Saturday, March 21, 2009

It Takes Two

Belize is the quintessential melting pot of diverse races and ethniticies; the interaction of these cultures in a small community offers, in my opinion, is one ingredient in the antidote against the racial discrimination that has plagued humanity for centuries. Indeed, an eclectic integration of cultures does not guarantee that one's society will be spared from pervasive racism. For example, the history of the most famous melting pot, the United States, is tainted by its civil rights movement of the 1960s - an era that still casts a shadow on its cultural genotype, despite the election of its first African American president.

As the largest minority in the country, the Chinese community have arguably received the brunt of ethnic discrimination in Belize. To criminals, they are perceived as weak and docile, and hence, easily malleable to the forces of crime. Moreover, many ordinary Belizeans exacerbate this perception by their simple lack of respect, courtesy and humanity toward the Chinese, best illustrated in their daily interactions. Imagine standing outside any Chinese establishment, particularly their restaurants, and listen to the salutations that are offered to the Chinese shopkeepers; Chinese workers are not afforded the title "Ms. or Mr." (typical signs of respect), but rather, they are dehumanized by disgraceful epithets such as "chiney bwoy/gyal" or "chino". It could be argued, however, that these are benign elements of Belizean verbal intercourse. Yet, to say that this blatant disrespect does not contribute to our own problem of ethnic discrimination would be to purport that ethnic discrimination itself does not exist in our country.

Although there are various sources of this social malady - the lack of cultural education in the home and at school, for example - one origin that has been continually ignored are the Chinese themselves. Despite being belittled, and quite often, verbally assaulted, they continue to serve their patrons. In America, it would be the equivalent of a black individual serving his/her customer despite being called the 'n' word; in Mexico a "pisa"; in England, a "limey and so forth. Chinese-Belizeans' tolerance of what can be considered nothing less than ethnic assualt unequivocally contributes to their perceived obsequious nature. Perhaps the best corrective measure lies withtin the will of the Chinese themselves to refuse service to any individual who addresses them in an uncivil manner. Until this is done, the Chinese community in Belize will reside in a circle of discriminated groups, ranging as far back as the era of Western colonization, the French Revolution and legalized slavery. In each of these cases, the submissive party revolted for their independence. The Chinese community in Belize can achieve their own emancipation from ethnic discrimination by commandeering respect in their daily interactions with Belizeans. Of course, we can also expect Belizeans to adhere to basic manners, but this may be too expensive for our individual budgets for comity.

14 comments:

The Voice said...

Interesting perspective, as always. I will admit, it has never dawned upon me to ever ever call a Chinese proprieter Mr. or Ms., though I consider myself a person full of respect.

The cultural interactions of Belize is something an anthropologist should study in depth. It would be interesting to see their findings?

I scorn at "alien illegal spanish", but without their cheap labour, wouldn't the economy of Belize by hurt? What percentage of Belizeans are actually 1st or 2nd generation central americans?

The Chinese have a unique role in Belize, though...

V said...

It is not just an interesting perspective. It is reality. This is how most pants-sagging mindless Belizeans treat Chinese people and every time I witness this kind of behavior I am tempted to rebuke the perpetrators but I'm afraid it would do no good. Most of them are just too damn ignorant and without any good sense or understanding. Besides, the Chinese don't give a damn; after all the same assholes who disrespect the Chinese people are paying the Chinese to kill them with their unhealthy fried chicken.

The Voice said...

I'd rebuke your by saying there are two or three different "kinds" of Chinese in Belize.

Type 1. Multigenerational. Been in Belize for several generations. Has integrated and intermarried to other ethnic groups of Belizeans.

Type 2. Transistioning Chinese. Only came to Belize to become naturalized Belizeans, so they can use our nationality to go apply for American Visa

Type 3. Cornerstore Chinese. Still don't know any english. Just came to the country. Probably poor in China. As mean and aggresive to us as we are to them.

All this, can of course by subcatorgized in village Chiney, Southside Chiney, and Northside Chiney, to speak very plain English.

The Chinese of Belize have learned Garifuna, Spanish, Creole, and I don't know what other languages. They are not only shoppkeepers. The children of Type 1 are a part of mainstream society.

So, I beg to differ, V... it is an interesting perspective. My question for Democrates is, what category of Chinese-Belizean are you referring to? {not to mention the Japanese and Taiwanase Orientals too!}

bloggah said...

japanese and taiwanese in Belize, now that's a whole different ball game. would be interesting to look at the differences between the taiwanese and chinese in belize. definitely profound class and social economic differences between the two.

Democrates said...

