From my book – Like an Egg in a Bowl of Cherries
A Year of Adventures, SARS, Wet-Markets, and Profound Realizations
While Teaching in China
As a college professor, I've been teaching a course titled “Race Relations” for close to a decade now. In that course, I revisit many of my past experiences in China to provide examples of cultural differences, cultural similarities, and to illuminate the many connections that humans have with one other. I also use my experiences to talk about discrimination. In particular racial/ethnic discrimination. As a cisgender heterosexual Caucasian man, I am born with a lot of privileges that I would not readily recognize, if not for the quality education and diverse international experiences I have had.
I share with my students how, while living in China, it was common for Chinese men to become aggressive with me whenever I was walking with a Chinese woman, how groups of men tried to start physical fights with me, spat at my feet, or yelled at me to “go back home to where you come from” to my face. It was also common for me to be followed throughout stores. When this first happened, I thought it was because people were just curious, and wanted to take a look at the strange foreigner walking aimlessly in their store. But after talking to my Chinese friends, I was informed that they were following me because they didn’t trust foreigners and wanted to make sure I didn’t steal anything!
Those experiences gave me a first-hand glimpse at what it might be like for many Black or Latinx men in the United States. To have people assume that you're stealing something when you're just shopping, or to have people suspect that you've committed a crime when all you are doing is going for a jog around the neighborhood, or to experience how certain men become threatened and aggressive whenever they notice you spending time with one of “their” women, can feel downright abusive and depressingly dehumanizing.
Please don’t get me wrong – I love my country’s people – but I also have love for all my fellow human beings, regardless of who they are and where they live. People often mistakenly believe that the politicians and other “elites” that make up a geographical area’s (e.g., country, state, colony, etc.) ruling class, fully represent all of the human beings within the places they exert their power and control. Since many places on our planet are controlled by minority rule (i.e., those at the highest levels of wealth in any given place), this false belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
Wherever I’ve traveled to, I’ve noticed the same disturbing trend that I first became aware of in my own country; that those who hoard massive amounts of money and wealth often use it to exert a disproportionate amount of power and control over the people within the areas that they live. Everywhere I’ve been – 24 countries so far – I’ve seen the same divisive techniques being used. People are always forced into one of two boxes and programmed to narrowly think within an “us vs. them” paradigm. A land’s ruling elite, who are often leaders of large corporations and religious institutions, have been using such divisive tactics for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
We are socialized from birth to separate into distinct socially hierarchical categories, where we always have people above us to envy and revere, and people below us to pity and loathe. Humans throughout our planet are programmed to divide ourselves from one another based on our skin color, our gender, or sexuality, our spiritual faith (or for not having one), the color of our eyes, the texture of our hair, the way we speak our language, physical dimensions of our bodies, the kind of pets we prefer, the kind of cars we drive, the kind of food we eat, and recently in my own country (during a devastating pandemic), whether or not we wear a potentially life-saving face mask in public places. In order to begin to correct this massive social injustice that has been perpetrated on a global scale, we need true democracy.
A true democracy is one where every person counts, where instead of voter-suppression there is voter-promotion, where those with wealth are stripped of their ability to have a grossly disproportionate influence on the lives of those who represent the majority, where quality education, healthcare, and the means to meet one’s basic needs are guaranteed rights for all.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to amass great fortunes due to their hard work, I just believe that the more you make, the more you should be required to give. No one gets rich in a vacuum. Without people to work, create, and consume, no wealth can be generated. Like it or not, when you break it all down, we humans are all family. And as fellow family members, we have a duty to support one another, to strive for that which promotes the health and well-being of us all, regardless of our differences.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from my travels, is that no matter how different you think people around the world are, when you get a chance to meet them, spend time with them, share a meal with them, and truly get to know them, you realize that the vast majority of Earth’s people are a lot like you. We all create, have pride in our work, laugh, love, have our heart’s broken, and grieve for those we’ve lost. We love our families, our friends, our neighbors, our communities, our animal companions, and the land on which we live. We fret over the safety of our children, the health of our elderly, the well-being of our first responders and everyone else on the front lines who bring knowledge, compassion, and positive change to the world around us.
No matter what our beliefs are, regardless of our superficial physical and psychosexual differences, or what ruling structures govern and control us, the overwhelming majority of humans across the planet are good people. Please remember this fact the next time you are subjected to divisive messaging, for there is nothing the ruling “haves” fear more, than unity among the “have-nots.” Human beings are amazing, and we deserve far better than to be controlled, manipulated, and divided at the expense of our physical, mental and spiritual well-beings; so that the ruling-class elites, often spanning multiple generations, can maintain dictated status quos that have perpetuated and exasperated the many social inequalities plaguing our world. You, dear reader, deserve better!