memories with stereotypes: Up against the world
I remember my first day at school with one bold Lebanese kid as old as I was screaming, “We got ChinaTown with us in class”. At that moment I saw the eyes of my classmates starting at me in shock, perhaps like a drug user staring at the dope he just purchased with warmth and anxiety. Yet, while studying their expressions, I saw each one of them studying me: my body proportions, my ‘not so flat nose’, as well as my eyes. They wore their ‘Oh My God’ expressions and simply decided to walk away. Stereotyping is a fatal disease that forbids or prevents people with dual identity such as myself to project their identities towards people they meet and sometimes cause a person to feel alienated. Yet, when does stereotyping go out of hand and how are young children supposed to overcome such traumatic experiences?
I remember like it was yesterday my first encounter with stereotypes, perhaps because it was my first of a long non-ending series and sequence of demeaning and degrading encounters. I was a first grader, longing to belong, to find a place to call home, and feel and perhaps witness people’s acceptance for once. A kid, probably more childish than others runs towards me with a worm and holds it in my face yelling in Arabic “BreakfastChinaTown. I didn’t find a scorpion to add to the dish!” At that moment of humiliation I asked myself with frustration: “Why do people always have to judge a person according to some misbelieves that has nothing to do with who he is and where he comes from? I might have been and still as a half Lebanese half Filipino, but to the outer naïve world I was classified as “weirdo” or simply called ChinaTown (on second thought China has nothing to do with the Philippines except that both countries are in the Far East).
I had to walk my life with my head down because people were simply bound by these stereotypes mainly and probably because some people indulge themselves in torturing others and looking down at people. I have been called Jackie Chan numerous times as well as “weirdo” and alien with Mongolian eyes. Yet the most degrading even in my life was in my eighth grade English class. On my first day, as I recall I was asked to stand up and introduce myself to the whole class. And I bet all the money in my pockets – which isn’t that much if I want to be honest- that it was one of the most wrongful things you might be asked to do if you were a person ‘who doesn’t belong here’ as some people might boldly state. I cursed my luck, stood up to reply but was thrown off my feet by one remark “No speak no Engla – as in English-. I found myself betrayed by my voice as well as my legs. I sat down ashamed sinking into my own inner conflict that has been triggered by simply not belonging. And so I decided from that moment never to be weak, never to fall prey to people’s stereotypes and never again to remain silent when it was my pride at hand.
In my record, I’ve had numerous encounters with people ‘freely walking and throwing judgments and accusations all over the place’. For instance you might be educated, probably smart, fluent in English, and working on earning a college degree, but for a half Lebanese half Filipino people will always regard you as a maid. Or whenever you introduce yourself to a group of people you will always be associated or categorized with Jackie Chan or even Jet Li. Others instead of shaking your hand might substitute that with “Karate Chops” and a scream of “Ayya-Ya” in the school lobby.In the end, no matter what happens I state that some people are more open-minded while others are as solid as granite or diamond. And if you don’t find a place to claim home, you can, just like me pick up a pen and write hoping, begging, and praying that the world would hear the restless called of your soul. And if the world casts you out, I assure you that the infinite universe of verse and writing will claim you as his/her long lost daughter or son. Just let it flow!