This short analysis is anything but political in nature…it is more of a social conclusion that I draw from my own personal life experiences which allow me to be able to clarify certain aspects about this topic…Mainly two issues: people who make you feel as an unequal minority and the way the concept of “differentiation” gradually increases.
I will not use any author for this analysis. I stress out once again that it is purely a personal deduction. It is one of our basic human traits that we differentiate. We differentiate between physical characteristics, language, religion or other social/sexual beliefs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, I am an advocate of diversity. But there are always going to be those people who will make you feel different and less equal. “Yes, you are not like me and I am better than you”. Let’s call people who are treated like this “unequal minorities”. Now I will list some personal examples of my own life and I hope you will see how it gradually increases, many people always finding something to unequally differentiate you from them.
1. “Hungarian in Romania” – I had the “privilege” and “luck” of having an extreme right Romanian mayor govern my home city for 12 years, exactly the years I can remember as a child and adolescent. Now of course this guy made everything possible to make us feel “different” and less equal, like painting everything (benches in parks, metal poles, garbage cans) in the Romanian flag. He also the turned public opinion against the Hungarian minority and blamed us for all the problems of the country. Well this climate luckily changed 6/7 years ago and people once again became more tolerant. There are still intolerant people on both sides, but it is less present… In that period as well there were many good family friends, neighbors who made you feel as an “equal” minority but of course many more who would say publicly on the bus “this is Romania, talk in Romanian and not Hungarian” (tell this to a 10 year old kid talking to his mates), or my private (only for 3 weeks) Romanian teacher in 8th grade saying that I shouldn’t forget that I eat Romanian bread, or maybe the one who would actually kick you in the ass because you spoke a different language…Many things have changed, most people now make you feel as an “equal minority” but there are still the “others”.
2. “Romanian in Hungary” – During my high-school and Bachelor years I traveled a great amount to Hungary. And of course mainly because of the policies of the “ex-mayor” I had a strong Hungarian identity in high-school. I tried to cling to this identity, but to my adolescent surprise not many people from Hungary were keen on sharing the same feeling. And comments followed like you are not a “true Hungarian”, you are a “stinking Romanian” from the other side of the border. In December 2005 54% of the Hungarian people from Hungary voted against granting double citizenship to the Hungarian diaspora. Was that a shock?! Now you had people from same ethnic/national group treating you like an “unequal” minority. Sorry, but you are just “Hungarians from the other side of the border”.
3. “Romanian/Eastern European in the Netherlands/Western Europe” – When first moving to Western Europe two and a half years ago, I was confronted with once again a new, but more subtle feeling of “unequal minority”. Because you see, after talking to certain people, after doing certain administrative procedures and after certain Western people finding out that you come from “the East” or Romania, they give you “the look”. The look that says everything, “he’s just another immigrant, thief, low-class son of a bitch”. It happened to me in many situations, with even people asking me why I moved to the Netherlands, what is the purpose of my staying, my kind of people steal and we take their jobs. I couldn’t say that this came as a surprise or as a shock. I grew up with a feeling of being unequally diverse, so I think I had the necessary “training” to handle and retaliate to these kinds of remarks. It was especially this time when I realized how my old identity changed, how people didn’t understand or were too ignorant to understand my situation. I also met a great number of people who saw me for who I am, what I do and not for where I come from.
At this point I am a white man in a predominantly white continent who is still sometimes looked upon in an unequal way in the West, Romania or Hungary. Now the truly interesting experience will start next year.
4. “White man in Africa” – This is the next step of my self-test. I will live in South Africa for a semester, a country which abolished the apartheid when I was already in school. I don’t know what to expect but I am sure I will come across comments from whites, that I am a “black loving white man” and I am sure there will be black-people who will see another “white oppressor” in me. We’ll see next year.
It is a problem as old as man kind. We like to believe that we are better than the others. That the group we belong to is better than other groups. This feeling is further enhanced when personal failure plays a role, when a member of group A realizes that maybe the member from group B is more competent than he is, although he always viewed them as unequal, inferior. It is easier to form prejudice than to accept. The problem starts when we mix this with politics, when certain people actually make the members of group A believe that they are better than group B.
I came to a point in my understanding of human nature when I look at the person and judge him whether he is competent or not as a human being. I still have prejudicial thinking, I cannot deny that, but I try to put aside this unfortunate trait of the social circumstances I grew up in.
As you can see from the above points we always try to find the next step to differentiate: religion, then language, ethnic/cultural background, skin-color etc. I respect people who believe in equal minorities and actually make an effort to treat others alike. For the rest I can only conclude with one colloquial remark “Fuck y’all”.