Sunday, October 07, 2007

Utopia! Impossible but we can still dream about it.

Dubai has, what I think, the highest concentration of half-castes anywhere in the world. I do apologise if any of you got offended by the term half-caste, it was only recently that I found out that I could be considered as a derogatory term. But I have never considered to be so and in fact did not know of any other words that I could use. This is one indication of the multi-ethnic aspect of the city. This characteristic of the society is also extended to the dating scene. In school, and even now, I knew a lot of people who were dating someone who are not from a similar backgrounds, be it religion, nationality, ethnicity or a combination of them. Personally, I have never dated someone from similar scio-ethnic backgrounds.

Some end in a break up and some eventuates into a marriage. But what do you think would happen if we spice up this typical scene. What if a female emeriti were to date a Subcon. What if, they wanted to get married? I asked the same question in a previous entry but here is one response from moviemania, a female Emarit blogger, on her blog:-

.....we were just discussing this and my mom said mixed culture marriages never work.

"Well, they are difficult, but I mean.. It's easier if an Eastern person marries someone from another Eastern culture. Like, I could marry an Indian person, I don't see their culture as too different from ours." I added.

"What? No, never! I would never allow that to happen! Indian? Are you kidding! They're different!" my mom snapped back.

In fact this behaviour, albeit it a xenophobic, is not limited to one ethnic group. I have notice a similar pattern across the sociological divide in Dubai. This conflict seems to extend from the cultural gap that exists between the generations: Parents who moved here decades ago and their localexpat children. These kids, just like me, have probably attended an ethnically diverse school where in some cases you had students from over 50 nationalities attending the school. I still remember how race and ethnicity had a small influence on who you would date (or wanted to date) at school. The main factor was ‘’popularity’’ and “coolness’’, typical of most high school kids around the world ;-) Growing up in such an environment has left its mark on me even to this day. I have rarely considered race, ethnicity, skin colour or religion to be an issue when selecting my dates, friends, colleagues or any individual that I have to interact with.

Mind you, I am not ignorant of the fact that culture and background does have a significant influence on the relationship between people. But what it shouldn’t do is be the sole determinant or as one of my friends put it: The filter. The vast majority of people have a filtering system whereby they prejudicially filter people they interact into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘like’ and dislike’(also called negative stereotyping). Here is a scenario typical of numerous companies in UAE:-

  • At work

Assistant 1:Hey, I just got this application for the vacancy we have in the office should I show it to the boss

Assistant 2: They meet the criteria?

Assistant 1 : To me he does.

Assistant 2: Where is he from?

Assistant 1: Syrian.

Assistant 2: Oh don’t bother. You know that the first thing he will consider is the nationality and then reject the application without even bothering with his qualifications just because he can’t stand Syrians.

As much as I recognise how ubiquitous prejudice and negative stereotyping is among all cultures of the world, I can’t help but hope and believe that this should not be the case. I believe that prejudice and negative stereotyping should not play a role in forming first impressions or relationships. I hope that this will be so.

Because even I recognise that what I am preaching is truly unattainable.


KJ said...

True my friend, very true. There is a lot of prejudice because someone is Syrian or Indian or Lebanese or whatever. Unfortunately this is the current generation of human beings and sadly things have become like this because the samples that these people meet are not good examples of the whole population.

What you are preaching is not impossible to attain. It takes a lot of time and effort, but if people start disregarding these racial prejudices one by one then eventually it would spread everywhere.

As for the marriage part, I don't have any insightful comment - my parents are from different religious backgrounds and they had it rough but pulled it off eventually. Even if a couple were fine with things between them, let's not forget it is a marriage of two families as well, so it is up to the couple to care or not care in taking this into account

moviemania said...

Great post, I don't mind the mention hehe :)

But yeah, it's a very serious issue. I never realized the full scale of it until I moved to an international school and realized how people treat others so differently.

I even asked my father if they hired people based on nationality, and he said yes! He even told me the 'levels', i.e which nationalities are more preferred.

It is a very archaic way of thinking and I just hope things change because it can't remain like this. It's just not going to work.

Lucy said...

What a great post :-)

Try being in a mixed marriage you would see this every moment of everyday, peoples blindness is beyond belief.

rosh said...

Thoughtful and thought provoking post indeed. I shared sort of similar views/sentiments a whilst ago (link below):

Having said that, I do not believe there is a single nation or city where multi-culturalism or inter-racial integration has been 100% accepted in it's true sense.

However I believe, integration shall happen, after all, we come from the same creator, or so I like to believe :)

tobasco said...

You get this kind of treatment everywhere. Here in UK there are divisions also but they're not as blatant as Dubai.

Lirun said...

i know the feeling..

i am yemenite sudanese polich austrian.. hehe

luckily am european featured with middle eastern colours so visually very adaptable.. and i tend to enjoy the benefits of all worlds.. but the discrimination between subcultures still revolts me..

i have noticed it everywhere in the world mind you..

depending on what part of my heritage i seek to emphasise there will always be people who will challenge its validity..

my "revenge" is mocking awkwardness.. i use surprise.. ie just when people expect me to be sooo european and refined i treat them to a healthy dose of afroanimalism (straight from my grandma) and deliver it a la trendy so they cant contest it.. i indulge in the difference rather than apologise for it at the moments that their guard is the lowest..

not so much to punish them.. but more to normalise their comfort with concepts they only snub because they're foreign..

inside every "savage" is a curiosity for refined living and inside every "stiff lip" is a burning desire to go wild..

i like to show them how people pigeon boxing is futile and that difference can be a great fuel for celebration..

take it from a mut (or a fine blend as my austrian side may side apologetically hehe)

BuJ said...

It's pretty bad in the UAE.. It took me almost 3yrs to get this kinda racism outta my system when I came to the UK. It was a big shock to the people I spoke to over here, when I used to refer to construction workers as Indian or maids as Filipino.

The society around us needs to change for us to feel that such a mentality is wrong at every level.

I personally believe we have everything to learn from other cultures. Even where I work now, in a big office with more than 250 staff, my floor is very cosmopolitan with Japanese, Italians, Spaniards, Mexicans, Australians, Indians, and yes the token Arab! Other floors in the same place used to look down at us coz we were so mixed. This was a few years ago, but now they are embracing our attitudes coz they can't get enough white British people to fill in the posts :-)

BuJ said...

Moviemania.. ah, so ur dating a non-emirati? tut tut tut

just kidding!

I'm personally all for mixed (non rranged) marriages. I think the kids turn out smarter and beautiful. You can give them funky names, and you can also learn so much more from your partner.

The main reason I'm not such a big fan is the clash of cultures at parental level. Once you reach a certain age you become automatically less tolerant than others, which is why it might just be simpler on the mind to marry one of your own.

BuJ said...

PS: Glad you asked your dad.. we all know the list is something like this:

1-British, white (tied in 1st place)
2-American, white
6-British/American, non white
7-Other Arab
8-all others

BuJ said...

sorry man, i'm leaving too many short comments instead of a long one.
just a minor one.. the proper term is "half-caste".. coz the term "half-cast" means someone has not been "cast" properly.. hehe.. an unfinished frame perhaps? lol

localexpat said...


OOOPS correction made :-)

moviemania said...

This is a bit late, but Buj that's pretty much the right order!

Although he didn't mention Westerners much.. I guess he didn't want to admit their high standing in the list :P

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