Monday, November 13, 2006

The Degree of Racisim is Negativly Corelated to Education Levels.

Just the other day I was talking to my friend about the lack of understanding and social segregation that exists among expatriates and locals in Dubai. And the single biggest reason that we both reached was education.

Now I don’t mean an individual’s attempt to inform themselves about the culture but a more holistic and systematic approach. I am talking about the education systems that exist in Dubai.

The present situation segregates the society by default. Locals go to public schools (there are a minority that attend private schooling along with expatriates) and expats to schools that offer their choice of curriculum. Theses children spend 12 years of their life with minimal contact with expats/locals at school. And by the time they graduate, they already have a biased opinion of expats/locals due to the misinformation they receive. And once they do come into contact with expats/locals in the workforce the biased image they have is already so deeply ingrained into their psyche that it will take another 12 years to alter that( if it even happens).

Children are least susceptible to bias and racism. If the two communities are placed in the same education system and have contact with each other from a young age a significant proportion(I am not saying all ) of the misunderstandings, malice, bias, racism and out right animosity will be cease to exist.

I mean how many of you actually have a serious social relationship with a local/expats? How many of you have been invited into a local/expats house and had a meal with them, played with their children, been on social outings with them?

I say racism is almost directly correlated with education. The more a person knows about a culture the less he will be susceptible to forming false impressions purely on what the media and society throws at us.

What you guys think… have an education system where locals and expats are attending the same classes? I am not saying it will solve the entire issue but it can help.


blogrosh said...

Another point you've hit so well. It’s very true, sadly segregation between locals/expats start right from kindergarten - junior high - to the rest of one's school life.

You are also very correct re: minds on both sides are filled with such crap and bias about the other, it's sadly cemented, until someone starts discovering it all for himself. Such unfortunate events/traits fuels further segregation/discrimination in subsequent years.

Perhaps going forward, it should start with both local & expat children i.e. the future generations - who need to be better, introduced & exposed to one other, for a more tolerant & understanding future of this nation.

Fantastic post!

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

But Arab expats DO go to public school with locals.

In your post you go from 12th grade to the work force. what about college?

Although institutions such as the University of the UAE and the HCT are only local colleges (and for good reason, being free, they should only cater to citizens)

But what of all the private colleges and universities that are open to anyone who wants to attend and is able to pay.

I am continuing my education at Abu-Dhabi University where about 50% of the student body is non UAE citizen, and about 30% is non gulf citizen.

We, as locals are taught side by side WITH expats from grade one and the divide is still there.

And although I give you that it shrinks with education, it is a needed divide and one that neither side really wants to go away.

Education is not the problem.

Why do I say that? because after all this time, it is still there. even though locals and expats do indeed learn together from grade one, and again intensely in college.

if it was something people didnt want, you'd think that it'd be gone by now.

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

I just wanted to add that when I say "Education is not the problem" I mean the idea that Locals and expats learning together since in many instances they do in fact learn together.

I do however agree 100% that eradicating ignorance (and this can only ever happen through education) is a must.

Wanted to point this out before someone blasted me for a misunderstanding.

Shiva said...

Honestly, what do you think will make a stronger impact on a child? What is taught and seen at school or what they see their family members do and say?

I am not suggesting anything here, just fishing for opinions:)

localexpat said...


I think both have an equal impact...

palo said...

very interesting! i'm a palestinian who went to local (but private) school.. in my class i remember 2 other palestinos and the rest (about 25) were emirati..

obviously u notice the cultural differences from a young age, but at such an early time in one's life you're more numb to them as well.. as a consequence some of my best and closest friends are emirati.. and if i could turn the clock back wouldn't go to any other school!

however i found that mixing my emirati and shami friends doesn't work very well.. and to the extent that i dunno who am i.. am i more emirati or palestinian? i dunno..

how do i attribute myself to a country i never visited? how do i distance myself from the country i was brought up in?

blogrosh said...

"how do i attribute myself to a country i never visited? how do i distance myself from the country i was brought up in? "

Palo - I suppose your sentiments above is something most second generation expat souls ask themselves everyday.

