Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are we there yet?



Some things bother me. Things that make it impossible for me to be silent. I should bite my tongue... but then, I would dishonour the memory of my grandfather, my Papou.

You see, both of my paternal grandparents were immigrants.

My grandmother Mary came to Canada (via New York) from Northern Ireland for the chance at a new and better life... and from her I get determination and fire.

My Papou also followed the same route starting off in Greece. When he arrived in Canada, he joined the Greek community in Montreal. Shortly after arriving, he was told (by many people in that community) it would make things easier for him if he changed his name to an "anglo" name, Greeks (and many other ethnic groups) weren't seen in a positive light. He was determined to be a success in his new country. In an effort to lessen the discrimination and "fit in", he changed his name. I was kneehigh to a grasshoper when he passed away and never got a chance to ask him how he felt about that. Yet with all this, he was still proud of his adoptive country and I am certain that, while my grandmother was beside herself with worry as her baby boys signed up with the military (Dad with the Army and Uncle John in the Airforce) during WWII, my grandfather's chest swelled with pride.

I was asked recently if I believed that there was no discrimination in Canada... Ha! Instead of unleashing the "fire", I stayed on topic and continued to express my views on the discrimination faced by seemingly the current target of choice, Muslims.


This question came during a discussion about a case that was settled in the States recently. The case of Raed Sarrar, a man who was harassed and treated like a terrorist by the folks at Jetblue and two officials of the TSA. He had been found not to be a threat after two levels of security inspection. He was discriminated against because he wore a t-shirt with Arabic script. People had complained (as their right to free speech allows), they felt uncomfortable.

I was disturbed that what seemed to preoccupy people the most was that a victim of discrimination was given a settlement for 240 000$, but the fact that the airline and the TSA never admitted they had acted improperly wasn't of concern. I was outraged that blame for this mistreatment was put upon the shoulders of the victim because he wore a t-shirt with Arabic script in an airport. I saw many people comment that he should have known better, that he was "looking for trouble" and failed to use common sense. Which made me wonder... where is the line supposed to be? What is this common sense? Because I would like to think that I am not totally lacking in this area and yet I don't see how he seemed to have had a "common sense brain fart". What is acceptable? Who decides this? Could someone post the rules? Wanting to restrict items based on the level of threat they can pose is one thing, but a t-shirt? Because it makes people (racists) uncomfortable?

Step on my freedoms for that?

I think not.

*sigh*

Mr. King, we still have many miles to go before we can rest... but we've made progress. (Folks, I really hope you watch this video.)




34 comments:

Brian o vretanos said...

I find it very difficult to understand what makes people behave like the shopkeeper in that video.

The answer to the airline thing is to encourage people to wear T-shirts with squiggles on them...

Jeff B said...

This video clearly shows we have miles and miles to go to find equality in America. While some may argue that great strides have been made in our countries short history, I would say we have only just begun.

As a white male, I'm pretty much free to go just about anywhere in this country without fear of discrimination. It flabbergasts me to think that simply changing my skin color, accent or manner of dress would dramatically change all of that.

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

The other day a black fellow was trying to get his car out of the parking lot but he was badly stuck in snow and ice. I helped push while he steered and hit the gas. He made it out. He jumped out to thank me and introduce himself. He told me that in his town (he was visiting from Atlanta)no white man would ever help a black man with car trouble. He's just a person who needed a little help, people can't do that???

TopChamp said...

I'm glad I watched right through!

A friend of mine has just been to Oman - and found himself for the first time in his life in a minority. A white guy in a Middle Eastern/Arabic country. He said it was a bit strange but he loved it there.

Anndi said...

Brian, I don't know. I've tried to understand it. I've tried to put myself in their shoes. But I can't. I would like to make it clear that the shopkeeper was an actor and it was a social experiment.

I'm a woman, and if I looked at crimes perpetrated against my kind I'd lump all men in the same category. I think maybe it's fear of the unknown of differences.

In this case, people have lumped all muslims with those that are terrorists.

Jeff, I was searching for something to make me feel better about some of the racism I'd witnessed. I was trying to understand how this kind of prejudice develops when I found this video. And while I was flabbergasted at the first patrons and their flagrant racism I was comforted by the people who stood up for a stranger on principle, out of sheer human decency and spoke up.

And I hate it when people who stand up for others are ridiculed.

Anndi said...

Gary, good for you my friend.

Topchamp, maybe everyone should be put in that kind of situation... We might be far more understanding of each other.

DeeMarie said...

I have to say I was truly offended with some of those customers. I also was impressed with those who stood up to the cashier and especially the girls who tried to take it up another level. Thanks for sharing this. I pray we can become a country that actually cares each other as Americans.

CK Lunchbox said...

as I was taught very early in my Army career "we all wear green and bleed red. Troops, those are the only two colors you need to worry about."

Maybe not quite the same, but the point being we should to recognize the common thread of our humanity that connects us regardless of race and religion while at the same time celebrating our differences that make us unique.

Captain Dumbass said...

We, on both sides of the border, have a long way to go. I'm heartened though every time I go to my son's pre-school and see the almost half, my son included, are of mixed race. My neighbours across the street are Philipino and Indian, and what a beautiful baby that made.

We'll probably never entirely get rid of racism, but I think we can get close. It just takes time.

