Friday, 4 June 2010

A little bit brown.

The other night in a taxi, I was trying to explain to a friend of mine who I was talking about.

You know, I said and used the woman’s name. That did not mean much, as there were at least three of those names in our village.

OK, the red-haired girl. No, she did not get it.

You know, the one with two little children... No, still no clue.

So, I resorted to the last explanation- The one with an Indian husband.

My friend giggled nervously and quickly glanced at the back of the (Indian looking) mini cab driver’s head.

She clearly was not sure I could say Indian husband. My question is: Why the hell not?

The husband is Indian. She knows it. I know it. He, hopefully, knows it, too. It is like saying my husband has an Azeri wife. Is that racist? No, because I am Azeri. Whether I would prefer to have been born French is a different story altogether.

I am just getting too fed up with this hyperbolized sensitivity and the political correctness in this world. Western world, I have to add as the rest of it is still incredibly rude.

You must have seen in the news about Mrs Obama’s champagne coloured gown. We must say champagne, because, guess what, we should not say nude. Because it is not quite her shade of nude. Oh, I say pleaaaaase. Give me a break!

This brings us to an interesting (to Azeries and our neighbours) dilemma.

My English niece thinks I am a little brown, as she once pointed out.

I don’t consider myself a little brown, unless very tanned. But I took no offence. So what? To her, I look browner than her.

In fact, I suspect a lot of people do not consider Azeries a white race.

I personally am confused. I never know, to be honest, which box to tick in various forms. They have Asian, they have Mixed race, they have African, Latin and Caucasian white...but there is just no box for Azeries. Because, Azeries are sort of in between. Not quite brown, not quite white, but a little bit brown.

But what, I guess, I am trying to say is so what? Mrs Obama is black. When Mr Obama was campaigning to become the president, I saw an ad that asked us not to make that issue an issue. So what, they said, it should not matter. But it does matter. Because, once he won, they said isn’t it great?! The first black president? So it did matter! What I am saying is pretending we are all the same is ignorant and stupid. Not mentioning something does not make it right, or more acceptable. It just makes it worse. If I were Indian around here, in a 99% white suburb...I would much rather my friends did not pretend they did not notice. Because that, my friends, would just piss me off.


  1. Nice rant :-)

    I think English people would have an easier time saying the word "Indian" if they didn't repress and murder Indians when they were part of the British Empire. In the same way, if Americans didn't repress and murder black slaves, they would hardly pay attention to Obama's skin color.

    I guess this may seem like "hyperbolized sensitivity and the political correctness" to us foreigners, but make no mistake - there are real tensions there. This works the other way, too: every time I see lavash advertised as "traditional Armenian bread", I growl, but none of the people around seem to understand why...

  2. @Riyad: But, out of curiousity, which box do YOU tick? :)

  3. I agree with that part about the extra hyper sensibility. I have a friend who is darker than me, darker than the average in Perú, and she introduces herself as "La Negra" (the black one). No one gets offended. It's kind of a common nickname here (as well as chino, for instance).
    But in some parts of the world it'd be quite a different story.

  4. Scary,

    Actually there are two separate issues here. I too see nothing wrong or racially insensitive about saying "Indian" husband because that's an accurate description (unless he's Pakistani...). However, using the word "nude" as a color description is highly inaccurate. Once upon a time in the U.S., Crayola crayons had a color they labeled "flesh," which--well, the thought of that makes my skin crawl. It is both inaccurate and exclusionary. Replacing "nude" with "champagne" or "flesh" with "peach" (their choice) as a color description is in every way a better idea--I can visualize a hue, not a body, isn't that the point?

  5. When my granddaughter was about three years old, she came to visit a couple of weeks after Easter. We'd just finished eating the last of the chocolate Easter bunnies and I asked her what she'd done that day before coming to visit.

    She said she and Mommy had gone the gym. I asked her how she'd enjoyed her workout and she giggled. She hadn't worked out, you see, she'd hung out with the other kids of the moms who had worked out.

    I asked her who her friends were and she told me she didn't know their names but there was one white boy and one chocolate boy.

