"Learn your manners"

Recently, I read an article in the Washington Post with the headline "Learn your manners,’ a white man wrote to his black neighbor. This was the response." The main message of the article seems to be: Check out how this white guy got burned by a black guy. I know that news outlets all like to create clickbait, but this has gone a bit too far. I do appreciate that they nuanced the story a bit by adding the reply of the white neighbour and thus, giving him a chance to explain himself. Although some people might still see it as a lame excuse after reading the majority of the article, which seem to be in favor of the black neighbour. I am not taking sides, but the story seems to be only told from his perspective and less about the white neighbour who might have had stressful and sleepless days too.

I don't know if it is because I experienced things from both sides, but I understand the both of them very well.

I had gotten better treatment for looking cute and adorable, when I was a kid. I even got away with accidentally kicking a soccer ball into a neighbour's window (I was so small and naive that I thought the ball would just bounce back like with a normal wall and the other kids held the ball in that direction and kept telling me to kick it), while others might have been punished badly. Just because I was Chinese, teachers automatically assumed I was smart and good in maths (not really!), so I got extra assignments to stay challenged in class. Because people believed in me, I think I got farther in life than if everyone assumed I was dumb, based on stereotype. Actually, I was unable to tie my own shoelaces and my speech seemed less developed in kindergarten (normal for trilingual children). Teachers were almost thinking that I had a learning disability and sent me to a different school. Who knows, what would have happened to me. I also got a lot of support and encouragement to reach far and dream big. However, my mom keeps telling me to just marry well, as that is what she was brought up to believe. To her, the biggest goal for a woman is to have a happy family. Although it is something I want too, I always wanted to see more of the world and keep learning, testing the limits of my abilities.

But I also had bad moments. When people think that your life just seem to be so perfect, some just feel the urge to ruin it. In reality, they are just seeing what is on the surface. They were not around, when I was going through terrible moments. They didn't feel the pain I felt. And being Chinese wasn't always a blessing, as I have heard my share of stupid racist jokes and been told to go back to my own country many times. I also had to go to Chinese school every Saturday, so I barely had time for myself during my childhood. I also got bullied so badly that I had gotten a very negative view of people and just decided to stay away from them. Even when people were nice to me, I couldn't trust them and I never let them get close to me. This can really change you as a person and make you really sensitive and defensive at everything that resembles an attack.

The black neighbour might have had many bad experiences with racist people and the words "please learn your manners" might have triggered something, such as people telling him that black people are unrefined, poor, and dumb. Treathening to call the police is almost a dead threat to him, because recently, the police had shot innocent black men to death. They also experience a lot of injustice. Such as like when a white person does something wrong, he gets away with it with no or light punishment ("they are normally such a good person, it was just a mistake or poor judgement"). But they get punished badly, since "They look like a crminal, so give them a harsh punishment, just to make sure, they won't ever do it again". The "look like a criminal" thing is real and still persistent in this society. People - and not only the police - generally think that black people or other non-white people are more likely to be a criminal. For example, when money gets stolen in class, the black kid seems to be more suspicious, just because the white kid is richer (who says rich people don't steal!) and the only black people they know are the criminals in the news. This is what happens when you divide people in groups that don't interact with each other. It is one of the reasons why I didn't have Chinese friends only and tried to mingle with people with different backgrounds and cultures. Having Chinese friends only, I would have stayed in my comfort zone and less aware of other people. For example, I learned that the directness and honesty of Dutch people can be considered as rude and Chinese people tend to talk loudly sometimes, but it doesn't mean that they are angry or rude. Japanese people like to eat noodles with a loud slurping noise, which might be seen as rude in Western countries, but to them, it makes eating noodles, more delicious.

From the white neighbor's point of view, he is just trying to teach the troublesome neighbor a lesson by putting that angry note on his door. A bit childish and cowardly, but I think a normal person would do that too, when you are tired and grumpy. Most people associate loud talking and noise with aggression and they might be too scared to confront it, so they would rather hide in the shadows (but still try to hurt you) or pretend to not see anything. He might also have been used to silent and peaceful nights and noises, such as talking and sounds of walking around, might disturb his sleep already. But the black neighbor might have grown up in circumstances where neighbors had loud fights every night, children crying all night, etc. and what he did seem to pale in comparison and it is ridiculous to put such a note on his door.

I hope there is more communication and less division, "us and them", in this world. We are all citizens of the world. Let's live in peace and create a fair and equal world.

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