Saturday, October 10, 2009

Heritage and Culture

        Depending on your ethnicity, you may have something to scream out right now, in regards to the title, 'Heritage and Culture'. Do you call yourself a foreigner? Do you call yourself an immigrant? Maybe a F.O.B(fresh off the boat, as kids like to say)? Perhaps a 'strange one'. I can understand that, whatever it is. This world is filled with stereotypes. Crazy ones too, I might add. If you are hispanic, or have a latin sounding name, you are immediately stereotyped... gardener. If you are Arab or have a middle eastern sounding name you are also stereotyped... taxi driver/extremist. If you are colored, wether you are african or just really tanned, you are definitely stereotyped... this one would go on and on. What most people fail to see is what they lack, themselves. Most people represent a culture full of magnificent traditions that some others may not be aware of, sadly enough. I think that now, our curry smelling, bonfire dancing and quaking cultures need to come out and be explained.

            First things first, before you start thinking about how you do NOT have heritage or culture/tradition, think about what you do have and start from there. I know some people are confused- they don't know what kind of last name they have, they don't know where their great great's are from, etc. Me on the other hand, I love to explore. Why? Because I, in myself, consist of the blood of many countries. I'll say I am Ethiopian to make it easier when I explain to people where I am from. They can't believe it though, because of stereotypes... I am supposed to have dark skin, a flat nose, thick lips, and corse hair, because Ethiopia is an African country. The truth is, because the region of Ethiopia I am from is mixed, I have light skin, a small 'perfect' straight nose, fine lips, and smooth curly/wavy hair, and a 'not-black' facial structure. Is that surprising? I don't think it should be, unless you are narrow-minded and bull headed, which I hope you are not. I descend from Israel, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, India, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Armenia, Northern Africa, and who knows where else. Cuba is being deliberated. When I tell people THAT, they become frustrated, you see, because 'it's too many!' for them. Then they think I've lived in all those places or I can speak all of those languages... please! Three languages are enough for me, in the time being. I am considering learning how to speak Arabic and Portuguese though. The point is, I've learned that it is now hard for people to judge me. The only conclusion one could come up with is, 'foreigner'. I've never lived in another country (I've 'lived' in Ethiopia for 2 or 3 months over the summer but that's as close as it gets). Do you know what the biggest problem is in this world though? Besides nationality? It's race and religion.

            On college applications, I believe it has been banned to ask for the applicants race or ethnicity. Black/White/Asian/Native American/Hispanic/Other, are the choices. What does someone like me choose? Other? Why should it even matter? I do not know but I will say this, your skin color these days, cannot judge your nationality. If you are black, you could be Brazilian, Dominican, African, Cuban, or just very tanned, like some Egyptians. If you are Asian, you could be anything from an Arab, to a Japanese person. You see where I am going at? I think from now on, I will call my self an 'Other'. The other problem in this world is religious prejudice. I will use Islam as an example since so many people like to stereotype every Muslim they see, which is something that should not be done. People need to understand that a religion is faith, not a means of war. Not every Muslim is an extremist or a 'I hate the U.S.A' fanatic. Most are actually peaceful, and many people fail to see that. Why should a woman's decision to wear a Hijab or celebrate Eid, determine her career possibilities? Why would anyone (and this is my favorite) be afraid to  get into a cab an Arab is driving? Explain to me why, and I bet you could not come up with anything. Religion should not come in the form of stereotypes and images, it should come in the form of faith and hope. Like the color green. Do not be startled by a Burqa or a turban. Do not be startled by dark skin. Do not be startled by henna. Do not be startled by people. You must be crazy if you are. Learn to coexist and you'll be surprised by how easy and fascinating it is to understand a unique culture or a heritage.

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