I’m going to preface this post by saying, I am 100% positive that 99.99% of the times that someone precedes their story or comment with “I’m not racist, but..” or “And this is not racist”… they are about to say something so damn offensive, so blatantly racist, that people from every race cringe when hearing it, deadpan, eyes widened with jaw a little slack, wondering “are they stupid, kidding, or really just that ignorant to their own closet racism???”. But, there is that 0.01% of the times that whatever is going to come out of the sayers mouth will have to do with race or culture on some level, without being racist or abusing some form of stereotype. Today, I will be that 0.01%. I swear it. So before writing off my entire rant as racist, please hear me out til the end. Because honestly…
I am not racist. Seriously. Racist commentary from other people really and truly offends me. In fact, I generally frown upon, whether in jest or being serious, drawing upon stereotypes or biased opinions about an entire culture by using one or a few people within that group to generalize to the majority of the population. Or making jokes because they are widely accepted stereotypes. Or lapsing into racial slurs when some stranger who is of that race makes the mistake of pissing you off. Generally I think it shows a lack of class, and intelligence, to do so. People do so all the time, some more often or more violently than others. For my part, I do actually try to say something…most of the time. To strangers, most definitely in the moment I will at the very least give them the “mommy cut-eye-of-death stare”, which normally has their grin fading and them quickly averting their eyes, and changing the topic. For those obtuse enough to continue, I’ve been known to have all out verbal death matches…I just find it sooooooo repulsive.
I find it especially laughable that anyone would ever make a racist comment to me, or while I am in ear shot. What, because you’re not directly insulting MY minority race, I should find it perfectly acceptable that you openly voice your racism about some other minority?? How do you NOT make the connection in your head, as I do each and every time, that if you think it’s OK for you to think race X is a bunch of dirty, soulless thieves, and slimy (insert racial slur here)’s then you’re basically saying that it’s OK for anybody to say such a thing about any race? And really, who the f*%# are you to make such a determination about a billion people on this planet? Have you met them all personally? Are you positive that every single one of them (or at least the far greater majority) conform to said stereotype, or warrant such nasty, degrading slurs to be used against them? I bet, if you’re in your head right now trying to defend your own personal racism, you’re thinking “yeah, actually, I have COUNTLESS examples supporting my thesis, and basically ZERO against. So there’s nothing wrong with what I’ve said”. Really? Are you suuuuurrreeee?
I have a friend who thinks male children (and I’m talking young ones) are just repulsive, snotty little shits…I mean, to the point she can’t stand to look at their faces…at one point, she actually told me she wants to punch them all in the face. CHILDREN!! SERIOUSLY!!?!?!??? So when, after years really of trying to shut the comments and/or thinking down politely, she was still persisting to actually say these things to me, telling me these stories and ending them (or starting them…or both) with these disgusting racist tirades, I had finally had enough. I called her out, cause really, having grown up in White Suburbia her whole life, what the hell kind of exposure could she really claim to these children? Yes, I understand she hates the ones down her street, but why does it have to be about race? Why can’t that family be f&^#%*…or, just that kid? Ohhhhh no, she assured me. She KNEW. She saw the evidence in the malls, and in the stores, and ALL OVER THE PLACE (which really doesn’t include a large percentage of the world, and therefore not even a fraction of these children, anyway)…but more importantly, she adds, her parents already told her this is how all these children are. They spent LOTS of time in that country, and this is how the boy children are raised intentionally. And that’s NOT me, or my parents, so very obviously being ignorant. Oh. My bad. *Rolls eyes*…OH WAIT! No! YOUR bad. Because, first and foremost, we need to cover Confirmation Bias.
