Friday, February 08, 2008

"I thought they fixed that?"

So R is watching "That's so Raven" on Disney the other afternoon while K's still at school for cooking class. I am doing something productive and keeping Raven in view with the corner of my eye. Because we like Raven (yes, even Bart) and we sing along to the theme until we can't keep up with the rap because my ears are no longer capable of catching all the words and I don't like to mumble songs or hear anyone else mumble either. Too much about me....

The episode dealt with the interest Cory should be showing for his school project dealing with Black history and the pride he should take in it. And Raven is trying to get a job in a store with her friend only to have one of her visions in which the hiring employee says "I don't hire black people." If you don't know about Raven's visions (she can see into the future you know!), her predictions are very often misunderstood and lead to funny escapades - thus funny show.

Rachel immediately says after that comment "I thought they fixed that?!" I'm intrigued. I ask "Fixed what?" R - "You know, that people aren't supposed to be looking at the color of other people's skin for stuff. The store can't do that. I thought they fixed that."

Oh - that it were so easy that prejudice could be "fixed" like that. And how at 9 yrs old, she truly believes that skin color is NOT an issue. And how glad I am of that.

I'm sure you wonder why I am choosing to talk about this on our little blog re: family and Switzerland? Often we think of prejudice as primarily a 'color' issue. But it is a race, religion, health, language, education, financial and location issue as well. I allude here and there to the fact that we are Auslanders here in Switzerland. While, overall, I love living here for various reasons, there will be relief in other ways when we do return to the States. You can just be yourself without feeling that, in some way, the reputation of your Country rests upon your shoulders whenever you meet someone.

A prayer request was posed in Bible Study this week for the son of a British family who attends Swiss School as they are long-term resident's here. That when he goes to camp next week, he won't be racially abused as he was last time. His skin color is no different than theirs. He understands and speaks Swiss German fluently. But he is not one of them. This is not the first friend I've known here who's child has suffered racial abuse in the local schools here. And the schools don't know how to deal with it. They do not have the same programs here as exist in the UK and USA re: bullying.

In many places in Europe, and especially here, the children are expected to 'sort it out' without much, if any, parental/authoritative intervention. Families and traditions are old here and the local bully may be the 7th generation in town and nothing will be done because of family status. The bigger cities (Zurich) are more 'enlightened' but the further you go out, the more the old traditions hold fast.

Switzerland has a lot of pride and they do not bend easily. They hang onto a lot of stereotypes of people from other places and you have to work hard to change those stereotypes. Add a really difficult local language to learn - which is not useful outside of the german part of the Country. Worst - you could learn the Swiss German in St. Gallen then hop over to Basel and find you can't understand their Swiss German. The dialect varies so much. So 'foreign' children are very often excluded because of language differences. It's hard for kids in Int'l school to integrate with the local kids as they are getting 'Hoch Deutsch' in school vs local kids speaking 'Schweizer Deutsch.' And school schedules just make it hard to have lots of free time anyway.

And don't we all have our little prejudices? Fear and ignorance creates prejudice - Webster's - "an opinion made without adequate basis." What do we do with our prejudices? Do we hang onto them? Attempt to educate ourselves and others around us? Recognize when we may say or do something that might harm another based on perception/prejudice/lack of knowledge?

We are proud to represent our Country here and try to break some of the unflattering stereotypes they have of Americans. And, admittedly, I must caution myself against making comments about "the Swiss" when I am frustrated.

I'll get off my soapbox with this:

"Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul - Love him with all your mind.' This is the first and most important commandment. And the second is like it. 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39

So go out there and 'love' someone who may be a little different than you - I know I've received some and it makes such a difference.

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