if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Racism Reflection

Five years of living in New Zealand has been challenging in plenty of ways. While living here we have moved 7 times and had the children in the lowest decile schools and the highest. (Decile is a system of catagorizing the income of communities that school districts are in) While the low decile school experience was rife with the struggle to get basic needs met( breakfast and lunch programs and (licey) sun hats for everyone), the high decile school had it's challenges as well (hiarachies and croniism). I will resist turning this blog post into a vent session and steer myself back to musing here.

Being from America is an interesting, challenging orientation. The resources that I have always known, from consumer agility and community inclusiveness are not abundently flowing for us here. The New Zealand society has had to pull itself up from some pretty dim financial scenarios. This, in fact, has something to do with America. When New Zealand resolutely refused to allow US Nuclear Submarines and other US nuclear vessels docking privledges the US responded with a host of trade restrictions. This kept New Zealand economically disadvantaged for over twenty years. The fallout (and forgive my pun, here) is that there are deeply rooted resentments of America. They are covered up by lush green grass, but they are there. I expect that they do not interfere with the tourism experience because that is a world of mandatory friendliness, but the resident American will always be an "other". It's too easy to take it personally. I have seen my children bullied at school, adrift without teacher support, left to wonder what is wrong with them. I have felt that myself. So I suppose the lesson for me and my kids it to learn to not give a whoey about what others think, develop a thicker skin and forge ahead. There certainly are some new Zealanders who do not succumb to the ambient prejudices, and there are many other resident aliens and immigrants who don't have the invisable repulsion toward my country. So we just get over it. Still it's a challenge.

I learned to thicken my skin when I worked at Wild Wheat, a bakery that had a good percentage of it's staff from a Vietnamese family. They had escaped during the war and had a knee jerk reaction-repulsion to anything American. It was bizzare to be estranged without having any foundation of experiance to attribute it to. I couldn't even see the racism until I left and got some perspective. These were people who physically buried themselves under earth or vegetation when the Americans came near. They did it for survival. I suppose that stays with you. The woman at my work, who glowered at me each day had raised a dozen children that were orphaned by the war. Although I had nothing to do with the decisions made (when I was a few years old), I was paying the debt. The strangest thing about it all is that it is hard to talk about. The vulnerablity to expose it for me and the embarassment of acknowledging it on the New Zealander side keep it neatly tucked away under the carpet.

What doesnt kill you will make you stronger... and more empathitic.

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