Confirmation Bias (or confirmatory bias): A tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis. definition taken from www.sciencedaily.com
In laymen’s terms, this means that we go out of our way to look for and remember things that confirm or support our beliefs, and actively ignore or brush off or excuse away things that go completely against our beliefs. To see a real life, hilarious, video example of confirmation bias at work, click here. So yeah, I’m sure all she ever sees is boy children from race X who are little douche bags… specifically because she’s dismissed the countless examples of all the ones she comes across on a day to day basis who were absolutely pleasant, respectful, awesome little angels. In fact, the loads of scientific research to support this is astounding. So, for all you people who really think that all your memories of all those people who fit into stereotype X perfectly are the only ones you’ve seen, think again. Just like the fact that, because you think highly of race Z, you know all those stereotypes are bullshit, and that even if there is a small minority of race Z members who do do that, so do many other people in many other races, but the overall majority of race Z members obviously don’t fit into that stereotype…Well, this is also true of that poor, poor race X you’ve been slinging slurs at all these years.
And, if you happen to be part of a minority group that still has to fight racism and stereotypes on a daily basis, please don’t be one of the ignorant jackasses who chooses to perpetuate hate towards another minority group..what, are you stupid or something? Is there some small part of your brain that makes you feel more powerful by doing the awful things to others that have been done to you? Do you think that perhaps if you get together with the racist people from the majority and scream out your repulsive, hateful words loud enough that they will suddenly look at you and think, hey, let’s be friends, you’re A-OK in my book? Or have you not thought it through at all? Cause you certainly haven’t thought it through to the end game where, if you win and “they” go back to “where they came from” (supposing you don’t mean where that third generation Canadian was born, but for him/her to go back to where their ancestors are from..which is idiotic at best cause, being a minority, how many generations in do you think the majority of the people in your race are in? Juuuuussssttt wondering). Do you not understand that you will be next on the shit list, and could eventually suffer from the same fate? When you claim to be ‘Proudly Canadian/American/Etc.’, do you not understand that at some point, your ancestors were foreign to this country too, and also came as immigrants, and, like the larger majority of the immigrants who come to North America now, want the chance to build a better life for their family and the future of their bloodline, and to do it honestly?
And for those of you reading this who happen to be white, and who hold even mildly racist beliefs against any minority group (and therefore part of the majority in North America), do YOU not realize that at some point, every white person can also trace their roots back to being an immigrant, and many white cultural groups can find that, at some point in history, they were slaves? And doesn’t everyone realize that there are immigrants of every race and culture (which means white, too) who are first generation here and speak with an accent? Are you seriously so English impaired that someone speaking your FIRST LANGUAGE with an accent makes them absolutely incomprehensible? Seriously? Because I don’t hear the white folks complaining about the Russian, Polish, or Italian accents…but apparently, every non-white race is just TOO hard to understand. *Rolls eyes* While working for Bell Mobility in the call center, the amount of racist trash douche bags who would get through to me, or get transferred to me who would say something like “OMG FINALLY! A REAL Canadian! Ugh, I can barely understand a word ‘those people’ say, how do they ever get hired?” or “finally, a white person…I have a hope of ACTUALLY having my problem solved! All those *racial slurs inserted here* never have any clue what they’re talking about!”.
Yeah. And, while they did in fact reach a real Canadian, they certainly hadn’t reached a white person, often to their dismay when, after solving their problem effectively while diligently noting the amount of times they used racial slurs despite my mild warnings, I would end the call and then apply to have them put on correspondence-only: meaning they could write letters or emails to discuss their account or make changes, but could never call back in. This was an especially rewarding process when the racial slur and ignorant and ridiculous comments and insults applied to MY race. I figured nobody deserved to have to deal with the prick again, and since I was almost like a spy for the “other side” cause vocally I “pass” as white, I figured it was my God-given duty to use this phone voice of mine for good. ESPECIALLY because, often times only the mildest accent was discernible, so their complaint had literally no bearing, and the few that I ended up finding out actually had thick accents still spoke slowly and clearly enough to be understood, were very amenable to working with you to make sure they were understood, and understood English perfectly.
So then, why was the callers problem not solved with them? Quite simply, the racist little dipshits were so biased against the agents with even the smallest hint of an accent that they completely shut down and refused to actually accept help, or explain their problem, or accept the agent’s answer as the actual answer. And then in no way recognized their own actions and stupidity and ignorance as the reason why that accented agent couldn’t help them.