I attended St Mary's high school in DXB - we had a mix of Asians/Brits/Arabs and a few Emirati's. I did not attend an Emirati high school, hence lost out in a lot of interaction wit them. There were a few Emirati kids whilst I was at school, but they were more western than Emirati (well atleast that's what I think).

My culture is a mix/mash of all the above. I am not sure where is it I belong either? I am comfortable in NYC, cause the city is truly multicultural. There are inter-race marriages, and offspring's from such unions. Often there is little segregation amongst the common man because of someone's background or race.
However, I am most comfortable and at peace, when in the UAE, catching up with friends from school, walking the neighborhoods I grew up in etc. Then someone throws out phrases "temporary workers"/ "go home" blah blah blah and I am on the next flight to NYC, back seeing my shrink again!

Anyhow, point being, perhaps if there is more interaction/introduction/assimilation between Emirati & expat children and (as Shiva pointed out) more tolerance and understanding from parents themselves, there could be a stronger foundation for this nation's future.

I mean end of the day, let's face it, religions, cultures, borders & boundaries will always change going forward. However we as human beings live only once, and in that period should learn to coexist in peace, happiness and understanding of one another in a place we feel is home , else what's the point to all this?

localexpat said...

BRAVO blogrosh!!! i couldn't have said it better myself!!

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

I agree!

blogrosh said...

OMG I am feeling dizzy with the bravos - thanks guys : )

blogrosh said...

Hey localexpat, you've been featured at GN - congratulations mate!

localexpat said...

WOW ! im famous now... ok people autographs will be provided on Tuesday

nativeinformant said...

Congrats on the Gulf News citing. I guess people are more willing to talk about these issues than we thought. I am optimistic about UAE still, regardless of the negatives.

I also wanted to note that in my interactions with Indian college kids, college is the first time many of them interact with Emiratis, which often dissolves earlier prejudices, but also creates new divisions among social groups, etc.

BuJ said...

mabrooooooook local-wafed (aka expat, hehe) on the Gulf News mention!

Looking forward to more hard hitting posts... keep up the good work.

Shiva said...

Congrats man! :)

Shiva said...

Ugh, I tried to read the GN entry about your blog and the considerate server replied
"Response object error 'ASP 0159 : 80004005'" 80004005 being your total readership hehe
Pretty deep stuff :)

kaya said...

Hmmmm very intersting.
But we dont live in Utopia, and the real world says slaves and masters.

blogrosh said...

"Hmmmm very intersting.
But we dont live in Utopia, and the real world says slaves and masters."

Ummmmmmm well rather than state the obvious, perhaps do your pennyworth to bring about change then.

marwan said...

After meeting loads of locals at GITEX: goddamn, man, bring the people together.

This is the only way.

Anonymous said...

Personally, most of the racist people I came across (both local and expats)were the educated richer ones.

The whole idea about having schools with locals and expat kids together is something that the older generation of locals would look down upon.For them isolation from the expats means preserving their culture.

i*maginate said...

From the words in your title, and the pathetic ignorance in your post, I can see just what level of education you have.

localexpat said...

i*maginate said...

the pathetic ignorance in your post,

Can you please elaborate?
I truly would like to know how I was being ignorant.

SevenSummits said...

I would honestly like to know as well? Certainly I can see absolutely nothing wrong with LocalExpat's post and he certainly has a point, even if I have a few tiny objections.

I also grew up in a foreign country – to be more precise a predominantly Islamic African country - with actually very few expatriates. My parents send me as a spoilt "only child" :-( to a private American boarding school, which was at the time the only "elite" school available in that country. Consequently we had an extremely multicultural environment, with way over 50 nationalities from different shades and religions, including a proportion of locals. I totally agree with LocalExpat that "children are least susceptible to bias and racism" and therefore we did not even know what the word "segregation" means. Everyone mixed with those personalities, they found suitable, from China to Brazil, India to Senegal. Nobody would have even thought about mentioning religion, it was just part of our daily routine to be absolutely tolerant.

