About prejudices towards the coloured
I recently came across an article on the internet, about an Indian who has been living in Poland for 17 years, and how he has experienced discrimination in Poland due to race and skin colour(search blog forum Gdansk in Google). As many of you have read in my article about skin colour and the complex which Indians have about skin colour, I thought it would be nice to share with my fellow Poles about what it means to be an Indian(or of any other nationality) living abroad.
Searching for my identity. Being a European as well as an Indian.
I have been living in Poland for 8 years. For the first few years my goal was to be as European as possible. Most people when they think of India, the first thought that comes to mind is the image of a guy from a call center in India, saying, „Hi Steve Johnson here, how can I help you?” with an Indian accent. The Indian accent is well-known throughout the world. My foreign friends often ask me, „Jay, can you do that Indian head shake?” (we have a funny way of saying 'yes’ with our heads). I promised myself that I would cut myself off from these stereotypes. For the first few years I forcefully changed my Indian accent. I had to learn how to be decent, dress well, change my way of thinking about women, what to do and what not to do. Was it easy? Oh no. The change from my old behavior took me 4-5 years. Now when I go visit India, I have problems with fitting in to a lot of things (no, thats not an exaggeration)
I wanted to show Poles that I am an Indian as well as an European. I drank vodka with people, I went to parties, I started to keep distance from people. I forgot about openness and communication with people. We are more open in India than in Europe. I completely tried to reroot my life to Poland. I have sometimes wondered if it is better to tell people that I am from Brazil, Germany or Switzerland. Maybe they will like me more? (I know a person who does that in Poland). When I told other people, I felt terrible. How can I lie to them? I was lost. You can try to be a European, but you can not fool your own conscience.
About prejudices towards the coloured
if something is different, it does not mean it’s better or worse.
There was a time in my life where I thought that if I was a foreigner, I would have everything with ease. Women will like me more because I look exotic. People will smile and they will be friendly and I will be able to have it easy everywhere. This is true to some extent. When you meet new people, they will be very curious to talk to you and will be interested in your story. Yes, it is true that Poles like foreigners to a large extent. But there is a moment when it just does not work that way.
If You always hold the image of a 'foreigner’, at some point the other person would want to know more about you. It does not matter if you are brown or black when you are not polite, lack in culture or lack in social skills. People are wise. They would smell that you are full of shit a mile away…
Not every brown man is an Arab. Not every brown man is a Muslim
Some people may think that if you are brown you are an Arab or a Muslim. We all love stereotypes. The same applies to women in Europe. In the case of women, if she is white and she is a blonde, they assume you are easy and stupid. Is it true for everyone? NO!
To think that every brown man is a Muslim is not true. Not every brown man will be aggressive towards women. Women in our country may have less rights than in Poland (some women have 0 rights), but they still enjoy lot of freedom (at least from the part of India where I come from) than people from other neighbouring countries.
I have a female friend in Poland (blonde) who just like many women in Poland, benefit from freedom of movement and is very confident of her abilities. I have known her for several years. She is a wonderful person. Many times I’m shocked at the fact that how confident she is compared to many of my friends. But there is a small problem…..
She knows that in India women are unequal towards men. There fore she keeps me at a distance. Is it my fault that my culture is built so? I do not treat her badly in anyway, but some stereotypes are engraved in the human brain and can not be erased. Is it painful for me? Yes. Because of the fact that our society is built in a certain way, she holds a grudge against me. Do I have the power to talk to her about it? Yes. But do i have to force my beliefs on her? I do not know…
When I travel by bus or tram across Poland, sometimes I have my fears. What if people think I am a Muslim and automatically assume that I am a terrorist and am aggressive towards women? (I have nothing against Muslims) I try to get as much shaving done as possible and cut my hair as often as possible. It makes me look less less stereotyped and I would not stand out in the crowd. Poland is not accustomed (yet!) to foreigners, compared to other western countries. So you really have to be very flexible to survive here.
When I hear someone in Poland say „ciapaty” or „murżyn” (ciapaty is a offensive word for brown people, whereas murżyn is a term used to describe blacks)it makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Once while talking to a friend, she said something about how she do not like 'ciapaty’. The first thing that came to my mind was that Iam a 'ciapaty’, so based on that logic you do not like me? I know Poland is not very „politically correct” when it comes to certain terms such as 'ciapaty’ or 'murżyn.’ People are not afraid to use these words. In the west people are afraid to term black people as 'black’ because they think it is offensive. Some times it is too much. When You try to be forcefully nice to everyone You are fooling Your own instincts, and just trying to be nice just for the sake of it. There should be a middle ground. But i would like to say that after living in Poland for many years, i have learned to have distance to many black, and brown jokes :))
More to come…….