Photo: Courtesy of Mona Haydar
In the age of cellphones and social media, it’s very easy to disconnect from people without realizing you’re doing so. How many of us create walls subconsciously, especially if it concerns people of different nationalities we don’t usually associate with?
I was struck by a story of a woman who decided to set up a stand outside of a library in Cambridge, MA. Inspired by a story her husband saw on NPR titled “Ask an Iraqi”, Mona Haydar thought that it was important for her to establish a connection with those who may not know what’s it’s like to be a Muslim, especially a Muslim woman living in the United States.
For Haydar, setting up a stand titled “Talk To A Muslim” was a way for her to dispel any preconceived notions or stereotypes so many have of foreigners, especially of Muslim women.
With so many crises affecting different nationalities, in light of events happening in Syria, Haydar’s goal of creating a physical stand and waiting for people to approach her was a bold move since she had no clue how it would be received. What was surprising and hopeful was that people did stop by and spoke with Haydar, and that was a start. She was quite surprised to see how people did respond to her stand and while the reception was initially uncertain, it was enough for her to think about setting up the stand again.
In the current climate regarding people of cultures we aren’t familiar with, not willing to find out about them says more about us than them. There shouldn’t be a division of “them” and “us”, but unfortunately, there is.
How many times have we been guilty of giving in to fear of the unknown instead of taking a step back and dispelling the stereotypes we have learned about other cultures?
As someone who has had to answer questions about my nationality or religion over the years, the initial offense I felt has made me rethink of how people perceive me. Over the years, I have been mistakenly identified as either Korean or Japanese, rarely a Filipina. In addition, since I’m married to a Jewish man, I have been asked whether I’m a convert or adopted due to my Jewish maiden name, and to which I answer “no” to both. Answering these questions over the years, my frustration over being categorized primarily due to my physical appearance has made me realize that it’s not because of ignorance, but lack of communication. Asking questions and conversing about each other’s cultures would go a long way than being presumptuous about other people’s lives.
After reading about Haydar and seeing the NPR segment titled “Ask An Iraqi”, it made me wonder if we should put ourselves in Haydar’s shoes. Should we have to set up a stand in order to be understood or be compassionate towards others? Have we become so desensitized by our own prejudices that we have no room for being tolerant? I would hope not. Haydar’s stand may just be one form of starting conversations regarding one’s culture, but I think it’s an idea worth exploring. We might just realize that we may not look alike, but we all share the same intrinsic values of goodness towards humanity.
Read the original article regarding this post Here.
How do you think we can nurture better cross-cultural understanding?
This is an original post written by World Moms Blog Contributor Tes Silverman of The Pinay Perspective
Today we welcome a guest post from Tara, who is writing from Kenya. You can follow her adventures in parenting at mamamgeni.com, where she blogs about raising her family with one foot in the expat world and the other firmly planted in her husband’s homeland. As she recently discovered, finding a black doll was no easy task–in either place.
“Mommy, there are three black people and one white person in our family.” My eldest daughter enjoys pointing out the obvious. She’s referring to me (white American), my husband (black Kenyan), and her baby sister (mixed-race, just like she is). She fully identifies as black, and has recently been expressing interest in race and skin color. We want our kids to explore their cultural and racial identities, and we try to ensure our toys and books reflect the richness of both of our cultures.
My youngest recently turned one, and we decided to get her a baby doll for her birthday. More specifically, we wanted to get her a black baby doll. Should be easy, right? We live in Kenya. No, not easy. THERE ARE ALMOST NO BLACK DOLLS HERE. Whenever you see Kenyan kids playing with dolls, they are almost always little white dolls with blonde hair. White baby dolls, white Barbies, white, white, white. You can find some nice black dolls handmade out of cloth, but they tend to be mommy dolls with babies on their backs. I was looking for a realistic baby, something she could cuddle and take care of, a baby of her own.
Since I was having no luck finding what I was looking for in Kenya, I decided to look for a black baby doll while I was in the US on a recent visit. My family lives in a greater metro area that is over 50% African American. I went to a local department store, and sought out the doll section. I expected to see a choice of dolls from different ethnicities (at least black and white dolls, given the racial make-up of the city). I was wrong – there was nothing but white dolls. Row upon row of white dolls. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed white dolls. Dozens of pink boxes with white dolls inside. Not the kind of dolls I was looking for.
Why was this so hard?
In the end, I decided to search online for a black baby doll, and found one that I loved. My daughter loves it too… She walks around the house, patting her baby’s back, swaying back and forth with a big grin on her face. I had some Kenyan colleagues at my house recently, and they asked where I had found our black doll. I told them my story, and together we lamented the fact that there were so few black dolls available in a predominantly black country.
There is a market for this kind of toy here, and someone is missing out on a serious business opportunity!
It is really important to me that my children have dolls and books that reflect who they are. My eldest is always looking for people who have skin like hers, or hair like hers.
She yearns to identify with a group of people. Having black baby dolls and books featuring black characters makes a difference. Dolls may be “just toys,” but they can mean so much more to a young girl who longs to connect and identify with others like her. What are dolls like in the country where you live? Do they reflect how the people look, or are they different in any way?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama Mgeni of Kenya.
Photo credit to Mama Mgeni.