Crowded Nakamise Dori

Cultural sensitivity and judging the individual by the whole

A year or so ago, something I posted provoked a comment questioning the racial/cultural/ethnic sensitivity that I was teaching my kids.  The commenter almost immediately sent a private message apologizing for the conjecture, but the comment had already posted, and if there’s one thing that hits me hard, it’s having someone’s first assumption about me be a negative one.

I should be over it.  For the most part I am.  I guess it still rankles sometimes because of what I feel to be absurdity of such a supposition, exacerbated by my own (or, this week, my daughter’s) cultural reminders.

I see my family living as a minority in one of the most homogenous, ethnocentric nations in the world…

I visit Japanese museums documenting our own nation’s history and recognize that no story is strictly black and white…

I see that there are still shops today posting signs that ban non-Japanese from entering…

I listen to my daughter, every day during her first week of school, telling me about the three boys in her class who go out of their way to yell at her and ostracize her because she’s not Japanese…

I hear myself reminding her not to base her opinions of Japanese people on the actions of three young boys, but to look at the hundreds of good people she’s met in the past year and a half…

I feel those hundreds of good people reaching out to lift part of the burden of being completely outside my element, of not even knowing where to look for items/places/resources that I’ve always taken for granted, of not knowing how communicate even when I find them…

…and wonder how anyone could doubt my comprehension of individuals not being defined by the whole of the group.

This is what I’m teaching my kids.

Crowded Nakamise Dori

4 thoughts on “Cultural sensitivity and judging the individual by the whole

  1. Sara – I really hurt for Cambria – it really leaves scars to be bullied at such a young age – have you talked with her teacher about those 3 boys? Or is it proper to talk to teachers about your child in Japan? I don’t know the cultural norms and I can just imagine what a difficult time you are having. I will keep you all in my prayers. God bless!

    • Mary, thank you for your comment. I spoke briefly with another mom about it yesterday (whose son is the best friend I’ve ever seen with Cambria, thank goodness), and she kind of grimaced and told me that they’ll change when they enter elementary school. Cambria has told me that the teacher has scolded the boys and moved Cambria away from them. I think we’re going wait and see if things die down a little (while working with Cambria in the meantime) before we really get involved. That said, this is an entirely new situation to me, and I would welcome any insight. It’s hard to find the balance between my mom-heart and appropriate action. (This is becoming a stream of consciousness comment, bear with me!) Cambria knows Jesus so well, and as I said on facebook, we remember often the similar situations he found himself in, and how he carried on despite them. We’ve also, through various study and random video finds, discussed racism in the context of other cultures somewhat frequently over the past year, so she draws on that, as well. She personally drew from her recollection of this one yesterday:

  2. And you are teaching them well. Live the Truth, teach them the Truth, love the Truth. What a blessing your girls have a mother who will point them to the Great Physician, rather than just putting a bandaid on the wounds, because words and judgements do hurt.
    Your post encourages me to step back and take a look at how I can be quick to judge sometimes. thank you for the wake up call!

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