    I got it right away. It made perfect, basic, simple sense: she described the other kids in the same fashion she described her candy Easter bunnies.

    Too bad the rest of us can't be so basic and simple.

  6. The dark side of ethnocentrism.
    "We" secretly still think/feel we're better than "they" are. That's why there's so much beating around the bush going on. We're concious enough to know that it is not okay to feel/think that way.
    Sadly so.

  7. Oh this is a great subject. We always told the kids that they are brown, because they are. They are not black nor white. And that is fine. They know that their dad is black and mum is white. They are not confused, however most of their white friends (english) are as their parents try and avoid the subject for as long as they can and then all sort of pearls of wisdom come out. I had some very interesting experiences at school. Recently, i had a question by one mum about the other (who is black) that sounded something like "So what is the story with that coloured girl?" . She winced when she said it. I mean, she is black and she knows it, so just say it.
    Flesh colour thuogh does not sound good.

  8. @Ani: You know, I heard the word "nude" so often about a shade of colour when I studied art, etc and I never, ever had an image of a naked human flesh. I think it is one thing if you just dislike the description because it makes you think of human flesh (and you dont like humans? or you dont like flesh? :))...

    But to have a race raw over someone accidentally using it, because this has been the word freely used for ages, is going one (more) step too far. I really think so and we are all free for our own opinions on this, I appreciate that. I think it gets silly as it is just am trying to explain here...technical? I mean, why is it about a black person anyway? Should some Azeries not be offended, they are a bit more brown? Or red-haired guys, it might not be THEIR shade precisely...someone slightly olive-tonned...but nobody cares, right, unless they are paranoid about the race issue. And Riyad might be right here, maybe it goes way back and that is why people are so sensitive. But my natural reaction was just a frustration that in this world, where so many seriously f***up things go on every day, media picks up on such an issue.

  9. Nah, nothing wrong with flesh :) but if the color set had been made and named in Kenya, what color would "nude" or "flesh" be? It's the subjectivity of that description I object to. Must admit though, I completely missed this brouhaha (I watch nearly no TV, so kill me!), and certainly it's not worth the fuss.

  10. Nice one I like it however it proves the reason you could not be French as you are far to polite.

  11. Couldn't agree more, that politically correct is also pissing me off sometimes. Here, in France, people says "a Black" instead of saying "un Noir" which means exactly the same but in French. What the hell is the difference ? It's not because you say it in French that it becomes an insult..

  12. We’re the only real Caucasians btw, because we’re from the actual Caucasus. LOL :):)

  13. I know from reading your blogs and your followers' comments that a lot of you are proud of being Azeri, Armenian, etc., etc. - and it's alweays interesting to read the different takes on subjects. But I'd extend your 'So what?' response to the colour/ethnicity question to actual nationalities. I was born in England but have lived most of my life in Scotland, where culturally and politically, I feel very much at home. I've never understood how saying 'He's English' or 'She's French' could be interpreted as somehow defining who the person is. My son (born in Scotland and therefore a Scot) married a Brazilian, so will that make their one year old son a drunken footballer with a taste for porridge and whisky? As well as colour, nationality is a divisive concept.

  14. Nata just wrote what I was about to say ;-)

  15. @Eva: Hello, nice to meet you. I love when some comments just appear from someone I never knew was here. If it makes sense. :)

    @Linda: I know that kids dont actually notice skin colour for a while, not sure when they start usually, but mine is only just realizing there is subtle difference. she said recently that a boy in the class ( the only one we have!) is the same as our friend's son. She said he is a bit like....such and such. and I realized she meant skin colour. But until now, and she is almost five, she never noticed.

    @Jay: Too polite? Man, that is an insult! Or a challenge....I must try harder to be more offensive.

    @Bill: Yes, I see what you say...however, there are certain characteristics that apply to certain nationalities, dont you think? You must have noticed?

  16. Hey, yes, right, I forgot to introduce myself !! Well, I'm reading your blog for a little while now, your niece Suad actually posted a link on her facebook page so you can thank her for this new impolite french reader ;) It's a very nice blog btw, I hope you'll carry on !

