let’s talk about prejudice

i think i can say that i don’t easily get offended by comments from other people that has to do with how i look (= Asian, among Caucasians). since i’m not yet familiar with the Finnish slang words, i doubt i would even understand it if anyone were to offend me with any racist words. 😀 it’s useful to be deaf sometimes.

but i must admit that there are times when the “hidden” meanings annoy me even more than plain racist comments. and here are some that i’ve encountered more than once, and not just towards me here in Finland, but also towards my husband in Indonesia (again, as a reminder, prejudice/racism/discrimination does not only happen in the western world; it happens everywhere).

–“you must like working here!” said some stranger to me while i was at work. at first i didn’t think much of it, and just said something like, “sure, it’s a nice place to work at.” but then she went on to say how it’s great that “somebody like me” can have a job, because she was sure that i would not have the same opportunity in my home country. this was said before she even asked where i came from, and we were talking in the same language. i wondered then if my Finnish was just so bad that i immediately seem ‘foreign’ to her, but then i quickly remembered that i talk the same way to other strangers and they never react the same way as this person. so, i figured, the problem was not with my Finnish, it’s with this particular stranger i was talking with.

and then, as usual, the conversation would went on to this other person asking me if i live here with my family, which would usually mean my parents, my siblings, etc. to which of course i said, no. first of all, it’s really none of anyone’s business who i live with. second of all, upon seeing someone with different skin colour and different eye shapes, of course she would automatically think that i came here with my whole family for a better living. bring the whole neighbourhood to this rich country, steal the native people’s workplace & live happily ever after!

because–and this is an even worse thought–if i had married a Finn, i can’t possibly be working, right? i must be just a stay-at-home mum or shopping-all-the-time wife. the fact that i “like working here” when i wouldn’t otherwise have a job in my home country surely indicates that my whole Asian family is here and i have to work hard to make money for them.

this is just one example, though, and it incidentally happened here in Finland. but rest assured that i’ve seen and heard it many times as well in Indonesia, the ‘locals’ or ‘natives’ being defensive towards ‘foreigners’, thinking that they only want to steal their jobs, steal their land (still traumatized by colonial times, maybe?), etc. and in both countries, people can make these thoughts or beliefs hidden in seemingly polite words.

–a stranger starts talking to you in the assumed ‘native’ language. some (Caucasian) people have tried talking to me in: Thai, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Indian, Chinese. if they were genuinely thinking that i came from one of those countries and wanted to make some kind of conversation to me, i can still laugh about it… though for the life of me, i can’t understand why they did it before asking where i come from. i mean, what if i was born in Finland and have grown up only knowing Finnish language?

anyway, what annoys me is when somebody just say, “ni hao!” or “konnichiwa!” or whatever else just as a way to ‘greet’ me when we pass by each other on the street.

also, making a stereotypical-rhetorical comment/question towards somebody who looks like he/she might come from a specific country falls into the same category. i once sat down next to a guy i didn’t know at the cafetaria of my language course. he wasn’t originally Finnish, and was also a student, just like me. i was being polite and asked if i could sit there since there was nowhere else to sit, and he said yes. and then the next thing he said, before anything else (asking my name or where i was from), upon seeing my lunch for the day (rice), was, “why do Chinese like to eat rice?”

and it wasn’t meant to be a joke, either. i think i only replied, “i don’t know, why don’t you ask a Chinese if you want to know?” with as cold of a tone as possible and ate my lunch as quickly as possible to get the hell away from him.

–“i’m not a racist, because i work with people from all around the world, of all kinds of skin colour, etc.” making a point of saying it to somebody who looks like a ‘foreigner’ does NOT make it sound genuine. i mean, honestly, why bring up the subject in the first place if you really are NOT a racist?

believe it or not, this came out from the same stranger as the one i mentioned at point #1. 😀 i felt like laughing inside when she suddenly said that. of course, when you spell it out like that, it must be really true.

rather than saying it, it would be much more believable if you would act it. talk to me without seeing my skin colour or my eye shape. 90% of the other strangers i meet everyday can do this, so why can’t you?

and to be honest, if you are just curious, i would feel a lot better if you just plainly ask. i never get hurt if someone asks me where i’m originally from, how long i’ve been here, and sometimes even why i came here. straight-forward questions like those are much better than prejudiced statements.

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12 thoughts on “let’s talk about prejudice

  1. People, who make this kind of comments, are not usually good in their own skin. So they try to “justify” something by being rude. Let them be and do not take it too close to your hear! 🙂

  2. I agree. Many times it’s none of anyone’s business why or how another person came to live somewhere. Most countries are now participating in a global economy on some level, AND it’s easier for people to migrate from different places than it was in earlier eras, and for a wide variety of reasons.

    I also agree that if you’re curious, you should just ask directly instead of making assumptions, but I also STRONGLY feel you should be polite about it. It was HIGHLY unacceptable for that stranger to say such things to you. To me, some kind of relationship has to be established before you might be in a social realm where it wouldn’t be too impolite to ask. You don’t just say or ask such things to a stranger outright because 1) it’s just rude, 2) it’s invasive, and 3) sharing stories is like sharing breath. You’re sharing pieces of the lives you each have lived.

    The people on the other side of my eye-window live a different life and have a different set of experiences than I have, or could even begin to guess at. I like hearing other people’s stories and experiences, because even if we’re from the same area, I may still learn something.

    • good point! i totally agree, you do have to establish some sort of relationship first before going to that direction.

      however, since i work daily with customers (= strangers) and we talk a lot, i do understand that sometimes i can seem… intriguing (?)… 😀 especially to older generations who probably have never met or seen a ‘foreign’ looking person speaking Finnish. haha! so usually they would get curious and ask things (politely). most of the time they also realize it themselves in the end and apologize for asking too many questions, but i actually think those are rather cute. yay for curious grannies!

  3. Totally follow and agree with your thoughts. It was very inappropriate for the stranger to talk to you like that, and as you say, if someone says he/she is not a racist, then act it (“don’t talk it”).
    In my opinion, anyone who is not a racist, would and should not even think to ask those kind of questions or make hints with hidden meaning > I think that kind of behavior shows you are a racist after all.
    And most of the times, when somebody says they are not “something”, then in fact they are exactly the “something” they say they’re not….like trying to announce some trait of yourself BEFORE other people point their finger at you…….. hope you know what I mean 😀
    Well, let’s just not take all this to heart, it’s the way the world “operates”, hahahaha
    ❤ to you from afar ❤

    • yep, i do understand what you mean, and that is exactly what i meant as well! 😀

      nah, don’t worry, i don’t take things like these too personally. i just thought to write them down as they were too funny to miss. 😉

    • you’re welcome, and thanks for dropping by. 🙂 i think you are right, too, that some people just don’t know how to be polite. that’s why it’s good to remember to not take things personally if something like one of the above examples happen, hehe.

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