Monday, July 30, 2007

Racism is a twisted thing

Well, it's not really a thing, rather a process. Anyway, it is twisted nonetheless. For some reason, people feel comfortable sharing their racism with me and expect that I'd share their views. Here are some random strings of racism which I have encoutered lately:

  • - I won't go to any Chinese doctors, cause they do not know anything and I do not understand what they are saying anyway
  • - Indians are so racist!
  • - Oh, those Pakistani used to sleep with their dirty dishes in the bed, didn't even took their clothes or shoes off.
  • - This is what happens when they (Native people in Canada) receive everything from the government. They do not have to work and all they do is get lazy and drink the money that the government gives them.
End of sample. What do these examples have in common? First, they all identify people first by their ethnic/ racial origin, and not by what defines them as persons. Second, they assume that just because you are thus placed into a race/ nationality, your traits/ skills/ behavior are now known. Third, they assume a distinction, a separation between me, the speaker, and them/ you, the other characterized by negative traits. This is the way in which difference is understood today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Difference is in the taste buds

The material borders of our tolerance to difference come through our taste buds. Merleau Ponty wrote:

In so far as I have hands, feet, a body, I sustain around me intentions which are not dependent upon my decisions and which affect my surroundings in a way which I do not choose. (1962: 440)

My way of reading this paragraph is: my perceptions, my inner states, the acuity of my senses, all are intrisically connected to my upbringing in and experience of this world. This is not very far away from what Foucalt (I think) meant by saying that power shapes us on a biological level, by shaping our needs and desires.

Coming back to difference and taste buds: my taste buds tell me what is 'good' food and what is not. My taste buds hate hot food; my taste buds cannot feel the flavor of curry. Closely working with my tastebuds, my sense of smell labels certain spices or smells as 'yakky'. Eating in certain ethnic restaurants or certain ethnic foods doesn't work for me.

And this is where my taste buds set the border of my tolerance to difference: I might know that living in another part of the world would have resulted in me liking to eat different things. But this rationalization doesn't help when I feel disgusted by certain smells or tastes.

On the other hand, my nose hates the smell of wine (alchool) and my taste buds hate the taste, which has nothing to do with culture, ethnicity or my close social millieu, since my parents and my friends always drank wine. There's no 'ethnic' element here. So why in some cases we label other people's food as 'ethnic' and as such a matter of good/ bad food, and in other cases it's simply a matter of acuity of senses?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I read an article in the newspaper about the elections in Turkey, where two voices were featured: a young, Westernized girl, who said that religion shouldn't dictate who she could be; and a young man saying he felt sorry for any woman who shows her skin cause she will go straight to hell.

There are differences which I can take, and differences which I cannot take. I can respect other people's religious choices, but the truth is I do it only out of an attempt to be politically correct. In all honesty, I think I have a hard time accepting religious people altogether, irrespective of their religion. Which is not to say that I cannot accept people's beliefs, but rather that religiosity scares me, simply because it involves an element of submission to a collective norm established according to exogenous rules, values and norms. How to deal with difference?
Add to Technorati Favorites