Dianne said...

I saw this video on Oprah's show. My blood boiled then as it does again now

as for the t-shirt debacle - you already know how I feel about that ;)

good on you

Anndi said...

DeeMarie, this is a problem of varying degrees and directed towards different people all over. People in every nation are facing issues of prejudice but we have to keep at it. I just would like us to realize we are all on the same planet, borders are arbitrary... humanity isn't.

CK, that's an important lesson. I think it nails it on the head. We are all humans. Sadly, there are monsters of all colour, race, religion... but we can't use this as an excuse to vilify an entire nation, culture, race.

Cap'n, I'm a mutt, and proud of it. I remember when my daughter was in daycare as a toddler. They wanted to expose the children to different cultures so they celebrated things like Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo and other holidays. The kids tried different foods, made arts and crafts, learned... we have to teach them when they're young. Live and let live.

Dianne, I'm going to have to start watching Oprah again?
I do and you rock.

Irish Gumbo said...

Idiocy is a transnational phenomenon, a radiation cloud that no border can stop. Did it not occur to the people that complained that someone truly bent on destruction would not advertise themselves? How do they think the 9/11 terrorists got on the planes?

I wonder what those same numbskulls would say if a white dude wearing a "F**k tha President!" t-shirt had been there.

One of the drawbacks to having so many freedoms is that it leaves people free to be complete asshats.

I'll am almost positive they had no idea what that shirt even said.

Oy, people make you mean...

Charles Gramlich said...

It's just evil behavior. To treat people like that based on nothing more than dress.

Charles Gramlich said...

It was very refreshing to see the folks defend the woman and express their own outrage.

Anndi said...

IG, it's eerie how we think alike.
I'm amazed at such asshattery, how it gets rationalized. We are kept in a state of constant fear with high threat alerts, and shows that have some guy chasing terrorists everywhere, and news coverage that many people forget we have troops fighting and dying so the basic tenets of our societies (freedom and equality) are kept intact. *sigh*

Charles, evil is the perfect word. My heart soared when I saw a soldier's father stand up for what's right, and young women speaking up...

Jay said...

What really kind of amazed me, in the discussion about the dude and his t-shirt, was all the people who usually rant and rail against political correctness were suddenly demanding some kind of political correctness and "sensitivity" from this guy. Weird huh?

And yes, I'm tired of people being more outraged at the lawsuits than the bigotry. It's getting old.

Anndi said...

Jay, amen brother... amen!

buffalodick said...

There is a derogatory name for every race, color, or creed, and every wave of immigrants to America took their turn at the bottom of the food chain- like my "Dike_jumpin' Holllander" ansestors did. Acceptance isn't legislated, it's earned- and not over night either. It's not simple, and I hate no one- but trying to get along is a good start..

Irish Gumbo said...

@buffalodick: They jump over lesbians in Holland? How curious...

bada bing!

(sorry, cheap shot, boo all you want..it's close to lunch time and my blood sugar is low, I need to eat..;)

buffalodick said...

Irish? They took their turn in the barrel, just like the Dutch, Germans, Polish, Italians, Jews, etc... You know what I'm sayin'? No country in the world has opened it's doors more widely than the USA, and has a more diverse mix of cultures, creeds, and races. It is what made America the country it is today. We aren't perfect, but name me one country that is!

rachael said...

This video was so frustrating, and enlightening, and at moments, touching I was in tears.

I would have asked for the manager too, I am scrappy that way.

Akelamalu said...

Discrimination and Bigotry are terrible human traits. :(

Cooper said...

The struggle continues...

Travis said...

I just don't understand the mentality that considers bigotry and discrimination to be Patriotic virtues.

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

Yes, it's this kind of asshatery that makes me think twice about wearing my kafia.

Meribah said...

That was a very moving video. It shows how prejudiced/indifferent people can be, but it also shows how kind/compassionate they can be as well. There IS hope for the world. You just have to have faith. :)

Barbara said...

Shame,shame,shame :(

It was good when the customers stood up for the woman and for what was right.Although for myself, the indifference of most people is the scariest thing in there.
Gotta love that hug in the end...

Peace to all, and to you also, Anndi .

Bond said...

That is some incredible video...

I am rethinking some of my comments...

Hear and win new music on Monday's on The Couch

Starrlight said...

What is sad is the 22 who did nothing. They outnumber those who have an opinion. What was that story, when they came for me there was no one left to stand up for me?

While I am moved that we are swearing in a Black President I think we are kidding ourselves if we Americans really think that this country is not deeply divided. And with the economic issues spinning out of control it is only going to get worse. Poverty has ALWAYS bred the worst type of prejudice.

coco said...

I'll have to come back when I can watch the video, but I support the sentiment expressed here. Tolerance and equality are two of the things I teach in my classroom, but sometimes it feels like I'm trying to stem a flood with a teaspoon. Everyone has to step up and speak out.

*hug*

Dr.John said...

Yes there are idiots. The wonder that shows things are changing is the large number of people who stood up for her. They were willing to inconvenience themselves to stand with her.
It was not always so.

coco said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog honey. I'm glad you liked it.

Dianne said...

you are one of the people I thought a lot about yesterday ...

Cat said...

I have to watch that video from home (with speakers). Thanks for sharing this story, I hadn't even heard it before.