Podcasts and Prejudice

I’ve been recently hooked on podcasts. They help pass by the time on an 11 hour train ride or on days I don’t have class. One I’ve subscribed to is called Brilliant Idiots. The two guys who host it, Charlamange and Andrew, are far from idiots. That being said, a good part of the first episode I listened to focused on male anatomy—yes, on size, of course.  For most of the podcast. No, for almost the whole podcast. If you are offended by that or by language, find another podcast, but it is extremely entertaining. Anyway, each episode is centered on a question of morality. The next one I listened to was about prejudice. They introduce it by talking about Donald Sterling’s racist remarks about his own team.

Listening to it on the bus this morning got me thinking about Chinese people and they way that they treat me, or any Westerner. But that’s very one-sided of me. This isn’t about being singled out as a rich, fat American (I don’t really need to say this, but I am neither rich, nor fat). Stereotyping is not fed by hatred, it is simple ignorance. An easy way to categorize what you know nothing about. Racism is different because it’s fueled by hate.

So, back to the podcast, Charlamange and Andrew are talking about being hustled in New York in a way that I can relate to—rudeness because of proximity. Everyone is hustling you. When there are so many people trying to get to the same place, be first in line, or whatever, people get kind of nasty.  Andrew is describing life in New York, “I can’t say ‘hi’ to everyone in the subway car.” Just like I can’t reply to all the hellos I get here because most people know how to say that word.

Brilliant Idiots are talking about prejudice overall when they compare former generations to kids today. Does culture explain prejudice? Does that make it okay? No, of course not. But it does help us understand it. It depends when and where you grow up. For example, in my case, most people that stare at me are older. Former generations grew up with stereotypes. Engrained. More importantly, they did not grow up with social media. Today kids grow up with the Internet where prejudice is drowned.

Prejudice is not something a college educated white girl like me usually deals with, so I am glad for the chance to be a minority because I will know what it feels like for the rest of my life. I am glad that the Dean at my own host school addresses me as “the foreigner,” and that people assume I eat hamburgers and pizza everyday, and that when I wear sunglasses, the staring is almost nonexistent. These things are funny to me and I’ve learned a sense of humor is key to surviving in China. But I also know that I can leave in a couple months, and leave behind all the prejudice against me. But prejudice is no laughing matter, and I think many people suffer it their whole lives.

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