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Friday, May 30, 2014

They're At The Post... And the Racism Is On!

Sometimes a spade is not just a spade... it's a fugging shovel!

A lot of people like to express their views and offer opinions on subjects, which is why social media has made giants of such platforms as Twitter and Facebook.

But, despite allowing everybody to have their shorter than 15-minutes of fame, oft times social media can become a minefield.

It's that way for people who blog, of course. There's a certain responsibility each blogger should maintain, to express the truth or facts, as they see it.

It mean you can have an opinion.

I oft-times will, but when I do, I'm hardly stepping out into the war zone, as I safely tread the path of least resistance.

That doesn't mean I avoid controversy - or maybe it does - but rather it means I'm simply not interested in becoming a lightning rod for anything.

More often than not, my views seem middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy, perhaps because my views are of the general consensus. Perhaps.

Last week, I received an e-mail from some reader who had read one of my blogs on this site (I have several that I write under my own name, and sometimes under an alias - just because) and was not impressed.

He or she... and I'm assuming it's a 'she', took umbrage over my self-deprecating writing style - so much so that she completely missed the fact that I write in a self-deprecating style and felt the need to complain that I am a sex addict.

Sex addict? No. But, I do enjoy sex very much when the opportunity presents itself. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many of the women I have been with, the experiences have been on the plus side as far as being enjoyable and well worth repeating.

That commentator then decided that because she had met a few Indian people in her daily life, and had seen a few Bollywood movies, that the entire Indian population - some one-sixth of this planet's people - are all unfriendly and arrogant.

Yes... and if you are a Libra, then one-twelfth of the people on the planet are having a day just like you.

I always love it when people want to call you (me, in this case) a name - such as 'sex addict' and back-up the point with some racist comment.

It's when I receive sh!t like that, that it makes me realize just how much farther the human race needs (as a whole) to climb up and out of the primordial ooze. For those of you not interested in Darwinism, perhaps the following analogy will suit you better: "... that it makes me realize just how much farther along the Bible one needs to read to realize that 'he or she' who is without sin, should cast the first stone."

Anyhow, you should read how I took apart the commentator in a polite, but effective manner, in the blog I call You Know What I Hate? right HERE.

On a similar but unrelated note, I am reading a book given to me by my friend Vince (he actually mailed me over 20 books that I am slowly reading, owing to my inability to figure out how to survive without sleep).

The book is: Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, a very well-written memoir of Baye McNeil, who is either Black or African-American. I'm pretty sure Black people don't have to be African-American... you know, like people from Africa.

Anyhow... I have just started the damn thing, and I have already found McNeil's opinions to be distasteful. I'm not saying he's wrong, I'm just saying what he is describing is distasteful.

He talks about racism in Japan.

I'm one of those people of whom he speaks of early on in the book, describing the foreigner who is so high on Japan, that they never saw racism anywhere.

But I did, of course.

I just haven't gotten around to writing very much about it because it wasn't a part of my daily life that affected me at all.

I've had a Japanese female student cringe as I talked to her, her shouting of 'kowai', which means 'ugly, scary or creepy'... but because it sounds so similar (to the untrained foreigner ear) to 'kawaii', which means 'cute', I was confused by her word and by her physical cringing. I just assumed she was being a giddy teenaged girl rather than a racist.

I've been part of a large gathering of gaijin teachers trying to get into a bar in Tokyo, only to be told that it's a private party—knowing that they actually meant private for Japanese people.

I've been called 'gaijin', which literally means 'outsider' and gawked at so often that it almost became amusing at how ignorant people were. But to me, that was ignorance not down and out racism.

I do know that racism exists in Japan and that for some people it was very difficult.

I do know that Black people in Japan had it far more difficult than anyone else of another hue. It was like the Japanese (not all, mind you) seemed have some built-in distrust of Black people and I never learned why.

But... I do know that one Black guy was a scumhole who took advantage of every person he met in Japan, borrowing money and furniture and them turning around and selling things and taking off for home.

Conversely, I do know of a Black woman who was the sweetest person I met on JET, who always had a smile on her face - a genuine one - and if there were any incidents of racism, either she was quick to brush it off, or simply never told me about it. Not everyone tells me everything. She had a nice stay in Japan and stayed at least a second year.

