Ass + u + me – we all know the saying …
Because I’m white a lot of fellow-foreigners assume that:
- I am from here
- I am Nederlandstalig
And when they find out that I am American they assume that:
- I don’t need to speak Nederlands
- I have a gun
- My passport works some kind of magic
- I’ve been to the small village in Minnesota where their fourth cousin twice removed lives
Because I’m white and American a lot of locals assume that:
- I don’t speak Nederlands and have no interest in doing so
- I have a gun
- I’m rich (not just well-off but FILTHY rich, just like a real-life Dallas JR)
- I’m not very bright, my education and professional experience but a fluke of my privilege
- I have no culture or story of my own to bring to the table because everything you need to know about America and Americans is to be found on the quality television programs on offer here
- I know their family in Michigan and I’ve been to that café in Florida where they actually had good food for once in America (because we only eat frozen pizza and burgers)
- I have no needs or troubles here, it’s all blue skies
- They can say things to me about my person, my homeland, my language that they wouldn’t DREAM of saying to a “real foreigner” …
You wouldn’t believe some of the shizz I have heard, still hear, might always have to hear … 7 years and counting.
What’s another word for assumptions about a person’s character, ability, situation, etc. based on one part of their identity??????
Stereotypes are assumptions. Assumptions are stereotypes.
Some of these are funny and I never tire of the crazy conversations born of the innocent assumptions. Often times thesemisconceptions can be easily remedied with a little humor and some well plotted story telling. Ohhhh, trust me, I have a lot of ideas of my own that are constantly being corrected for me. We are the product of our upbringing, environment and education … an ever curious and open mind is the only cure for that facet of being human.
Some of these assumptions, however, are extremely hurtful and harmful. These assumptions, based on sometimes I don’t know what and flowing freely from the mouths of those in a position of really needing to know better, limit the connection I am able to have with my “new” hometown. They prevent me from taking part as a complete person and from ever having a chance to use what I DO have to do MY thing. I do have a thing, you know – and I’m pretty good at it.
“Oh, it’s not that bad, you’re just oversensitive,” is often the retort. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the luckier ones. I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it a million more: If the pasty-white, English speaking, married to a Vlaaming, privileged American is struggling against these and many more absurd and offensive assumptions, imagine (if you can but you can’t) for one moment what it must be like for those who can’t hide behind their color and a shut mouth.
I am sensitive to this topic. It affects my life and impacts the lives of my friends and framily.
I feel emotionally drained by it. Wouldn’t you?
I remain 100% committed to changing the conversation.
The time was yesterday, the chance is now.
P.S. “But it must be easy for you since America is so much like here” … another winner. Hmmm, I’ll take the “Hell yeah!” mentality of Philadelphia any day over the “Ja, maar” of Kortrijk. And if that means my invitation gets lost in the mail, so be it. Change doesn’t come by dressing the exact same thing you’ve always done in a different jacket.