Friday, June 26, 2009

The Subject of Political Incorrectness

I always thought that this whole political correctness had gone a little far. I thought people should be able to say what they want without everyone taking offense. However, I guess I have grown accustom to a certain level or standard of politeness conversation. But this week I was the one who was on the down side of a tackless persons conversation.

I have told you about the famous foreigner phenomenon out here. People think if you can get a white face to participate that the whole things seems a lot cooler. So this week my friend was asked to find another foreigner to join her in a live on stage song and dance performance. Since a lot of the foreigners out here are sick of this sort of thing, it wasn't like there were that many people biting at the bit to participate.

We were running 5 minutes late on Tuesday morning when we were to meet the guy who was organizing our portion of the performance. He had been calling on and off for the last half an hour wanting to check and make sure we were coming ( we used a very local expression and told him we were coming on a horse, this can buy you up to almost an hour of waiting time in the local culture). When we arrived he didn't introduce himself, he didn't greet us, he didn't say anything, he just took one look at us, got in the car and we headed out.

We figured he was mad that we were running 5 minutes late, but considering it was 6 a.m. we weren't going to feel to bad about it. Twenty minutes into our car ride he turns to my friend and says "That was really irresponsible of you to not tell me the girl had bad legs. We can't have her in the performance".

We were shocked and surprised that he would be so blunt about it. In North America it would be the height of rudeness to so blatantly point out someones disability, or to use it as an excuse to exclude them from an activity. We have become so inclusive in our culture and so sensitive to political correctness, that this statement seemed like a slap in the face. We tried assuring him that I could Uyghur dance, and in fact that I did it all the time. But he considered the matter closed. I was not good enough for his show. He quickly called another white face that he knew, to see if she would sub in for me.

When we finally got out of the car and into the waiting area I ended up having to leave the room, I was more hurt by his senseless discrimination than I thought I would be. Once I was out of the room, he turned on my friend and yelled at her. Culturally here the whole idea of saving face is a big deal. He had been asked to find Westerners to perform and he was afraid that if he brought less than perfect white faces to the party he would lose face in front of his superiors. So he tried to pass the blame onto my friend.

Anyway she refused to take part if they were going to disqualify me without even letting me try. To top it off the replacement they found was also a friend of mine and refused to participate as well. In the end we all walked away, and last I heard they had to cancel our part of the performance because he couldn't find anyone else willing.

In North America we have really made advancements in how people with a wide variety of disabilities can participate in daily life. Unfortunately here, most of that is still hidden away in shame. The idea of celebrating a persons ability to overcome is unheard of. Instead they want to present a perfect facade and in turn sweep anyone with blemishes under the rug. I often forget how much my being here despite of my limp and other physical disabilities stands in stark contrast to cultural norms.


Meena said...

KSA, I'm so sorry you went through that. This country, as much as we love it, has a lot of places it needs to grow. You are a testimony of joy and victory and that is huge in the face of ignorance and intolerance. You're doing your part to change the world. Luv u.

~ Amanda ~ said...

oh karen, i'm so sorry you had to be on the receiving end of this man's terrible behavior. i would have LOVED to see you dance. :)

Jen said...

Wow. This makes me so angry.

Beth said...

oh, dear Karen, I'm so sorry to hear that. how very hurtful. Although I've been discriminated against here, it has always been, as you say, very politically correct. If it's not, it is very easy for me to call the discriminators to task, or to educate them, with a lot of support from others. I am so grateful to live in Canada and can't imagine what others with disabilities must go through in many other parts of the world.