I’ve been thinking a lot about integration recently. Given the news, the American election, the conversations going around online, my own multicultural family.
There seems to be two stances – either you can’t ever be integrated; if they are different they are the enemy/ unknown/ to be feared. OR we are all the same and everyone is welcome and to say any different is divisive, hateful language.
Both these stances pose their own problems. The first is a highly dangerous way of looking at the world and fuels racism, discrimination, civil wars, global wars.
The second is a kind of tiptoe in the water blanket denial of some realities which the other end of the conversation then use to their advantage to recruit people to their way of thinking.
The way I see things is that yes there are differences.
Yes. We have a core which makes us human, we all bleed, cry, laugh, feel. I was raised listening to wonderful reggae songs like Third Worlds “we are all one”.
Yet, the reality is, we are diverse.
Rather than wall papering over this in a liberal sheen of political correctness, we should be teaching our children and having conversations about those differences, celebrating them, laughing about them, learning and teaching people not to be afraid of differences. Not denying them.
Personally I find differences interesting, enjoyable. Although I admit the differences I hold between myself and someone like Donald Trump can be difficult to enjoy.
Do we really have to be the “same” to be integrated? I read on the BBC not that long ago a article about the Syrian refugees which have made it to mainland Australia. There are concerns because even after 1 year they are not yet the same as Australians, and are therefore seen as failing and a reason not to accept more.
I found that quite mind boggling to read. Does anyone really think another persons Culture and Identity changes radically in 1 year!?
I mean I have been married and living here now for around 7/8 years and I still feel the very British impulse to stand and the door and wave goodbye to people when they leave, for as long as I can until they are finally out of sight.
Even if over time in your new home you change your Religion, and other things about yourself, or your way of thinking there are certain things about you which just don’t change.
Does that mean therefore that I am not integrated? How does one even measure it. I do think of myself as integrated in my community but how do I come to that conclusion?:
- I know what the differences are between us. So while I am not the 100% same as people here I do understand what will upset people, annoy people, make people laugh and so on. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever upset anyone, but it means I do know when I have and can then try to set it right!
- There are a lot of changes I have made which help me to be similar enough to people that I am no longer an instant attraction/ on site entertainment at Weddings. These changes however do take time, and cannot be forced or rushed. For example I knew I was definitely part way to becoming Bedouin when I was really mad at a Policewoman at the airport who was discriminating against me, and I actually spat at her (well its a kind of sound without spitting where you go “pweey”). This was a shockingly un-British act that only a real deplorable person would do, but a totally ubiquitous un-shocking act of displeasure here.
- I have had a small influence on the people in my husbands family, and on my husband and some small changes “in my direction” have taken place too. For example my husband now puts a heater in the bathroom when he wants to have a shower in winter. This is a totally English innovation which he has taken up.
Living here in the desert I have found Bedouin people are absolutely, astute observers of people. When we all sit together around the fire, we talk about something which happened and laugh about those things, usually about people and what they have done or said. Not in a bitchy way but in a pure kind of pleasure at our diversity and human-ness.
My sister in law loves to tell me about when I had our third baby, my husband called her husband in the middle of the night because we were going to rush off to the hospital. My husband wanted his sister to come and sit in the house with our older children. Anyway, so my husband called her husband and said to him (in Arabic)
Come quickly someone shot the wife.
This is a polite way of saying I am in labour without actually saying I am in labour. Her husband didn’t know because he is still quite young. So he bounced out of bed saying:
WHAT WHO SHOT HER!!!!
What I am saying here is that having a sense of humour about the things we do, and the things that are different about us goes a long, long way. If something is funny it is a lot easier to be understanding or tolerant about it.
Also we all have a responsibility to teach our children that different does not mean we have to be afraid of it. We all bleed, feel, have opinions which can be wrong and right or both.
Lastly, I think that all white Caucasian people who have never experienced living as a minority should be entered into a program where they get to live somewhere where they are seen as the strange one, and then perhaps there is hope that a mind/ thinking can change, because it is only when we realise our own convictions are not necessarily true everywhere and that truth itself is somehow multifaceted, then can we accept others even though they are different to us.