Friday, November 16, 2012

How Do White People Feel?

I can't stress enough that people are people all over the world. Yes, the color choices for clothing and the history and traditions vary but people are the same regardless of nationality, race, religion, etc. There are jerks in every nation, there are sweethearts in every race and there are corrupt people everywhere in the world. I will never believe any other way.

So this past Sunday I went to church and saw the pardesi missionary couple. I found his service entertaining and I noticed some vast differences between his sermons and others I have heard in the past. You can read about that here.

At one point he started talking about how foreigners feel when they come to America. He told a joke that I think sums things up pretty well (based only off my experience of going to India). Here it is and I hope I'm not missing anything.

An Indian boy went away to college in the US. Every week he wrote a letter home to his father telling him all about how great things were there. Near the end of his studies he asked his father to get a visa and come see the US before he graduated so that they could share the happiness. His father, curious and excited, went and got his visa.

Convinced his son was becoming delusional in a strange land the father called the son before getting on the plane to depart India. Son, are you sure you're okay? Thing's can't be as great as you say they are, it's just not possible. The son replied, I understand why you say that father, just come and visit me and I will show you.

So the father arrived and noticed how beautiful America was and then he saw his son. Their reunion was heartfelt and emotional. After settling in the son took the father to the Washington Monument, he showed him the National Mall. The father was impressed. Next the son told his father, let me show you something else special and they went to Wal-Mart.

While walking through the aisles they came across juice mix powders. The father asked the son to explain. The son told him that you tear open the packet and pour it into water, stir for a minute and you have instant juice. The father was excited. They kept walking and the father noticed dry milk powder and the son again explained - instant milk.

They continued their journey through the store and the father stopped suddenly near a aisle in the children section. He stood there perplexed for a minute as he stared at a bottle of "Baby Powder." After remembering what he said, the father immediately began exclaiming "Son, this is the greatest nation in the world!" 

LOL! I couldn't help but laugh at that joke. I can only imagine that a foreigner would feel even more excited to see all the conveniences we have here than I was after coming back. With our diversity here, we have so many things from all over the world. It's quite impressive.

But this sermon and all the talk of "white privilege" I've been privy to in recent months got me to thinking. Just how do white people feel? I've heard/seen people say that white people are only nice to people of color (POC's) to make up for historical wrongs. I've heard people say that white people are trusted more by other white people than POC's. I've heard a lot about how POC's feel but nothing about how white people feel.

The truth is, I have never went out of my way to make someone comfortable because of their color. I don't feel guilty about slavery because I didn't participate in it in any way. My family has always been against it. I'm not debating whether or not other people do these things because I cannot read anyone's mind. I cannot know what they are thinking and feeling.

BUT, I can tell you how I feel as a white pigmented person in a predominantly white town. I feel out of place. Just last week I went to a local convenience store and was stared at incessantly by some of the locals. As I sat in church on Sunday amongst people who have known me for years, I was stared at as if I was a foreigner. Two weeks ago I was followed through a local store by a white woman as if she was watching me to see if I was going to steal something.

None of these are new occurrences. Despite the fact we are taught from early childhood here not to stare, follow, disturb, etc. it still happens. It happens to white people just as much as it happens to POC's. Maybe in some cities POC's are treated this way more than white people but in other cities it could be quite the opposite. I've lived in 6 US states and I've seen this happen in every single one of them. I've lived in medium sized (Tier 2) cities, small cities, and out in the boonies (village).

It doesn't seem to matter who you are, where you are, etc. In this town I've been a prominent citizen, a volunteer and made many contacts. Still, it happens to me. I've dressed up and I've dressed down. This is the only place I've seen a difference and I can't honestly say that the difference didn't come from my thoughts and feelings that day (being rushed, feeling confident, etc.). When I'm dressed up in professional attire, I have a lot less trouble. When I'm wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt, I don't seem to have any trouble. But for some reason when I put on my favorite hoodie, I get this kind of treatment.

I won't give up my hoodie. It has a special place in my wardrobe and it's my most worn garment lol. It has both sentimental value and an attractive look. I just can't help but believe there is much more to this "privilege" issue than color. The extremist that preach it as being a "white" issue don't seem to be researching beyond what white races have historically done to POC's when there is certainly much more that has happened. There's been white on white atrocities (The Holocaust for example) and white slavery just to name a few.

Have you, as a white person, ever felt out of place in the US?
For my Indian readers, have you ever felt out of place in India?
For all of my other readers, have you ever felt out of place in your own culture?

Do these things ever happen to you (being followed, stared at, etc.) in your own culture?

