Living in a county that is predominantly populated by Caucasians, I sometimes feel like I don’t exist. I am sure some of you guys know what I mean. You notice that the sales person is more energetic towards a customer of his or her own kind and then when it is your turn, he or she treats you in a condescending way or you perceive that you don’t actually exist.
I have lived in this county for a long, long time. Even much longer than some of the people who claim to be natives. Still, sometimes when I meet a new acquaintance, he or she asks in a condescending way “when you started living here.” But it would be unthinkable if I would ask that question to them. Perceptions matter and it is with small chit chats like that that one understands that for all the cultural experiments that this country undergoes, it is still a painful road ahead to have a fully multicultural society. I wonder whether that would exist at all, in the present or a nearby future.
But I have decided to do something about this. Ok, some background to start with. A long time ago, I got a lifetime lesson when dealing with a person with disability. You would think that it is easy to see a disability, right? Wrong. In this case, this person has a rare condition that makes him look sideways. So, when I was talking to him, he was looking sideways. I thought he was ignoring me. I felt ashamed when I found that it was a disability.
In the same way, I have started calling out when I feel that I am not treated in an equal manner as others in this county. This was triggered by an incident that happened this week. I was at a store that sells Italian food products. I usually go to this store to buy Panettone for our family. This was a tradition that started in Peru (I guess, Peru has a lot of Italian immigrants). Anyway, I noticed after I entered the store that a young salesperson was given free samples of cheese to potential customers. He gave a sample to a Caucasian lady. I did not think much about it. Then, when I paid for the Panettone, nothing happened. Right after I paid, another Caucasian lady entered the store. He gave her a sample too. Well, at that moment, I felt a bit annoyed. It is as if I did not exist.
So what happened next? Usually, I just ignore things like this. But this time, I started to get more and more annoyed. As I said early, I realized that perceptions matter. As far as this salesperson was concerned, it may be just normal. So, I decided to awaken him. I emailed the store and explained the situation. I did not expect much as an outcome. Well, I got a call from one of the owner’s today. It was nice to hear an apology. Hopefully, the salesperson got better sensitivity training. One just hopes, right?