Shedding Colonialism

Insights of a Filipino-Panamanian working in religious small town America.

The double insult of colonization from my experience in just one week of work.

I can’t speak for everyone, I only speak for myself and my point of view.

As I went to work, I centered myself for the upcoming chaos of being the new local high school secretary. Many things to learn and handle at once, with minimal training and a large dose of survival tactics.

I open the doors, make the coffee and enjoy the quiet ritual of gently waking our building up so that it may have a welcoming atmosphere.

One by one the teachers arrive and we have genuinely pleasant banter of our evening and the plans for the day.

Then the buses arrive. The students with their chatter and questions.

I love these moments.

As my day progressed I was speaking in Spanish to a student. She was concerned that her lack of being able to speak to anyone in Spanish was making her forget her words. Then a staff member walks in and interjects. “Isn’t it wonderful that our local school has provided you with someone to speak in Spanish to?” The student and I lock eyes and flinch. The staff member goes on, “ I’m sure you are very grateful for this opportunity. How does it make you feel to be able to speak in Spanish here in our little town?”

By then she and I are in a full side conversation just using out eyebrows and pointing with our noses. The student stops and puts her hand to her jaw and searches for the word she wants to share with the staff member. She voices without a doubt, “Awkward “

I knew she was talking about the situation and was not answering the questions being asked. The staff member told her she should not feel awkward about her English skills. I shook my head because this situation was way to big to handle and the phones were ringing.

I dismissed the student and told her not to pay any mind to what had just happened. She was welcome to come back and we’d talk about this situation later.

The student returned and was asking me a question—it was a silly one about her day and we giggled. As we did, another staff member walked in and slammed her hand on the counter repeatedly and yelled, “Speak English!! We live in America!”

The student and I were not pleased. I really wanted to ask her, “Why does it matter if I speak in another colonizers language?” I held my tongue. I apologized to the student on behalf of the staff member’s ignorance and she went back to class. Turning to the staff member who sat there with a huge grin as she celebrated her dominance and superiority, I said to her, “ I spoke to her in Spanish in a private conversation. Her shirt was not buttoned correctly and she would have been embarrassed if I had pointed it out in front of everyone in English.”

I felt weak, small and frustrated. How does one combat ignorance? My whole life has been confusing. Brown skin, white mind. I am a square peg trying to fit into a circular hole. I work twice as hard to get half as far as my Anglo coworkers. I try to convince myself that it’s just my work ethic. This is a whole other subject. The serviceable brown lady stereotype. Ugh.

I continue to navigate through life and find my footing, my voice and my strength. As I shed the colonization mindset that I was cloaked in as a child, I’m working on being kind and patient. It’s hard. I’m tired of making excuses for white privileged people and excuses for being me. This is going to be an interesting journey.

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

43 thoughts on “Shedding Colonialism”

    1. I don’t know your plans, but I’d first say what you want to say in Spanish with full expression and volume if necessary, and then I’d smile and say (with candy sweetness) — “Oh … I’m soooo sorry. You didn’t understand a word I said, did you? Please, let me translate.”

      Then again, maybe you’d like to keep this job. 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I take each such event on its own merits, and according to the players concerned. Sometimes I speak up, and sometimes I choose temporary silence. I try to think ahead (not always successfully) and keep emotions from being tested in public. This is easier when I know the players. If among strangers, I have to choose without reliable information. Some I win, some I lose. Losing control of my emotions never serves me well.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Part of my hesitation to speak up is from the life long conditioning in acceptance that I’m a second class citizen.
    I hesitate because I like the people and know some are ignorant. I just need to find the words and ways to correct this behavior.
    I have started speaking up and to no shock, some have turned unfriendly and give me the cold shoulder. I don’t take it personally. I simply have stopped caring.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Good for you! And even more so for the young student, who while she may have young friends, knows that she has one adult who will support and befriend her in Spanish and English.

    One thing I believe our current political situation has blatantly revealed is that a sizeable group of Americans exist who are ignorant, racist, sexist, and cruel and are incredibly proud of being so. Not that we didn’t know people like that live in our communities. It’s just that our president has enabled them, given them a voice, and promotes their hatred for others.

    I think you did the right thing. Had you gone after the woman, she might have retaliated by going after the student. It’s the coward’s way.

    Generally speaking, the American Educational attitude toward language learning is primitive at best. We KNOW that children can learn a second language quickly​ between ages three and six, and yet we flat refuse to introduce language courses at that age level. Why? Because at heart, Americans are terrified of challenging the status quo.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. The student returned and was asking me a question—it was a silly one about her day and we giggled. As we did, another staff member walked in and slammed her hand on the counter repeatedly and yelled, “Speak English!! We live in America!”

