Are We That Different?

Among all the media noise about migration movements happening in and outside Europe, I always keep asking myself one basic question: how come are people so sure of themselves when they judge other cultures? Every time someone says we are completely different than some other culture, I raise my eyebrows (my forehead is all wrinkled from it these days) and ask: Really? Are we that different? How do you know that?

Once Syrians started fleeing their country, I could immediately hear voices: “They can’t live with us, they’re different!”, to which I ask: “How many Syrians have you spoken to and how recently?”. I am not saying we are bound to agree on everything, I am sure there are some aspects of our respective cultures that we won’t reconcile, but are we really so radically different so that we cannot live alongside each other? Oh, and by the way, you do realize that Muslims differ depending on the country they are from, right?

One doesn’t even look at Islam for examples. I love it when people form full opinions of other cultures based on what they heard in the media. Those biases harm mainly black people. Not only are they treated as a uniform group (which is ridiculous in itself, since we could as well treat whites as one uniform group), but many of us have an opinion of black folks from the Bronx or from Nigeria, even though we haven’t seen them in our lives (the former simply must be dreaming of shooting everyone in sight, the latter must be eating raw beef for breakfast).

What gives you the right to form such opinions, I ask? Let me ask you a strange question: have you ever touched a black person’s hair? Do you know its structure, would you be able to move a comb through it? No? If you’re ignorant about such a tiny thing, maybe you are also wrong about the big issues you are so willingly opining on?

I am certain that when first Polish people arrived in the States, very few Americans thought: “Great, we’re gonna get along with those folks, our cultures are so much alike!”… No, Americans did not think that! And no, those cultures are not that alike.

The more people of different cultures I meet here, the more I realize that besides the obvious cultural differences like cuisine, religion, the way one grows up, we are really not that different from one another. We all check our Facebook, we all await likes from the guys we find hot, we all want to work and rent a nice place, we all want to look good and feel accepted. We all want to be respected, too – no matter what is the country of our origin.

Sure, extremists do exist (just for the record: you know that ISIS represents only a fraction of Muslims, right?), but no culture is free of its freaks (see new Polish government for examples). Before you will make your judgment of a French person, or a Kenyan, or a Korean, or any other nation, first talk to them and ask them questions you think you know answers too. I guarantee you a culture shock. And you will be to blame for it.