OK to confess your fear of someone different?

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  • #10516

    Stephanie-V
    Participant

    When I was younger, I worked with a white woman who’d moved to the city from a very small Newfoundland community. She’d only ever seen one non-white person while growing up, and she was very intimidated by working with our East Indian co-worker at first, simply because she did not know what to expect from a non-white person.

    Eventually the Newfie girl became comfortable with the other girl and confessed that she’d felt weird working with her originally. My question is: If you were the East Indian, would you be offended by this confession? Or would you be glad the other person had gotten over her fears? There was no nastiness or prejudice involved – just a total lack of a reference point for the white girl.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Stephanie-V, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 23, City : n/a, State : NA Country : Canada, Occupation : Website Developer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #42510

    ACC25127
    Participant

    I constantly got people telling me, ‘You’re the first Indian (meaning American Indian) I ever saw except at the movies’ when I was in parts of the country where there were fewer native people, like the Midwest or Northeast. Usually I’d answer back that they probably had met natives before, but they probably mistook them for Latino. That would help them see to not go by the media images of us and also to not be worried about asking curious questions. Sometimes I’d kid them about that, too: ‘Gee, so are you what white people are really like, too?’

    I was never offended by such comments like your coworker’s. Usually I was able to tell that they were feeling at a loss for how to respond to me, anyway. When I run into people who have never met someone of my background, I am usually wary, hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. And I’ve had to learn how to deal with both outcomes. Admitting your lack of prior contact before can help relax us both. Just be prepared to get kidded about it, though.

    User Detail :  

    Name : ACC25127, Gender : M, Race : Mexican and American Indian, City : Phoenix, State : AZ Country : United States, 
    #36305

    Jennifer
    Member

    I praise ACC’s magnanimous response. I wish I felt similarly. In my mind I know that his response is the most constructive, but as a black person who has frequently been confronted with white people who don’t have much experience, if any, with people of my ethnicity, I have a hard time carrying the logic through to my emotional response. I understand that everyone is curious and wary about concepts that are new to them, and that everyone has prejudices. However, when *I* am in the same position as the ‘Newfie’ woman, I work hard to be very careful of how I bring my curiousity and wariness to the attention of the object. I expect the same from anyone for whom meeting me is a new experience. It’s fine, in my opinion, to ask questions about someone’s culture or experiences, but I resent being put in the position to defend my differentness, to reassure someone that i’m ‘okay’. I prefer not to hear what the uninformed suspect about people who look like me, or how strange it is to be around me. I prefer that they grapple with all of that in silence, or outside of my presence, do some research on my general culture on their own, use experience of me as an individual to form opinions about me as an individual and *not* as a representative of a monolith, and *then* ask intelligent, well-thought out questions.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Jennifer, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Christian, Age : 31, City : St. Paul, State : MN Country : United States, Occupation : Non-Profit, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #30057

    H
    Participant

    I am not East Indian; I am white European, but I am queer and transgendered. I agree with the first response. I would always prefer someone to be open about their fears, prejudices or whatever, even if they felt they might be offensive. As long as someone isn’t threatening, I will always be happy to speak about my world and theirs, and the differences between us. That’s why Y? Forum is so great, after all. I always appreciate that it must take guts and a deep breath to ask ‘awkward’ questions, so I’d try to be as gentle as possible at first, until hopefully we could both laugh about it later and produce a friendship that might otherwise never have been. I also think it’s always important to not take yourself too seriously. Laughter is the essence of life, after all.

    User Detail :  

    Name : H, Age : 24, City : London, State : NA Country : United Kingdom, 
    #15494

    Beth
    Member

    It takes a lot of courage to let someone know what’s in your heart. A woman taught me that about eight years ago. We were living in a small town in Georgia and my biracial daughter was about two years old. We were in a park and an older white woman sat with me (she had brought her grandson with her). After making small talk about the weather for a few minutes and pointing out our children, she asked me ‘Is her daddy a colored man?’ I thought ‘Here we go.’ I told her that my husband was black. I said that ‘colored’ was not really used anymore as it had negative connotations to it. She then opened up to me and said she had been raised in the country in the 1940’s to believe that all blacks were bad and she shouldn’t try to get to know them. She said when she got married and had children, she and her husband decided to teach their children that everyone was equal and to care for everyone no matter what color their skin. She said she still didn’t believe that whites and blacks should marry each other; ‘it just ain’t right.’ This woman could have called me names, made a scene or even hurt me or my daughter. Instead, we had a conversation for almost an hour and she thanked me at the end for helping her change her way of thinking. I made a difference in that woman’s life and all it took was listening to what she had to say.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Beth, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 34, City : Jacksonville, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : Freelance writer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #18467

    Kerry
    Member

    I would agree with the other 2 respondants, that I’d be glad your co-worker had gotten over her fears and lack of knowledge. I’m a bisexual woman involved in an open marriage. This doesn’t show on the outside, I have to trust someone enough to tell them, but nonetheless, my situation is not commonly encountered.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kerry, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Lesbian, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Wiccan, Age : 32, City : Ventura, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Stagehand, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #25489

    Tanith
    Member

    I’m bisexual and in the process of coming out, and I’m sure that sometime someone will say ‘Wow, I thought bisexuals were freaks before I met you, but now I know better!’ That wouldn’t offend me. I’d take a remark like that any day over outright rejection. It’s also kind of uplifting to hear things like that because it shows that people can overcome prejudice.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Tanith, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Bisexual, Disability : Autistic, Race : Irish-American, Religion : Pagan, Age : 20, City : Minneapolis, State : MN Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Middle class, 
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