and I whole heartedly welcome her into our family.  I thank her so much for this.  Just by being herself, I can not believe the change in my attitude and awareness in 2 days already, imagine what the rest of the year will bring!
Although, I’m still not going to eat a poisonous blow fish.

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