During my teenage years, I spent my summers in Southern Spain at my granny's house and it just happened that my neighbors were from Saudi Arabia – no problem at all. We were all wearing T-Shirts, sneakers and Jeans and our cultural differences were just something we all experienced with curiosity. (Besides I was "1" and they were "27" from different monthers of course) I spent most of my time in their house, eating on a carpet, learning their traditional dances and even a certain amount of Arabic (speaking and writing - they arranged for an "extremely boring" teacher, with lots of even more boring classical poetry) During all those years, I never felt for a second that they regarded me as "different", because I happen to look very different and had a different religion. It never even came up! The only obvious difference I could ever detect was that they liked the movie "Dirty Dancing" and no Western male would have ever voluntarily watched that film – not even if you paid them for it. However I did notice in retrospect that even if they were extremely "modern", they were also eager and proud sharing their special Saudi culture with me. Inside their house they were wearing traditional clothing, which I felt was absolutely "not cool", but still eventually got used to seeing it. They made me try it as well, but "no thanks" :- )

During my university years; I also had a lot of contact with Kuwaitis / Saudis and also here there was never a single socio-cultural predicament. Some were "modern", while others were extremely religious and even prayed in front of me – however "segregation" was never an issue.

Nevertheless, the first Emirati I ever met was in the UAE and suddenly it was there – this huge "gap" – deep as a crevasse on a glacier! Even if the general assumption that the degree of racism becomes less with higher education levels normally would hold true, it does not correlate with my experience in the UAE. As already mentioned, I have the opportunity to interact with those that received the highest possible educational level (abroad), but still there is an incredible amount of bias and racism left. I also noticed that some of these fellows must have already practiced a completely secluded type of life in the West, not mixing with other colleagues or with the society in general.(no wonder, I ever met one before) Sometimes due to the fact that they already were burdened with a family in tow, which basically makes the advancement of a normal scholarly career next to impossible, because you will miss out on the focus and interaction you need to succeed. (some will know what I am talking about, when your professor want at least 5 publications from you, in addition to presentation at conferences and the attendance of social functions)

Obviously, I have been among the lucky ones and have been invited into local homes, had meals and also have been on social outings with them. (like to keep a distance between me and children in general). However that "you are a Westerner" categorization was always there in between the lines and I noticed that it was difficult for them to hide that "special dislike" for "my kind". Certainly this was a totally new experience for me and as mentioned I am still searching for the underlying reason. One of my best "local" friends once said to me during dinner about his university years: "When I went to the States, I decided not to do three things: Drink alcohol, take drugs and get married to a foreign woman." While I totally agree with the first two, I was honestly shocked about his third comment. How can you spend several years in a foreign country and already decide in advance that there is absolutely nobody in that country that you could possible "find suitable" and fall in love with. That is just unbelievable and a serious form of racism. At this point I need to be a little mean and admit that it gave me inner satisfaction to learn that has been divorced for many years (bad choice after all) – maybe that was the punishment for being so close minded. :- (

The tendency for racism and segregation must be deeply rooted somewhere in UAE society and it seems that especially women (usually being the ones that socialize their children) are the ones that are promoting these policies. Mixed schooling will not solve the problem, if the negative propaganda is endemic.

Hamda said...

I graduated from a private school in Dubai just this year, and our class itself has more than 8 different nationalities including us ( locals ) . In fact we had strong bonds between each other and our backgrounds didnt even matter . There was hardly any stereotypical opinion, in addition to the business project each year .. we were the first class to present a single project by our class , teachers and supervisors swear that we were the most class that contained different nationalities and yet we all cooperated as one.. =D

Hamda said...

I graduated from a private school in Dubai just this year, and our class itself has more than 8 different nationalities including us ( locals ) . In fact we had strong bonds between each other and our backgrounds didnt even matter . There was hardly any stereotypical opinion, in addition to the business project each year .. we were the first class to present a single project by our class , teachers and supervisors swear that we were the most class that contained different nationalities and yet we all cooperated as one.. =D