The United States is not the world. It’s not even the centre of the universe.
I know, I know, it’s shocking stuff. If I were polite, I would have offered you a seat first.
But I am an uncouth foreignerWell that’s just too bad. Also, you have frequently whipped the seat out from under me in the past. I shall illustrate how through the following fun fact-filled lessons.
Not all non-white people are black. Stop referring to us as such. In fact, neither do all non-white people fit into that routine construction of ‘black/Latino/Asian’ that you so frequently employ. Yes, indeed, you are not being inclusive even if you sometimes tack Native Americans on as an afterthought – you know, as though you’re not in their ancestral homeland or anything that would accord them some respect. In fact, there are many many many many many people in the world other than the ones you choose to mention. I would tell you about some of them, but I don’t want to contribute to that whole list-some-people-and-erase-other-people thing you do. And also it would be a great exercise if you could go learn about them! Maybe you could even meet some! Maybe you have been meeting some and have also been erasing their identities by acting like they were from ethnic/racial groups you’re more familiar with!
Oh, another thing about all that racial stuff! USian racial dynamics do not translate anywhere else on the planet. Hence their being called USian racial dynamics. No one else has the precise history you do, that unique racial make-up, those particular constructions of what those identities mean – things that ought to be respected. Likewise, this stuff works differently in other countries because your experiences don’t magically melt over into and obliterate ours. Do not, do not, ever try erase or modify our experiences of racism, Indigenous experiences in particular, by framing my country’s appalling racist history in USian terms. Have some respect for the stuff other people have to deal with every day, some basic consideration of where we’ve been. That means sometimes people are going to be uncomfortable with the use of terms that are benign or even positive to you, like ‘person of colour’ (because it’s often considered a term particular to the USian context, because it indicates a sense of alliance that isn’t universal, stuff like that). Sometimes you are going to be uncomfortable with such non-white-shaped cultural aspects in other countries. It is not cool to force your ideas about race and racism on us and in doing so alter and damage our cultures, our strategies of resistance, so that you’re more comfortable. I seriously don’t know how you stomach doing that.
We do not instantly understand all of your cultural references, though we do get a lot of them because USian popular culture saturates our consciousness until sometimes there’re barely any local TV or films or books. It is almost impossible to make a living as a writer in this country because USian products flood the market. Sometimes I’m watching TV and I’ve gotten so used to hearing USian accents all the time it doesn’t even register that I’m watching a program from the United States. We do not have your legal system, so references like ‘you can’t censor my free speech, it is protected in the constitution’ get REALLY annoying in a way that is quite apart from it being annoying on the level of, you know, the fact that censorship cannot by definition be performed by anyone who is not the government. And, believe it or not, the world does not operate according to your timezones and schedules, so quit complaining when we don’t respond to you at 3am our time.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving! (Though that’s pretty messed up, not sure why you do.)
We don’t celebrate Independence Day either, because it is the day of USian independence and on account of our not caring!
We sometimes spell words differently, not wrongly, when we’re speaking English! English came from a country called England, not the USA, and it has spread out all over the world so that there are lots of different spellings! So can you stop using the USian flag to symbolise English on your little translator flags unless you have multiple versions of English on your system, please?
We, depending on context, may well have TVs and soft drinks and jeans and newspapers and it is not incredibly amazing that countries that are not the United States have those things! USians didn’t even invent all those things.
We are not all super unlucky to not be in a country like the United States of America, because there are lots of great things about living in other countries too and quite frankly a country with that bad a healthcare system in spite of having that much money and that large a population is not really a country I want to be in!
Other countries exist! And the people in them? The world around you? Do not revolve around you. We have our own contexts, but sometimes it is hard to focus on anywhere but the United States because YOU KEEP THRUSTING EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY IN OUR FACES ALL THE TIME.
So when you try and put USian racial narratives onto us
or your cultures
or the expectation that everyone you are interacting with is USian
Well, I get really tired of it.
So stop that please.
A person from another country.
- Cultural Constructions, Part 2 by Chally December 6, 2010
- Cultural Constructions, Part 1 by Chally November 30, 2010
- On Referring to People Who Aren’t White by Chally June 24, 2010
- Cultural Constructions, Part 3 by Chally December 13, 2010
- One of my favourite bits of cognitive dissonance by Chally September 19, 2010