But for me... whatever minor plays of racism I had acted out at or near me, it was never enough to dampen my enthusiasm.

I walked into Japan knowing that there was some racism issues in the country and really, what I saw in my city was nothing. Even in hindsight, I would have no qualms about living the rest of my life in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. The people were that nice to me.

As such, Japan never took my smile away from me. Few things ever have in my life.

I've mentioned this many times, but during my personal interview to get into the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I was asked about racism.

Q: The Japanese have sometimes been accused of being racist. How would you handle a situation if racist comments were directed back towards you in Japan?"

Me: "The same way I do practically every day in Canada. With a smile on my face. If there is an opportunity to educate, then I will, with words that teach rather than provoke. But, if like in Canada there is no opportunity to educate, a simple policy of 'turning the other cheek' would have to suffice as there is no way anything I say or do is going to change the mindset of someone."

Trust me... that was a key reason I got in to JET to teach in Japan.

Like most people of color living in so-called 'western society' or so-called 'first-world' nations, we experience more racism against us than you might imagine.

Sorry... not every one is as nice as you.

Some of them aren't even as the commentator who believes me to be arrogant and unfriendly even for a sex addict. If I was a sex addict, and a functioning one, being arrogant and unfriendly would not let me get laid.

But whatever. In Canada racist behavior in the big cities still exists (d'uh), but it certainly is not as pronounced as it was back in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, etc.

Aside from the global community in the blogosphere, it's been a long time since I've had a racial slur slagged in my general direction (and known about it).

Regardless, I don't let bulls!t comments sour me on life. There are plenty of other reasons to be sour on life.

But I still walk around with a smile pasted on my face, regardless if anyone is looking at me or not.

McNeil says he had a harsh grounding of racism growing up in the United States. Who am I to disagree with his own assessment?

I've had my own fair share of racism tossed my way growing up in Canada - so much so that some days all I wanted to do was crawl up into a ball and die rather than suffer through yet another day of abuse.

I've read about people being pushed onto the subway rails onto oncoming trains in Toronto and worried for the safety of my mother, and perhaps because of it, I am extremely aware of my surrounding regardless of where I am or what I am doing.

I was asked to cover (as a newspaper reporter) a Black Community meeting because the newspaper I worked for didn't have anyone else close enough in color available - even though there were far more experienced and better reporters around than myself. That event was convened to discuss the alleged Toronto police habit of shooting Black people.

I've been pushed, beaten up, yelled at, spat at and had things thrown at me here in Canada before I went to Japan, and after I went to Japan. I've been called names that make me wonder where creativity has disappeared to, along with common human decency.

I've had women say that they could date me, but could never meet their family, as they would never approve. On the opposite side of that same scarred coin, I've had Brown women say they could date me, but never meet their family because we weren't the same religion.

But I don't whine about it.

That does not mean that I simply turn the other cheek and accept it.

I made myself bigger, and eventually extracted pay-back... by that I mean I'm not afraid to take two punches to get one in, because I know how to make that one punch count.

I have a hair-trigger temper, but seeing as I have a lot of hair, one has to find that correct trigger to set me off.

I will defend my family and friends, but if they've screwed up, I'll, in no uncertain terms, let them know.

If I have screwed up, I will let you know.

I have an incredible ego, but those who know me realize I lack an ego (not in the true psychological definition of the word, of course).

In Japan, I always walked around with a smile on my face, and offered an unsolicited polite and kind word or greeting for everyone I met.

I'm not stupid enough to assume I am everyone's cup of o-cha (green tea) in any place I find myself, but if someone is not going to like me, let it be because that's their problem, and not because of something I've personally done or because of some negative attitude I carry around with me.

I know that all I can do, is simply be the nice guy I pretend to be, and hopefully make anyone with a racist thought give pause as to why they think like that.

Hell... one of my best friends... after meeting his folks for the first time (I was in my mid-20s), they said that I wasn't like the other ragheads they had met - that I was different (in a good way).