You bring up an extremely valid point Voice. I was mainly referring to the Chinese population. Nonetheless, other ethnicities are equally discriminated against, including the Taiwanese, Japanese and East Indians. I mainly singled out the Chinese because they are the largest minority and arguably the most discriminated, at least from a verbal standpoint. You never hear "taiwanese lady gimme wah..." but you do hear that for the Chinese.

The Voice said...

I wouldn't say the common man knows the difference between the Orientals.

Bloggah, you made me wish I was a social anthropologist instead. These different people came to Belize at different times for different reasons. They were of different income levels and have lived different quality of lives.

Democrates, I find it funny that you began this piece talking about how well races mix in Belize. True, we mix, but sometimes like oil and water. Light skin and right name still get you a hell of a lot further than you would ever fathom. That's the bottom line truth.

Each race has another race they pick on and look down upon.

Unpatriotic Patriot said...

so we have Japanese living in Belize now? I didn't know that. Cool. Haven't heard anything about them on the news...

oh yeah, and right, Chinese definitely dominate the media in news coverage...

Here's how the media cover orientals...

Chinese: Crime and Chinese New Year

Taiwanese: Government loans, scholarships, grants, nice foreign relations parties...

Japanese: ?

Unpatriotic Patriot said...

Oh and I forgot passports and agriculture for Taiwanese in media coverage...

Interesting, more Chinese than Taiwanese living in Belize yet a broader scope of coverage for the Taiwanese in local media, and of course, more positives...

maybe because taiwanese have better diplomatic skills attributed to education, privilege, money?

taiwanese coming from wealthy communities, chinese coming from poor communities...?

affects their status and interactions in Belize...

hmmm.

The Voice said...

Bravo for your thought processes! I said I was going to stop commmenting, but you've hit a lovely nail on the head. Lemme break it down...

All countries in the world either support China or Taiwan. Taiwan has declared itself independent for the past X years, and is trying to secure a seat in the UN, and unconditional recognition. But, one look in history, and you'll see China is a dragon, who knows how to fight. One by one, China and Taiwan are luring countries to side with them for this big UN vote-down. Now, we Belizeans have a territorial dispute too, and for a long time WE were the underdogs, so we forged ties with Taiwan. These ties continue with the agricultural and educational links between our two countries. Do you know how many Belizeans are currently living in Taiwan? I'd say over 200, though I might be wrong.

Most of my so called Type2 Chinese came to Belize with our citizenship selling in the 80s and 90s.

But, we live in a globalized world. We gotta travel, right?

Jolie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jolie said...

Suggestion for local Belizean news reporter:

Interview individuals of both groups and question their views of the UN vote-down.(Try to include newcomers and old timers.)

Seek an interview with a government official and ask how the government's historical relatonships with both countries affect the local Taiwanese and Chinese communities in Belize.

Finally, interview a local cultural anthropologist, educator, and/or historian for his or her thoughts.

It would certainly be something different to add to the aforementioned media coverage and very educational for the Belizean general public.

Bigtykes said...

I feel obligated to comment on this blog.
I am one of the three "Born and Raised in Belize" of Japanese descent people in this world. I can honestly say, that despite the fact that I speak creole and can act 'kruffy' just like any other Belizean, I've always been called 'Chiney Gial' when I walk down the street.
In regards to The Voice's comments to labeling the Chinese people, I would have to disagree with two of those labels. Your 'Transitioning Chinese' I think typically are of Taiwanese origin. I have befriended many of these people only to have them move away to the United States after several years. Also, your label of 'Cornerstore Chinese', I think is also unfair. If people treated you with such disrespect and disdain, you would always be rude and crabby in return. They do not speak much English because they try not to associate with the people who constantly victimize and disrespect them.
I have had little children as young as 4 and 5 years old yell
'Chiney' at me, so obviously there is a fundamental flaw in how Belizean children are raised. We need to teach our children that we are all human despite our differences in skin color, eye shape and the languages we speak. Ultimately, this is a growing problem which definitely must be address for the future of our country. How can Belize as a country grow and develop into this world filled with many cultures so very different from our own multi-cultural one, if we cannot accept those that are within our own borders?
Think about it everyone. Try to put yourself into these people's shoes before you judge them.

Unpatriotic Patriot said...

BigTykes -- a very sincere thank you for your input in this conversation. We're all learning from each other here on this blog, and this shows why multicultural education, understanding and dialogue is so important.

I hope Belize Watch continues to discuss these topics.

Big Tee said...

Unpatriotic Patriot:
Not a problem. I has always and will always be my belief that education is the answer to many of our problems. The disdain that people have for one another, stems not from spite or maliciousness, but rather a lack of education and understanding.
In regards to this site:
I think apathy is a big problem in this world and it is really great to see Belizeans speaking up about the injustices that afflict our country. I love what you all are doing here with "Belize Watch" and I hope you all keep it up!