I wrote this a few months ago. I just found it now while I was unpacking.
I'll admit, my inner raging feminist cries out when we are segregated by gender for gym class.
"Different not wrong, different not wrong," I chant to myself, but I still cringe as the girls are arranged in a circle to pass around the soccer ball. In the next field, I can see the boys are actually playing soccer.
I understand why we're doing it this way. The boys are always playing sports: before school, after school, at lunch, in art class. It is obvious they are, as a whole, much better than the girls. It's not the decision to segregate the class that bothers me as much as the necessity to do so.
"Different not wrong" I remind myself as a girl goes inside crying after being hit by the ball. Her reaction speaks to a lifetime of being taught that hers is the weaker, more delicate sex. However, there is at least one girl who is, clearly, very talented at maneuvering the ball. There are no girl's soccer leagues here, so she hasn't received any formal training; but she kicks the ball up on top of her foot and to her knee where she tries to bounce it a few times. I wonder if she wishes she could actually play soccer. I wonder, without any female role models playing sports, if the idea even occurred to her.
"Different, not wrong"
But some things are wrong, and sometimes the line between different and wrong becomes hard to discern. I've been faced with countless situations where I've wondered whether or not this line has been crossed.
"I would like to date an American boy" a girl my age said toward the beginning of my exchange.
"But not a black boy, I don't like black people."
"Oh?" is all I can manage is response
"Do you like black people?" she asks
I want to reply that I would never judge anyone based on there skin color
"I don't know" I reply, instead, looking down at my feet. What I mean is that I don't understand. I don't understand where this idea comes from. Why wouldn't you like a whole group of people based solely on the amount of pigment in there skin?
It seems here everyone has an opinion on "black people". There are girls in my class who say they would like to come to America specifically to date black people, that they don't like white boys.
I've wondered if, maybe, the "I don't like black people" comment meant simply that she didn't personally prefer the way dark skin looks. Like how some people might say they prefer brunettes to blondes or visa versa.
It's when I see how dark-skinned people are treated that I doubt this theory.
And it's when I walk down the aisle at a toy store and see only blonde haired blue-eyed dolls that I wonder what effect this difference is having on the next generation.
I've tried to imagine what it would be like growing up as an average Turkish girl; being told, whether overtly or subliminally that your skin color is ugly, and that you are weaker than the boys around you. It would be different, but would it be wrong?
Below are my latest thoughts on this subject, written today.
Over time, I've begun to suspect that this prejudice against darker skin is more nationalistic than racist. Darker skinned people are, more likely than not, coming from out side of Turkey originally; even if "originally" is countless generations back in history. "Gypsies" and "Kurds" are two groups of people that, for whatever reason, it seems to quite socially acceptable to make broad disparaging comments about, and they both, generally, have darker skin than your average ethnically Turkish person. Usually, Turkish children won't have friends in either of these groups. "Gypsies" are seen solely as beggars, tissue paper sellers, and garbage sweepers. Kurds are seen as strict, violent Muslim fundamentalists.
Really, this xenophobia isn't so much different than what we have here in America. I think the biggest difference is a lack of "Politically Correct" culture. In Turkey, Rotarians and friends at school aren't shy to tell me what they think about "those people". In America, these conversations would be limited to close, like minded friends or anonymous internet boards. The "political correctness" of America seems to baffle other countries, as I learned while talking to other exchange students on the bus.
"Is Eskimo a bad word is America like nigger?" I was asked by a boy from Germany
The girl sitting with me was of the opinion Eskimo wasn't bad at all. As the resident Alaskan, I said that it would more polite to say "Native Alaskan"
"But it's not bad like nigger," I tried to explain, fully aware of how ridiculous I sounded "You should never say nigger, people say Eskimo all the time"
"But doesn't Eskimo mean 'raw meat eater'?" the boy continued. It was clear that the nuances of American political correctness didn't make any more sense to him then it did to me.
"Well, some native Alaskans call themselves Eskimos" I said remembering something my mom had told me from her experience as a nurse in bush Alaska; but of course I knew that some African Americans called themselves niggers. Both groups had come under persecution because of their race and both "nigger" and "Eskimo" have been used as insults, and now carry significant negative historical connotations.
"Just don't ever say nigger in America." I said, hoping to keep my friend from insulting anyone should his wandering take him to America.
I guess that really is the point of political correctness, not insulting anyone. In America, not making people feel bad is a much bigger deal than in Turkey. Conversely, there are plenty of other cultures where not insulting people is an even bigger deal than in America, and causing people to "lose face" is one of the worst things you can do.
To summarize, I've come to the conclusion, that Turkey really isn't more racist than America on average. Turks are just more honest about there feelings than most Americans. Is it different, but not necessarily wrong.