Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: assholes

Every culture has jerks

One of my pet peeves is when people excuse abuse by citing culture. “That’s part of the culture” is valid for many tihngs, but not when it comes to abusing another person. I was reading a post on Ask A Manager with the question from a reader asking if they could thrive under a hypercritical manager. My immediate thought without reading the post was, “Yeah, but only if it’s for a evry short amount of time and you have a very thick skin.”

Then I read the post and became more concerned with each paragraph. The ltetter writer (LW) started by saying they were in a competitive technical field and had always been great at it. Until this boss, whom they call Jane. LW said that they knew Jane was just trying to coach them, but then went on to say that Jane made them feel like a complete failure. Jane said their work was 95% good, but LW felt as if 95% of the feedback from Jane was frustrated, critical, and accusatory.

This was when I started to get concerned. I mean, I was already biased in the beginning, but the first few paragrpahs did not paint a pretty picture. “She doesn’t really give positive feedback” cemented it for me. I didn’t actually have to read any more to know that the boss was a lost cause. It got worse–so much worse.

LW’s colleagues told LW that they would never work with Jane and that she made them want to pull their hair out. She’s made many people cry, including the LW. It broke my heart that the LW was trying so hard to be fair to their boss, who was crushing them under her foot. The ysaid they had lost their motivation, their creative spark, and was their self-worth.

I related so hard to this because of my parents. I will get to that in a second. There was one comment about how it might be cultural difference and blah, blah, blah. Obviosuly, I did not agree with this comment. The person claimed they worked with people from 50 different cultures and that French people, for example, were like tihs, more interested in pointing out errors. Someone who acutally worked in France said, no, they were blunt, yes, but not cruel. Another person working in France said that they had a boss who was like this and she got fired.

And it’s interesting that the person making the initial comment of that particular thread was not French (they were from New York). It’s a form of soft bigotry that is annoying as hell. When someone who is not part of a culture broadly stereotypes that culture and ignores evidence to the contrary–even when it’s a purportedly positive stereotype–it’s still bigotry.

Side note: It’s similar to ow Asian people used to be called the model minority and praised for being smart, quiet, and obedient. By the way, there was a time when people used to gush about how smart Asians were. I used to snap, “That’s because oll the stupid ones are in Asia!” Which I would not say now because it’s cruel, but my point was that for East  Asians who came here in the 60s, it was for grad school. It caused a brain drain back in Asia ,and many of them didn’t go back.

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The Identity of Politics

My taiji teacher and I were talking about our food allergies today. She’s allergic to dairy (and maybe casein and/or whey). I am lactose intolerant (and perhaps have issues with casein and/or whey), and I have gluten sensitivities. It morphed into a discussion about why are some people assholes about food sensitivities to the point of not believing the person who says they have them. This led to a discussion about how people can be such jerks to vegetarians/vegans, and I pointed out that to be fair, there are some vegetarians/vegans who are assholes. She agreed, but pointed out that the vast majority are not. She gave the example of bikers. Yeah, there are some asshole bikers, but they would be assholes if they were drivers or pedestrians. In other words, they were just assholes in general.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and it’s actually what I wanted to write my post about today even before the discussion. I have an issue with someone who’s a minority saying, “I’m ________, therefore I am the expert on this issue. If you disagree with me, then you’re ______ist.” This might be true. It might also be that you’re an asshole and/or wrong. I have made a truism: You can be a minority AND an asshole; the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s hard for me to be coherent about this because I have many conflicting thoughts. One, it’s good to include a diversity of opinions. In the past, the automatic default of straight white bio-male meant that a lot of people were being overlooked. One example relevant to me: most medical studies in the past were done on white men. When I had trouble sleeping, my psychiatrist at the time suggested I try sleeping pills and gave me the lowest dose. I took a pill and didn’t wake up for nearly twenty-four hours. I cut it in half at her suggestion, but I still slept for far longer than I wished. I cut it into a fourth, but it still knocked me the fuck out. I gave up and stopped using them. Many years later, I learned that Asian people need a smaller dose than white people, and, of course, women in general need less than men. Had I know that at the time, I would have been  lot less frustrated.

Two, experiences as a minority vary widely. Growing up Asian American in a Minnesota suburb in the eighties is very different than growing up Asian American in LA ten years ago. My experience is valid, and I’ve run into many Asian Americans around my age who grew up in similar environments and had similar experiences. However, it would be a dick move on my part to insist that my Asian American experience is the ONLY Asian American experience,  and anyone who said anything different was invalidating my experience AND a racist to boot.

Three, pointing out problematic behavior/thoughts/words is the beginning of a conversation, not the end. There are some things that are definitely, say, racist. Let’s take the obvious extreme–being a Nazi/white supremacist. Oh, wait. That’s apparently not so obvious these days, but that’s beside the point. Most rational people would agree that thinking you’re a better person just because you’re white and explicitly stating this is racist, so let’s move on. The problem is, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to social issues, and not everybody agrees where the line is drawn. There’s a lot of talk about microagressions these days, but one person’s microaggression is another person’s hilarious joke.

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