Neil Tambe

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I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Minority Experience- Part 1

I’m going to try to break this down for you.  Because of affirmative action, immigration, the voting rights act renewal—all of which have minority themes running through them—I’m going to help all the non-minorities out and rap with you for a second.  Here is the essence (as I observe, imagine, assume, and have experienced) of being a minority in the United States of America in 2006.*-note that some of these feelings may not be shared by all minorities, the minority experience can vary intensely even between groups that have some stark similarities.  Also, note that these prejudices/observations are not committed by all individuals either.  However, the fact that they do, or have in the recent past, is notable because when translating across a population their effects and reach are significant.  In other words, just because everyone isn’t a bigot, doesn’t mean that the following statements are isolated or even uncommon.

  1. Your ethnic dress is criticized.  Imagine if you wore [insert one of the following: Abercrombie, Hollister, JCrew, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Adidas, etc.] and someone made fun of you because you weren’t wearing a tunic.  “My ethnic dress has been critically called a ‘smock’ before.”

  2. Imagine the world without being able to walk, see, hear, etc.

  3. The previous statement isn’t the kicker.  Now, imagine a culture that turns their head away when you walk by.  Don’t deny it, I do it too…I’m sure as hell trying not to.

  4. You are harassed, or the victim of malicious commentary in your workplace (this can happen to many groups because or race, gender, disability, etc.)  This has happened to my mother because of her race.

  5. Someone tells you to “get out of the country”.  (think anti-immigration protests)

  6. Your friends’ parents are surprised to find that you’re not White, or Christian.  The looks are easy to spot, believe me.

  7. Say you’re purely in love with someone.  Their parents/grand-parents/family aren’t used to being exposed to other races.  It may not harm your relationship, but it sure can make ya sweat.

  8. You seem to get searched at the airport, a lot.

  9. You probably benefit at several key moments because you are a minority, and many institutions value diversity (schools, businesses, government)

  10. You feel like your leading a double life because your heritage and your day-to-day life are less than compatible.

  11. You are visually unique.  I love it!

  12. You’ve got a different name—really cool, sometimes not so much.

  13. Bi-lingual.

  14. You’re left out (physical, gender, racial, intelligence, socio-economic status, etc.)

  15. You’re in (same factors apply)

  16. You’re not allowed to marry, or the union has arbitrary benefits.  

  17. PS- If you’re going to talk the talk about gay-marriage and say that its prohibited, would you walk the walk and make it apply to you, too?

  18. Products don’t seem to always fit you.  (Right-handed scissors, bandages don’t match skin tone, makeup and cosmetics aren’t the right color, clothing doesn’t come in your size or fit body type well)

  19. You have to deal with people not taking the time to understand factual evidence your beliefs/history and misrepresent you.

  20. You are not represented proportionally in government.

  21. You benefit from a cultural/diverse upbringing.

  22. You don’t get credit you deserve, or get excessive amounts of credit for something minimal because the action is attributed to minority status.

  23. You have to hide elements of your own identity, because they are “taboo”.  Athiesm, agnosticism, for example.

I’m going to leave off on that list there.  But, remember there are many positive and negative things that come with being a minority.  I recommend re-reading that list and trying to imagine yourself as a minority going through those circumstances.
Now, for the point.
Similar to how it would be difficult for me to make an educated decision about womens’ reproductive rights, it’s similarly asinine for anyone (you, politicians, etc,) to make choice regarding minority issues without consultation with minorities.  So, here’s a glimpse.I present these because of the incredibly one-sided conversations I hear when people discuss minority issues.  Imagine what you would do if you were a minority and someone took your rights away, or denied the fact that your rights were less acknowledged.  Would you be upset?  Would you fight?  Would you feel like crap?Cause yes, being a minority in America is difficult.  You don’t know who you are at times.  You’re identity is questioned.  If you’re a black male your chances of success are lower.  If you’re a woman your pay rate is probably less.I hear the bleachers yelling, everyone goes through that.  It’s part of being a teenager.  But the difference is, this is a constant in the life of a minority.  It’s not just a phase.  Believe me, in your group of people close to you, it becomes a non-issue.  But not everyone in the country knows you as who you are, they know you as a minority.  When in the majority, you aren’t predisposed experience minorities are accustomed to.
Also, it’s not an issue of having differences.  We’re more similar than anything.  But really, if you treat someone as if they’re mostly different instead of mostly similar, you’ve got some hell coming.  From my desk right now, I’d recommend: treat someone as if they’re mostly similar (because they probably are) not the same, when encountered with a difference, try to look for how mutual benefit can be created for those differences, and not dwell on the mutual harm that can be created.  Differences are dangerous, but these variations/changes are how progress happens…so we need them.Look for more on this topic, my words will become more focused and eloquent as I’ve thought about it for a longer period of time.

Please do say hello: neil.tambe[at]gmail[dot]com