8 comments:

  1. Where I live (which is in Hong Kong), white people are nearly worshiped - they get the utmost amount of respect and preferential treatment. White-privilege is definitely a thing, but I guess you fail to see that. After all you're white. I could go on an on about it to talk in detail but you probably won't understand. Nor can I be bothered to type that much.

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  2. Why is it that non-whites have to be referred to as people of "colour"? Is white not a colour? What is it? Blank? The normative colour? Is that the standard? White people have melanin too. And that's how they are white. 'Cause if they didn't, they'd be all albinos. And there ARE albino Caucasians.

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  3. Three things:

    1. The joke is not funny. I am not even sure why you called it a joke :)

    2. White people are some of the nicest people that i have met in my life. Sometimes i feel that white people are overtly nice,especially in America, but i am not sure if it to correct the historical wrongs or if they are nice anyway.

    3. Yes, I have been discriminated against in my country, India. I am a north Indian and when i came to Bangalore i faced a lot of discrimination in a lot of places( too many to mention here). This happened because i do not speak south Indian languages and being fair-complexioned i do not look like them.

    In India people, in general, favor fair complexion as you can see by the number of fairness cream ads on TV or the matrimonial ads mentioning the fairness of skin as a virtue.

    I find this disgusting. What is more disheartening is the fact that these creams are endorsed by top Bollywood stars. Initially it was mostly fairness creams for women but now they have it for men- again endorsed by top Bollywood stars like sharukh khan, shahid kapoor, john abraham.

    I am not sure if you realized this while your stay in Amritsar but Indians are also racists, just that the mainstream media in india has far worse issues to discuss that the color of the skin.

    Having said that, you perfectly summed up my opinion in the first paragraph- "There are jerks in every nation, there are sweethearts in every race and there are corrupt people everywhere in the world."

    -RP

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  4. First off, I never said white privilege didn't exist. In previous blogs I have said it's a narrow minded term. IMO, privilege is not based as much on skin color as it is on what is predominant in a culture. So the privilege goes by what makes up a culture and their preferences. It is not limited to a "white" only issue.

    I appreciate you sharing your opinion on what you feel happens in Hong Kong. Have you considered how those white people feel while being treated this way? Not all white people want to be treated this way. Some of us find it offensive.

    In the US we preach, teach and strive for equality. This means we don't want preferential treatment. We don't want to be treated or thought of as less or more than anyone else. So ask yourself why people in Hong Kong treat white people this way. Are the white people asking for it? Do they treat other foreigners of other shades the same way? Why or why not? I don't know Hong Kong history and if this is historical in nature, as some suggest it is in India as a result of the British Raj, then what can you do to change current thought?

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  5. I simply referred to them the way I've seen others do. But you have a great point. White is a color. We have shades as well. I will have to give this some thought as to how to address it. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

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  6. Oh, and for the record - NO. White is not the normal color. The first citizens of this world were not white and the skin pigmentation developed over a long course of time. Originally people were darker skinned.

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  7. I got a laugh out of the joke because we see a lot of misconceptions here -even among native Americans.

    I can't answer for Cali but in the Southern US we are taught strict social customs including being nice - and in most cases overtly so. It's ingrained in our training from birth. I don't know where the customs originated from but I know they still exist and are going strong. We're taught to use these same social customs regardless of the other persons race, religion, affiliation, etc. We're even taught to use them with people we really don't like. I think they are typical across most of the US.

    Favoring one skin tone/color over another is disgusting. You're absolutely right. It's one thing to be attracted naturally to a specific skin tone but it's another to be taught that certain skin tones are less desirable. It's systematic brainwashing through media and other outlets. I also don't like the skin lightening creams (or tanning creams here in the US). I don't believe in introducing chemicals into your body for no good reason and I personally believe people should learn to celebrate what they have and who they are naturally.

    I did notice Indians are racists and yes, there are much bigger issues they need to deal with. It will get better as the world continues to evolve. As India emerges and advances as a country, it will be pushed upon them whether they are willing to accept it or not. This is how it happened in the US. We're still working on it obviously but things have gotten progressively better in the last 30 years.

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  8. Hong Kong reverted to China in 1997. So the history of colonialism survived much longer there than it did in India, even. And I am sure the tension must exist there too between distrust of the foreign power ruling the people and the exaltation of that same power. You have seen how this cognitive dissonance plays out in India; I would be unsurprised if it were the same way in Hong Kong.

    One thing I do know is that a lot of people there did NOT want Hong Kong to revert to China, and a lot of immigrants came to the US west coast while the talks were going on because of it. I am not sure of really anything past that.

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