Stafford's Notes On Life

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Fear In Disguise

Stafford

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Ever since that Tower of Babel inci­dent way back in his­tory, we of the human race have been engaged in diverse forms of racial, religious and socio-economic one-upmanship. Some sub­tle, some overt.

The peren­nial ques­tion: why is race is such a light­n­ing rod? In the USA, it has been debated ad-infinitum and unfor­tu­nately may not be answered for yet another gen­er­a­tion. One would expect more mature, rea­soned think­ing and accep­tance of this unavoid­able and patently obvi­ous fact; we are all inter­wo­ven with DNA strands that dis­tin­guish (all of) us as being from the same human race. Apparently some individuals beg to differ.

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One notable case in point. Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in 2014. Her plan was to follow her family tradition in medicine and become a cardiologist. She also happens to be of East Indian descent. Interestingly there are those who have chosen to denigrate her based on culture, but somehow adroitly miss the substantive fact that she is highly intelligent and was born in the USA. One online writer (The Thinking Housewife) even stated that because of Ms. Davulri’s appreciation and promotion of diversity in the pageant, that must mean “…she is proud that she is not a white American.”

In a word….."Wow!"

In North Amer­ica, certain "official" elements of authority, admit to profiling whole people groups, mainly because they “look the part”. All this in an inane attempt at fostering public security. This unfor­tu­nate response has been adopted by hate-filled, ide­o­log­i­cally stunted indi­vid­u­als; arguably, those with less officious mindsets. They cat­e­go­rize peo­ple out of fear, and by doing so, cul­tur­ally cas­ti­gate them out of igno­rance. This not only diminishes a person's humanity; it strips us all of human dignity.

Here in Canada, racial issues are no less real and can appear to be less in-your-face; at least in con­trast to our neigh­bours south of the 49th par­al­lel. Yes, I am aware many in Canada have been, and con­tinue to be, on the receiv­ing end of overt expres­sions of racism. While that may be an uncomfortable truth to digest, at ­times I wonder if sub­tler forms of racial intol­er­ance are more insid­i­ous than those that usually motivate a person to go eye­ball to eye­ball with iden­ti­fi­able, intractable narrow-mindedness.

February has been set aside as Black History month. Ostensibly to celebrate and honour the achievements of those past and present who have an African ancestral line. While I applaud the intent of the accorded honour, there are those who wonder if it really accomplishes what it sets out to do. Some argue that it is just a method to assuage any latent colonial guilt of the majority who oversaw unfortunate things like the early African Slave Trade, or legal segregation, (schools, public transport etc). There will always be those who look with disdain, suspicion, or outright hostility on certain indigenous, cultural, or religious groups, without having one lick of understanding about who they are, or what their life is like.

This year will mark my 37th year in Canada after emigrating from Jamaica in the West Indies. I left a country where I was in the majority. Arriving in Canada, I attained minority status. I was still the same 16 year old who left Jamaica, wide-eyed and fascinated; eager to embrace a new culture, but a 3.5 hour flight adjusted my geolocation sufficiently to render me "different" in the eyes of some. Thankfully I had parents who had grounded me in the realities of life. I was taught that not everyone would accept, or in some cases even acknowledge me. Solely based on the fact that I did not have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to travel to destinations to acquire a tan, which would eventually fade 2 weeks after returning. But if truth be told, I have had way more good than bad happen while living in Canada.

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While I am grateful for the country of my birth, proud and not ashamed of my heritage, Canada, of which I am a citizen, is my home. My French Cana­dian wife and I have taught our (now adult) chil­dren that char­ac­ter traits such as integrity, com­pas­sion, for­give­ness, courage, among oth­ers, go a long way in defin­ing who they are. Exter­nal dif­fer­ences such as skin colour, hair type; the shape of your nose or lips, among other read­ily rec­og­nized phys­i­cal fea­tures that dif­fer­en­ti­ate the global pop­u­lace, also affirms and pro­motes what I like to refer to as the “unique cohe­sive­ness of diversity”.

I pray that February is not a once-a-year crutch for some to appease guilt; or others to foster guilt, by always throwing the racial horrors of the past into our faces. While I will always advocate the need to remember history, let us seriously try to learn from it; by not staying in the past, but embracing the future with all people groups, so that our next gen­er­a­tion will take up the man­tle of inclu­sive­ness and accep­tance with more under­stand­ing and aware­ness than their predecessors.

Arabian & Jewish Children - Image sourced from zazzle.com.

Images of Nina Davuluri sourced from her Twitter Page & PageantProfessors.com

Family image - mine


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I won't pretend I have experienced racism to the extreme degree that some have nor do I feel I am denied opportunities due to it as sadly many do BUT I would like to throw it out there that everyone will be racially profiled at a point in their life.
This is something we should all strive to eradicate but even being a enthusiastic optimist I know in my heart we will likely never get to as a society.
So, the best strategy is to not let "the man" get you down.
 
Keep pushing forward, believe in yourself and embrace differences in others....perhaps by being willing to do so yourself, it may just encourage or empower others to stop being afraid of differences and to stop blaming the way someone  looks.sounds, lives for why they feel 'less'.
Afterall, judgement and hate have little to do with the person it is directed at as much as it is a manifestation of a persons fears and insecurity.
 
The opposite of love is indifference, not hate. Hate stems from a deep seated unhappiness in ones self.
 
Perspective.
 
