Stereotypes. Have Enough Class To Not Say Anything
I wrote about stereotypes already, but the longer I live here, the more I see that not much is changing in this matter. Living in NY will help you learn more about other cultures, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll become magically free of stereotypes overnight. I’ve learned that even living here for your whole life might not help you (usually it might even make things worse, especially when you don’t travel that much).
What is a stereotype anyway? According to Wikipedia, it’s an oversimplified image or idea of a particular person or concept. In NY, that definition should also include: “of a particular culture”. Since people of all cultures live here, we have opinions about every nation or culture – based on what we see most often around us. This is how we build stereotypes – we see that two or three people from, let’s say, Poland, do something particular – and we create this image in our head that “this is what Poles do”. And I do get it, there is a grain of truth in every stereotype – they don’t come out of nowhere. I can’t be angry hearing that “Polish women usually clean houses in US”, because the majority really does. Does it make it the truth about all Polish women…? No, it does not. But as I said – I do understand where it comes from.
I heard of one situation that happened recently to a girl I know. She is Spanish, raised in NY. She was asked by an older rich white American guy at her job (in a fancy neighborhood where mostly white Americans live) where does she live and before she answered the guy said: Queens? And she got really upset. He thought that because she’s Spanish she “must live in Queens”, where most Spanish people live. His process of thinking was stupid, of course, because Spanish people live in every neighborhood. And she happened to live just around the corner, not even two blocks away from him. He would have learned that, had he waited for the answer. They had a big argument and she asked him if he dared to ask the same question to a white American woman or to a black guy (I know the answer – he would not). After that, he stopped coming to her work.
I used to get angry when people asked me if I lived in Greenpoint, just because I’m Polish. But hey, now I really do live in Greenpoint, so they would be actually right. I used to get angry when people were asking me if I was Russian. Now, I don’t care. And I wouldn’t also get as offended as that girl did. Not because she wasn’t right – damn sure she was – but because it’s not my problem that someone is narrow-minded. Because the question like that – that underlaying assumption – doesn’t mean anything else than that: a person making it is narrow-minded. It also means that they don’t have any class.
When I moved here, I asked people: “Where are you from?”. Now I ask: “Were you born in NY?”. Just because someone has a different skin color, or a different accent, doesn’t mean they are from outside NY or US. That also doesn’t determine their job, values or their goals. I’m not an angel and I have my opinion on some nations too, just because I encountered many situations with them, but I have enough class, and common sense, to not to say things like that or think that EVERYONE is like that. And most importantly – before I speak up, I think twice. I’m very careful with my words now – offending someone is one thing, but I just don’t want to be one of these people who say stupid statements like that. If you don’t know, just ask. And if you don’t want to ask, at least remain silent. Don’t assume that you know, because most of the time you don’t know shit about the other person’s life and goals (more about judging soon). Step one level higher than others and ask questions instead of making assumptions: I assure you that the answers will really surprise you. Don’t stereotype people, because it only shows how much knowledge you are still lacking. Not to even mention the class you clearly don’t yet acquired.
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