Friday, June 19, 2009

Preference or Prejudice, Part 2

This year we have had an exchange student living with us. Maarten is from the Netherlands, and very proud of that. At the end of the year his family, mother, father and sister, came to visit for the weekend. We had a wonderful time with them. It is always exciting for me to learn about another culture. This was especially good because Maarten's family turns out to be a group of wonderful people.

We talked. We learned. We played. We ate. There were three days in which we spent most all of our time together. But it was not always comfortable for me. I learned of ignorance in my own life. Ignorance that certainly makes it appear that my prejudices have made me a racist.

But here is the hard part: I don't believe that I have those prejudices. I plead ignorance completely. However, my ignorance, not realizing what I was doing, saying, believing, was offensive to my guests. For that I apologized and apologize.

My problem was that I did not realize how often we Americans refer to the Dutch in derogatory ways. I did it a couple of times without realizing, but there are so many other ways we do it. Here are some phrases that we use without even thinking about them. Everyone of them can be seen negatively.
  • Double-Dutch- Although we may associate this with a jump rope game, it's origins come from a kind of double talk or gibberish. The jump rope game is called double dutch because the rhymes that are used are hard for the uninitiated to understand.
  • Dutchy- People with speech impediments are sometimes referred to as dutchy.
  • Dutch auction- This is a sale where prices are set to begin artificially high. The implication is that the Dutch are dishonest.
  • Dutch treat, or going Dutch- Usually referred to on a date, this means that everyone pays their own way. This implies that the Dutch are cheap.
  • Dutch uncle- A person who is painfully honest, sometimes harsh, is called a dutch uncle.

There are dozens more of these slanders, but you get the idea. These are phrases that we use regularly without even thinking about them. I did it because I never thought about it. I never realized that they could be offensive to anyone.

So now I realize that I must...

  • Think about my language and attitudes. I can no longer be careless about my speech. Every word, phrase and thought needs to be carefully considered.
  • Be proactive in changing my attitudes, even when I think I do not have attitudes.
  • Research ways that I talk and think.
  • Discover how I may be offensive to someone else.
  • Encourage those around me to be thoughtful and considerate with their speech and attitudes as well.

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