stitchwhich: (Lego Viking Woman)
[personal profile] stitchwhich
I have a difficult time with the concept. Or at least, with defining the point at which a slippery slope becomes an insulting one. Perhaps this is because of my faith-path, in that there is a strong tenet of 'if that is what creates a relationship between you and Divinity, then it is a valid thing for you to do/use'. 'Valid' being a not-very-exact word for what I mean.

I have no difficulty understanding that there is an ignorant offensiveness about sexpot 'Indian Maiden' Halloween costumes or the team name "Washington Redskins". Where I bog down is at things I consider to be extremes but are apparently not; practicing yoga if one is not from India, dreadlocks when one is not a native of the Caribbean, hanging a dream-catcher in one's bedroom when one is not of the Ojibwe/Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribe.

I grew up celebrating the American ideal of the 'melting pot', the concept that each culture which contributed to the mass which is the population of the USA had aspects to be respected, valued, and incorporated into an American lifestyle as desired, that in this way we as a population were strengthened and drawn together rather than held separated and small in our collective identity. That does not seem to be a valued view any longer. And I, as a child of an older cultural generation, am saddened as well as confused, because now I do not know where I may give offense rather than inspire camaraderie. If I say, "te nada" to an individual who thanks me in Spanish, am I being offensive because I am not Hispanic? (You may snort but in a facebook conversation that was exactly an example which was given.) If I have, as I do, a statue of Quan Yin on my altar because that is the aspect of the Goddess who most inspires and speaks to me and through which I channel my dialogue with the Lady, am I an insensitive cultural thief?

Once I had a neurosurgeon who was Brahmin. He'd grown up in his native land but came to the US later and trained in medicine here,then got a cmmission in the Navy. I, reading his diplomas on the wall, caught on immediately to his cultural background because of his full name, so was not surprised when he addressed his statements and questions to my husband and rarely looked me in the face. After my surgery, however, my ward nurses were appalled by his 'rudeness'. I'd been placed in a ward which was not the neurosurgical recovery ward else I think there would have been no problem as the staff there were probably already used to his behaviour. But the staff in the Women's Surgical ward were indignant on my behalf and astonished when I explained that to the contrary, he was showing me courtesy by not looking me in the face, as he was treating me as a respectable woman would have been treated in his own culture. (This is likely because I had asked him, upon our first meeting, if he was Hindu.)

I wonder nowadays which of us would be considered the rude person - him for treating me with his cultural-based respect, or me for not demanding that he behave as we'd consider the American Medical Norm?
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