Friday, April 22, 2005

Mestizo Confusion

In the reconciliation class we are teaching this week, we have taken a few 'racial tolerance tests' to see where we are in terms of seeing and appreciating other races and cultures. One of the insights we are all tapping into, is the power of assumption. It is so easy to stereotype folks by one simple glance: the color of their skin, how they are dressed, the sound of their voice, etc.

As I was registering some of the students, I saw a name, A. Salinas, and I thought, great, a Latina is attending the class. When she arrived, I saw this dark skinned woman, and immediately called out her name (assuming it was her). When I said her name, she said, 'no, it's not Salinas, it's Salins (no a). She told me she was Indian. To my embarrassment, I though to myself, 'I though it was Native-Americans and not Indian.' Well, that would be true if she was Native American, but she is from India! I was so confused.

All of us are often guilty of making quick assumption about people (related to their class or race) that goes on to effect the way we view them and interact with them. A young woman in the class is from New Zealand, and until she opened her mouth to speak, I assumed she was from Kansas or Pennsylvania.

In a new mestizo society, learning to get to know others before making assumptions, is a huge value. Maybe the next time I sign someone into one of our classes, I'll wait until I meet them and get to know them before I make assumption about who they are.


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