A little while ago I was listening to a co-worker from NIgeria mention he told his kids to be careful of their actions when out with friends, to make wise choices as they would racially be the one to blame in a group of "white kids" if a crime was committed.
At first I was taken aback, but with a little thought I understood that in reality, right or wrong, this was true. THis was just a Dad wanting to protect his kids.
 
I did mention that although that was true we were not the only race that draws racially inaccurate conclusions.
 
"Tell me" I said with a lazy smile "If I walked into a party at your house, are you telling me I wouldn't be judged?"
He smiled back and nodded in confirmation.
 
While we have come great strides, we all still have a long way to go.
 
Good news is there are lots of people who want this :)

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Guest FISHMAN

Posted

Hey Stafford!

 

I guess people sometimes have the following thought -

Just because you are born in a country... doesnt make you of that country.

 

I will explain -  For example - If I get married and my wife is due to give birth and we hop on a plane to lets say India.

My baby then is born in India.

Does that make my baby Indian?

 

I think the harsh reality of society is that you are not classified as American or Canadian unless you act American or Canadian.

Regarding Miss America's East Indian descent...  I see a picture of her dressed is East Indian clothing and Im thinking she may have danced an East Indian dance at the Miss America Pageant.

 

Just as it would piss off the East Indians if we did a Canadian or American dance in a Miss East India Contest - It pisses off the Americans when Someone does an East Indian dance in a Miss America contest.

 

Canada day is about Canada.

Independance day is about the USA.

Fathers day is about fathers.

Mothers day is about mothers.

The miss America contest is about miss America.

 

When you mix something in there that does not fit that topic then according to society - It does not belong.

 

Blame the education system... For as children we were taught shapes and colours and asked which was the odd shape or the colour that doesnt match.

 

Although each individual has a choice as an adult... going against the grain of society pits you against society.

 

A personal example I have for you Stafford is this -  I grew up in Delhi Ontario which is in the Tobacco belt of Ontario.  Every year we have many "off shore" workers come to Delhi to work in Tobacco.

Many of which are from Jamaica where you immigrated from.

I have personally seen some Jamaican men make rude and vulgar comments towards the women in Delhi.... such as bamba clot etc.

Does that make every Jamaican bad?

Absolutely not.

However... society judges based on the negative that it sees... therefore society would say that Jamaican men are rude etc.

 

How does that reflect on the polite Jamaican men such as yourself Stafford? Well... It gives you a bad reputation when you didnt do anything to deserve it.

 

I think one thing that could change this is possible those men realizing that they are guests here to work... and it is a different culture than in Jamaica. Then the rude comments wouldnt be said and they wouldnt get that stereotype.

 

Another thing that could change this is if we as a society didnt assume all Jamaicans are rude just by the behavior of a few... And if we took the time to speak to them we would find that there are very respectable Jamaican immigrants...  Such as yourself Stafford.

 

Alot of times society assumes a person is guilty of a crime if they have been arrested... yet we see in the news about wrongful arrests and corrupt police framing people. We also see people being realeased from prison after being wrongfully convicted! And its becoming more frequent that you see this!

Society is dumb Stafford.

We only live about a hundred years - try to make the best of it.

 

Eric Daigle (FISHMAN)

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Stafford

Posted

Thanks Eric. Some intriguing points.

 

Yes, it just takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. Culturally, I too have also been painted with the broad strokes of misconception because of the unacceptable behaviour of a few.

 

Speaking to how society views an individual from a cultural standpoint, looking at your examples of the expectations of those celebrating America's Independence Day or Canada Day, I sometimes wonder why the celebrations do not showcase what came before their respective Independence/Confederation inaugurations. There were indigenous people living for generations on the continent before being "discovered". This is not to take away from America's or Canada's substance as thriving, modern First World countries. But I feel it is incumbent on our current (and pending future) generation(s) to remember the historical and cultural foundations that have brought about any greatness we now enjoy. 

 

The diversity of culture was in evidence at the inception of Canada and the US;  and while history recorded those times as not the proudest of moments at the birth of each of those nations, (ie. how the initial inhabitants were treated), I would hope that in this day and age at least some lessons would have been learned and acted upon from the past.

 

But as you so eloquently pointed out; society can be dumb. May our children not carry our DNA of ignorance and intolerance any further. 

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Stafford

Posted

Perspective.

 

While we have come great strides, we all still have a long way to go.

 

Good news is there are lots of people who want this :)

 

I totally agree Trixie, and you are bang on about perspective. Back in the late 70’s I, along with my family were visiting Holland, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. To a 14 year old (me) and my younger brother (9), seeing all of the Swedish blond-haired blued eyed kids our age prompted us to want to get to know them. Not because of their physical features, but because they were kids like us. (Well...truthfully, I was somewhat enamoured by the Swedish girls) :)

 

From the perspective of a young teenager who was brought up without colour distinction (one of my great-grandmothers was Scottish and blonde), watching how adults treated our family on that trip affected me deeply. 

 

One night on a cruise ship crossing a lake in Sweden, our family sat with people who were on a tour with us. At the dining table, everyone around us were served food, We were never served. Never before and never since, have I heard my father raise his voice. The ship's captain rightfully came and apologized. At 14 I could not reconcile why that would have happened. Some years later I found out my parents had purposely brought their children to Europe to actually prepare us for similar eventualities (unbeknownst to me then) before moving to Canada. They needed their children to learn how to handle the unpleasantness of narrow mindedness and intolerance.

 

I am an adult now and the lessons continue; but much progress has thankfully been made.

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