Ignorance Makes You Look Bad

Amidst all the rain we had lately, we experienced a gorgeous day today!

I honestly can’t stand the rain. It’s so wet and soggy and it just gets everywhere: your shoes, your clothes, your hair, your eyes.. it’s so disgusting. I question those that say that rain has a romantic element to it.

But what I find even more disgusting are people that are rude, ignorant, quick to judge, and racist. I’m pretty sure I’m living in the 21st century, but the attitudes and ignorance that I have come across really makes me question our progressiveness and whether or not I am stuck a couple centuries back.

Here is another transit tale for you.

I have had the worst sleep schedule ever since school started. Added to this is my annoying back pain (which may have been worsened by my accident) that keeps me up at night. So in essence, I get really sleepy, and transit is probably one of the best places to sleep. Although I am just realizing now that it may be really unsafe to do so. But I digress.

When I got on at Scott Road, I sat next to a guy who looked to be in his mid 20s, so a few years older than me. I couldn’t really tell what ethnicity he was because he was slumped against the window, sleeping. I shrugged it off and took my seat. With the slow rocking of the Skytrain I began to feel myself drifting off to sleep, which was much appreciated since I couldn’t sleep the night before.

So I fell asleep.

I wasn’t entirely unconscious. I was just asleep enough to feel like my batteries were recharging, but conscious enough to hear everything that was going on around me, including the looming voice that listed off every stop. I kept an ear open for my stop, because it had happened before where I had missed my stop due to my slumber.

About halfway into my journey I could hear shuffling feet come up behind me and beside me. In a language that I could somewhat pick apart, I heard a woman speak to someone else. Without opening my eyes I could already see what was probably happening in front of me: this woman was probably helping an elderly person into the seat in front of me. No big deal, so I shrugged it off again and continued on in my sleep

But then came the interesting part.

The woman changed her language from what I realized then was Mandarin (which I can barely understand) to Cantonese (which I can understand pretty well). And what I heard (loosely translated) shocked me.

“Those ______________. So lazy. Doesn’t even get up to let the elderly sit. Sleeping and being useless. So lazy.”

I slowly opened my eyes to see who was speaking. There before me stood a Chinese woman and her daughter, and the elderly couple that was sitting in the seats in front of me. Next to me, I saw that the sleeping guy was now awake, and clearly seething.

At this point I should tell you that the blank refers to an ethnicity that the (ever so ignorant) Chinese woman used. I don’t want to use it because hearing it made me feel super uncomfortable. But clearly, she had (sadly) mistaken me and the other guy for another ethnicity.

The guy looked at me and asked if I was the said ethnicity, and I asked him the same thing. It turned out that he was Chinese too, but he had been asked a number of times. It was a question, he said, that didn’t faze him anymore.

He went on to tell me that his girlfriend was at home with his 3 year old son and infant daughter. He was working two jobs to make ends meet, and he was going to work a nighttime shift. He wouldn’t be home again until Sunday afternoon. Sheepishly, I didn’t any good reason to be passed out, but he laughed and said that at least I wasn’t the one going around making ignorant comments.

As we approached Commercial-Broadway, he got up and walked over to the woman and said to her everything that he told me, in perfect Cantonese. He concluded by saying to her in English, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Don’t be so judgmental.”

With a stunned look, she looked over at me. I got off at the next stop and didn’t really have anything to say to her, so I just smiled.

This entire situation made me cringe. As ignorant as she was, this doesn’t even begin to count as a serious case of racism. But then again, should we even let it get to be so serious?

This woman made an offensive statement using a stereotype that she may have encountered or heard. It made it explicitly clear to me that she has a very narrow view of the world and is really set in her ways. But this kind of attitude is the type of attitude that can perpetuate into larger issues of hate and racism if ignored.

Every person’s situation is unique and everyone is different. What may be the norm for certain groups in society may not always translate to every single member.

I can assure you that when I am awake, I am a good citizen in that when there is an elderly person on a full bus, I will give them my seat. But on an empty Skytrain? Those words weren’t warranted. They are never warranted. I’m not using the empty Skytrain to justify the fact that I didn’t get up, but regardless of situation, words like those that are hateful and directed against a certain ethnic group are just uncalled for. And for the record, some of these people happen to include some of the hardest workers that I know.

Yes, this is a society in which free speech is the epitome of your democracy and right. So let’s be real here: you can totally say whatever the hell you want, and some people will just nod and smile. But at the end of the day, ignorance makes you look bad.

And that’s all.


Until next time,

x R