  17. Eva...Now I am intrigued. I would happily thank this Suad, except for I dont have a niece called Suad! :))) so please let me know who it is. you can email me if you want on
    thank you for reading and thanks for the comments! Love comments, and get sulky when people dont talk to me. ;)))

  18. Oh, and Eva...I love French people, so you must feel at home here. Ignore Jay, he is a big softy and a dear friend. :)))

  19. As am I ;) But I digress: I agree with Ani 100%. No further comment needed :)

  20. Scary, the race taboo you're wandering into is a minefield. I sympathize with your standpoint - I really do - but "pretending we are all the same is" not merely "ignorant and stupid." It is the only way most people who have to tick the "white" box can face the world.

    Frankly I envy you for your ability to get away with speaking about this so freely. Being foreign and "a little bit brown" does indeed give you a free pass. But this isn't just a silly taboo. Riyad pointed out that there are real tensions there, but honestly it's much more than generations-old repression and murder. American blacks are much poorer than whites right now, and they are many times more likely than American whites to commit theft, rape, or murder right now. In fact the only person I knew to have been raped was my highschool friend, by a black man. A similar situation prevails in Holland; a Dutchman I met in school commented that both times he was mugged it was by Muslims - "but," he nodded with a bland smile, "I try not to give into hate."

    You see, people *are* different. But only bigoted, ignorant, and disgusting people *think* we are different. This disjunct between reality and ideology has made the Western world mad. The only real option is to embrace it and delude yourself into thinking that you don't think we are different, or ignore it and try not to think about it, or else to lie low and play pretend. If you don't play pretend, you can still make it as, say, a car mechanic or a bartender. But if you want to live a nice middle class life, failure to play pretend will mean the end of your career, the end of your social status, and the beginning of righteous persecution.

    I experienced this in my late teens; now I know better, and I play pretend. This is why I'm sending you this anonymously.

  21. @Bill: I think being proud of being any one nationality is like being proud of having a nose and two ears, silly. But then again, as a mutt, I’m probably just sour grapes :)

  22. @Anonymous: We are not the same, we are indeed different. Different doesn’t mean that someone is “better” or “worse” simply because of their skin color. Majority of poor people in America are in fact white and majority of crimes are committed by whites, because in fact, they are a majority.

  23. Sadly, our human nature seems to continue to focus on the differences between us. Race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, occupation, language, sexual name it and we will label you, categorize you and exclude you if you're not from "our group." Ignoring this reality will never change anything. Teaching our children to value honesty, practice respect, pursue tolerance, and embrace diversity is a beginning.

  24. @Anonymous and Nata (it is getting difficult to distinguish between Anonymous guys! I might have to start some complicated numbering system here...)

    Admitting that we are all different should not mean we are labelling or excluding anyone.And yes, like you say...ignoring the differences would just be pointless.

    I love the differences in people. I love the fact YOU are all so different, the readers of this blog. I wish we could have a blog posting where each of you who- either a regular or someone who just stumbled upon these pages- tells a few words about him/her self. We would be amazed, I am sure. Hmm, this has given me an idea, and I will do it soon. Just hope people respond. 

  25. I'm not disagreeing with any of this. Yes, there are such things as national characteristics - but they come a very long way behind 'human' personality traits when it comes to defining identity. It's the negative, destructive 'Ah well, she's German' that denies whoever she is any individuality. Let's accept our commonality, celebrate our differences and stop the narrow tribalism that prevents progress.

  26. I'm answering a bit late, sorry ! So, I sent you a mail about your niece/not niece..

    Thanks for the welcoming part, and don't worry about me worrying about Jay ;) we French are used to be teased by other nationalities (and especially from North America!), about frogs mostly but well, oddness in mockery can't be negative ;)

  27. @Eva: I replied. :) Thanks for clarifying it for me! I know who you meant now.

  28. @Bill: I was agreeing with you in my last reply. Sorry if it wasn’t clear. I’m in full agreement with the second statement as well.