    I won’t presume to expect other people to react to situations like this as I would; and, I do have a long reputation for bluntly confronting assholes like that ignorant staff member. Doing so has gotten me into trouble with my coworkers and employers, but there comes times when people of principle must stand up and be heard. At the very least, the staff member should’ve been told that: 1) speaking Spanish isn’t illegal in the U.S., and 2) that their hostile reaction towards people speaking Spanish is a form of harassment which is punishable under the law and probably also violates their organization’s conduct policies. I know this is a harsh thing to say, but people who remain passive and silent are enabling such harassment.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Good ideas. As long as it’s been happening it still seems to catch us by surprise when someone behaves that way. I thought people knew better, then here we go again. Thanks Bob.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As an ESL’er I learned that when we excuse ignorance we are not only enabling it, we are being cowardly. No matter who you are, or where you are, life presents endless challenges. If we are to grow, learn, become enlightened, we have to accept those challenges and overcome them. Bigotry is a common trait of Earthians and it is truly sick. Those who submit to bigotry claiming to be trying to be nice or conciliatory are really being cowardly. Fight it!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. i write about this frequently: wrong identification with this or that. color, nation, culture, religion, etc. all false. all causing innumerable problems. what did i say? ‘not this not that. but the awareness of all of it’.
    well, part of the process

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sins of the father is a burden their prodigy should acknowledge but in no way are responsible for. No one picks their parents. Being a participant in the remedy is reasonable and laudable but not requisite. Cultural inequities are a different matter entirely. It becomes the burden of society the seek solutions to the cause and then mitigate the inequities caused by that culture. Having ones heart in the “right place” is not enough when the consequences are still affecting the aggrieved peoples. This is why reparations should be a starting point. Great post. Just say’n.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Mrs. Jim will probably find it amusing that the week we arrived in Mazamet I was at the supermarket buying something and I called Mike to ask him if he wanted me to pick anything up and an older lady said loudly “These English people come here and don’t even bother to learn French”. I then asked her in French how many languages she spoke – and I didn’t stop there 😁

    Liked by 9 people

    1. That’s awesome! I can only speak for my experiences in the USA and Panama. This is a global mindset. I’m happy you gave her an earful. French is the most delicious language to my ears. So beautiful.
      I was in Canada recently with my sister. The gentleman driving the shuttle was speaking in Hindustani, a couple on the shuttle in French and my sister and I in Spanish. My heart was full of joy.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Look, you know that the French all speak perfect English but stubbornly refuse to do so. The best way to deal with this is simply to speak your English question louder and louder until they give in…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s supposed to be a joke, right? Two weeks ago I spent time here with two French cousins. Neither spoke a word of English, relying on their phones and tablet to make sense of what was going on. At the restaurant, fortunately they had that menu translator app so were able to order what they wanted. They had no clue how to read the English menu. So… no. Most French people do not, as a matter of fact, speak English unless, of course they are French Canadian in which case, yes, most of them are fully bilingual, et voilá, mon ami(e) c’est come ça!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s also an eye opener to the meaning of words and how other cultures interpret the world. If someone is struggling with your language, keep this in mind…they’re bilingual

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The first time I went to the SA dept. of Home Affairs to renew my work permit the rather large Afrikaans officer asked me if I was bi-lingual. I replied, ”Yes. I speak English and French.”
        That wasn’t the answer he was looking for and so couldn’t tick it off on his form. It confused him.
        Inwardly I laughed.

        Liked by 3 people

  9. This type of behaviour revolts me to my stomach.

    In South Africa there are 11 official languages and I am ashamed to admit I only speak one. I can get by in French and Portuguese but I would never behave in such a boorish manner.
    My (Portuguese ) wife speaks English and four indigenous languages.
    Our housekeeper is from Zimbabwe and although Celeste does not speak any Zim languages the pair of them often rattle off in Zulu.

    I would have been tempted to slap my hand and tell the staff member to have sex and travel. And on his /her travels learn an indigenous language or have the humility to at lwast offer a greeting in Spanish!

    Liked by 5 people

      1. True, but there is something much deeper than Americanism that few question and almost everyone, Christian or atheist, accepts. Even the people talking about “inclusion” and “tolerance”. And especially people that believe in progress. It is so ingrained that they don’t even think to question it.

        Liked by 3 people

  10. We (as young pre-adult types) did not experience such issues waaaaay back in the ’80s. Inside school or outside, we didn’t have these “concerns” that society faces today. ***sigh

    Liked by 2 people

            1. Like sometimes… when you haven’t blogged for a couple of days I think its maybe because you’ve ‘gone towards the light’.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. Ha! Good guess. Been with my best friend of fifty years at the trauma hospital. He’s looking at the light for ten days now. Still unconscious.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. I would like to say he fell off a mountain or bucked off a bull in one of our harrowing adventures between life and death, but he slipped and fell in the kitchen, hitting his head just right and had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. They left his skull off three days and now just not responding the way he should. Not sure what to do but wait

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Jeepers! I hope he makes it! That doesn’t seem fair. To survive mountains and horses and all manner of heroic deeds…

              I guess it underscores that we can never chose the time and manner and that we need to be ready…

              I will hold thumbs that he pulls through.

              Liked by 1 person

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