I'm lucky as far as many minorities go. I'm an average looking guy with an above average sense of humor. I'm polite with manners. I don't put anyone other than myself down. I'm probably not as smart as I think I am, but I'm still smarter than most people but don't show off regarding my smarts. I'm good at most sports. I'm involved in my community. I have above average communication skills even amongst those who are communicators. I even speak with the local Toronto accent, supposedly a neutral accent. I have a big booming voice and a sometimes high laugh. I know more about hockey and baseball than most people do. The same for all the nerdy past times. And I like women. A lot.

I don't go back to whatever old country my ancestry is from. I don't have to eat the cuisine - in fact, I prefer Italian, Chinese and Japanese food over Indian by a large margin. I'm lousy at math. Don't have any religious tendencies that make some people nervous. I also like people. I'm not arrogant or unfriendly, which is why I have no problem volunteering my time to coach soccer and teach baseball. Plus, I still have to find time to yell at my family and make sure every one is well taken care of.

In short, I'm the non-threatening Brown guy who considers himself to be just an average Canadian dude. Nothing more... nothing less.

Makes you wonder a bit, but then again, maybe some people just haven't met the right people and always seem to walk away with a negative experience...

Then again... sometimes it takes two to tango... that if you aren't smiling and being a nice person, then neither will they - regardless of age, sex, race, color or creed.

I freely admit to not being a racist.

I don't give a crap about race. I don't cross the street because I see a gang of Black thugs hassling people who pass - BUT, I would cross the street just so I don't get involved with a bunch people acting stupid. To me, that's not racially-charged, because I would cross the street to avoid a noisy situation if it involved Black, White, Brown, Tan, Red, Yellow, Blue or whatever color of Crayola crayon you care to toss out.

My mom was so light in color that her Portuguese ancestry was dominant as an Indian. My father, who was darker than me, has vitiligo and has lost all skin color. The first woman I slept with in Japan was White (and a southern belle). I have slept with Black women, White women. Brown women and yes, Yellow women, if I must put a color on such things.

Do I have a preference? No. My wife is White. My son is beige. One uncle is Black, and so is my cousin, but never have I ever had to say what color anyone was to describe anyone.

Race? Racist? I don't hate any race more than another, nor do I love or like one race more than another.

Do stereotypes exist? Yes, because sometimes they are true. One of my most excellent friends, Tristan says that yes he likes fried chicken. He's Black. But so what?! I like fried chicken. So much so that my arteries are clogged with chicken fat. I'm not Black. I'm not White. I'm not Brown.

All I have ever wanted to be was just be Andrew, and that's how I strive to live my wonderful rife.

That doesn't mean that racism doesn't exist, of course.

One would have to be incredibly stupid or naive to assume something like that. Racism exists. It's everywhere, but I do not believe that everyone possesses a racist attitude (and is thus racist) about something. Some people are actually more human than that.

Recently, I wrote a blog where I mentioned the word 'gay', 'lesbian' or 'homosexual', and was immediately bombarded by spam e-mails telling me all about how homosexuality can be stopped if we boycott Visa (credit card) after an openly gay man was drafted into the NFL.

The thing is... I'm not against homosexuality. It's not for me, but that doesn't mean it's not for others. I recall quite strongly opining that as long as anything sexual is between two consenting adults and no one gets hurt (unless consensual), then who cares? I sure as hell don't need to waste my time worrying about anyone else's sexual practices, when it's quite obvious I am in need of some practice myself. Shut the eff up Alan Iverson.

Let's all go read a good book.

How about Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Once upon a time there were three bears. They weren't Black bears, they weren't Brown bears... let's just call them third-world bears.

That was Robin Williams on his "Reality... What A Concept" album from 1979, that I haven't listened to in over 30 years but could quote whole skits at you without hesitation, and in his Orkness' voice.

So... I'll at least try to read Loco's book, but to what end, I am unsure. He would hate the pap I spew, but hopefully he would see that I take the mickey out of Japan as I take the mickey out of myself and western civilization when examining the exact same point.

Again... I'm not saying I don't want to read the book because he's Black, or because he's African-American, I'm saying I'm just not interested in reading anyone's negative thoughts. I often hear that sh!t all day long as I spend (like on Thursday) 90-minutes in highway traffic to have the privilege of going to work, and my only escape is talking to you.

Thank goodness a few of you respond back without talking back.

Andrew Joseph

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