A sensitive matter

One of the hottest news in last few days is a case that is considered to be a hate crime by many people; an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a “Hispanic” neighbourhood watch leader, and he was found not guilty.¬†According to an internet article, Obama: ‘Trayvon Martin could have been me’,¬†U.S. President Barack Obama told something touching in his personal remarks. He also mentioned,

There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me.
There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator.

I have experienced something like this in three countries: Tonga, Spain, and Canada. In Tonga, I was harassed and abused daily in some ways. Literally, daily. Many of them threw stones at me. In Barcelona, Spain, if I went to a store, guards always stared at me while they even did not watch Spanish and Caucasian customers, and cashiers always used a fake bill detector to accept my 10-Euro bill while they did not use it to accept even 50-Euro bills from Spanish and Caucasians. If I went to a museum, a staff member always quietly followed me a few meters behind. In Hamilton, Canada, non-Asian cashiers in many stores, whether they are white or coloured, obviously changed their attitude toward me and toward Caucasians. If I said “how are you?”, most of them ignored. If I walked in town or sat down on a bench in a park, some people stared at me.

What is even worse than discrimination itself is that some people do not understand discrimination; they say those who are discriminated against are to be blamed because they did something bad. I know it because some people have blamed me for being discriminated against (and I hated them). Any discrimination is irrational, but they don’t know it.

What helps those who are discriminated against is to be understood by someone. When I was looking for a job after graduating from University of Calgary, some people suggested me looking for a job in Europe. I always said “I don’t like that option because Europeans are generally less generous to foreigners than Canadians are”. (It was after living in Barcelona and before living in Hamilton) All of my Caucasian classmates said, “come on, don’t worry about that”. Only an African student said “I know it. It’s a common problem between us.”

Probably President Obama knows this feeling. I admire him, and appreciate his remarks.

July 21, 2013Permalink