Sorry. These are not examples of racism.

I came across two very different articles today which broached the issues of race. The first one was about Harry Potter actress Katie Leung saying that taxis drivers sometimes compliments her for her good English. (She was born in Scotland, by the way.)

The second one was about Hillary Clinton saying Republicans use “coded racial language” to oppose any Obama Supreme Court nominee.

Sorry. But in regards to racism, there’s nothing to see here – though you wouldn’t know it if you read these articles. You would think that both taxi drivers and Republicans are the most bigoted people in the world.

But all of this is, I guess, to be expected in our super polarized and super sensitive world.

Now, that said, I can understand that Leung gets tired of being looked at as an immigrant or an ESL speaker when she is a native English speaker. Sure, I get that. But a taxi driver commenting on a person of Asian descent’s decent English is not racism. Might have a smidgen of stereotyping, but it is not stating that one’s race is superior to another’s. This is an example of false cultural convergence – the driver thinking he’s running into someone from another culture when he actually isn’t.

Concerning the Hillary quote, she is, regrettably, adding issues of race into a situation where there isn’t any. This is what becomes tiring about politics – and both parties can be guilty of it – throwing our accusations and slight jabs to rile up the faithful into believing something that isn’t true. These kind of quotes are divisive and uncalled for. The issues surrounding the Supreme Court are tried and true political issues, not race issues. Not in any way. Period. And she knows it. But she still says it. This is about the Republicans being unwilling to waver politically in regards to replacing a conservative icon like Justice Scalia. And we all know, one-hundred percent for-sure know that if the situation was reversed, the Democrats would employ the very same delay tactics. It’s bad government, but it’s good politics. But it isn’t racism.

There are plenty of real racial issues in our world to deal with without us having to invent new ones.

Students who get upset about yoga should learn a thing or two about cultural change.

For students trying to seem so culturally aware and intellectual, they are completely clueless. Check out this article:

Ottawa College Bans Yoga

I completely agree with the following article.

Article on Cultural Appropriation

Okay, so where are we at on this topic? These are lessons I teach my ninth-graders. Culture changes. You can’t stop it, not would you want to. Every culture changes. You see that word EVERY in front of that. When first a cultural element comes into contact with a foreign culture, the relationship is tenuous, perhaps curious, perhaps skeptical, and sometimes even enthralling.

When I first moved to Vietnam in 1994, the culture I dragged with me came into contact with lots of new cultural elements I was previously unfamiliar with. Some parts of Vietnamese culture were thrilling. Other parts I completely couldn’t understand and wanted nothing to do with. But over time, I began to navigate their ways, understand how to act in certain circumstances, and even tried new things.

What happens next depends on the situation. If cultural elements are transmitted into a new culture, it’s what we call cultural diffusion. Every culture is diffused with ideas from the outside. Korean culture is influenced by the Chinese. Malaysian culture diffused in Islam from the Middle East traders and Chinese elements from the Straits Chinese. American culture is a mish-mash melting pot of a variety of different examples of cultural diffusion.

There are no pure cultures – not in this day and age. Even the remote hunter-gather tribe of Tanzania, the Hadza, wear tire-tread sandals for convenience sake. Are their sandals an example of cultural appropriation. Of course not, because that’s a silly idea.

It’s beyond ludicrous for non-Mexicans to be criticized for eating Mexican food. Does this sound too outrageous. Well, there was a college in Ohio whose cafeteria had to endure protests because the Vietnamese food they served was not an authentic representation of what it’s really like.

Cultural change is a messy business. It doesn’t follow ordinary channels and protocols. It’s awkward college students doing a type of yoga they that don’t fully understand. It’s a chef who uses a spice combination or technique from a different culture. It’s me, in the kitchen, making bad Indian food because I don’t know what I’m doing. What I am not doing, however, is trying to offend Indians. I revere their cooking. That’s why I try to emulate them.

These ridiculous examples are just that. Ridiculous. We need to stop finding offense where there is none because I know one thing for certain: it won’t stop cultures from changing and adopting new ways of doing things.