But, then, I digress. Actually, several times now. Because the whole point of this post was to tell you what pissed me off today, and instead I went barreling off on a super-rant on racism. So, let’s go back to that original topic, shall we? *deep breath, calms down, composes self…OK, ready to switch topics..aaaannnnnddd BREAK*.
So. I am not racist. Seriously. However, I think, as a citizen and resident in a country whose first language is English, if you would like to work in a store that caters to the general public in a an area that is primarily English-speaking customers, and where your job will be entirely working with the customers, you should be able to speak English. You don’t have to be fantastic, mind you: enough basic words in a makeshift broken-English will do. The second thing, all the previous information being true, you should at the VERY LEAST be adept at understanding basic English. Now, my version of basic English and someone else’s might be slightly different, and I understand that. And I’m not going to look at you and think, oh, this person is of so-and-so race, so she must not speak/understand English so well…better dumb down my speech off the bat and speak loud with lots of hand gestures. In fact, I look at you and think, oh great, you work here…you can help me. Period.
But seriously, you sell like 5 different things. What I went into the store for was a lighter. Usually, they have lighters that just have the push-button, without that terrible metal wheel that causes hideous pain to my thumb before it calluses over – which I refuse to let happen – I am not one for discomfort. Or workman’s hands. So, for some reason, rather than an array of both type of lighter, like they usually have, there’s only the death wheel variety. And literally ONE solitary lighter with the push button, that’s only semi-functional at best. Being a lighter enthusiast, and already having this lighter shell anyway, when the guy who was checking 75 lotto tickets in front of me while I leaned against the rack practically falling over from dizziness and fever finally finished, I asked her “do you have any other lighters anywhere else in the store?”. To which she replied, “how may I help you?”. So, thinking maybe she just didn’t hear me, or was distracted for a moment, I said, “Are there lighters anywhere else in the store, or is this all you have right now?”. She cocked her head and looked quizzically at me. And started sort of stammering random sounds together.
Ok, so now I’ve booked that English isn’t her strong suit. Ok, fine. The current owner and his wife are awesome people, both understand English very well, although they speak with strong accents and still slightly broken, and they are my buddies. And at times we’ve had to struggle through a conversation if I’m speaking about something foreign to them, or more complex. So, clearly this girl is a new hire, either a family member or some chick they are trying to give a break to. I understand. I’ll make an effort. For my buddies. So I say, “Is that all the lighters?” and point. She looks over and says “uhhh, ummmm, uhhh..”. Ok. So I pick up the push lighter and, showing her I say, “Where can I find this?” “You want?” she says, nodding like a bobble head. “No. Is there more?”. I see the lightbulb go off in her eyes. She gets it, I think. I can buy this god forsaken thing and go home already and hide under the covers. She points to the area where I JUST picked the lighter up from and says, “here, here”. Ok. Awesome. She gets it. “Oh. Ok. Is there more Somewhere?” I ask, pointing behind her. “More somewhere, more somewhere” she says, nodding…and pointing…to where I am standing. Sigh. “Ok, so no, no more?”. And I swear, she looked at me and said “How can I help you? I don’t yeah. How may I help you?”. And smiled.
At this point I’ve given up on life. I debate telling her the one I have in my hand is broken or half empty…and that I can’t use the rolly one because of my thumb sensitivity. And then I say. “OK, this, and a pack of Belmont King Large”. And she turns around, opens the correct panel on the first try, grabs the right pack the very first time without any prompting from me, while repeating “Belmont king large” to herself over and over. Fine. Here’s your money, here’s my change, f&$% life, I’m going home to lie down now and die now. The car could have been on fire at that point, I would have calmly gotten into it, started it, driven it home, and left it on the driveway to explode. I really, really didn’t care. But the thing was, I was pissed off. I was terribly annoyed, first at the stupid old man for wasting his life buying lotto tickets when, at that rate, he’d be a self-made millionaire by just saving the money he wasted each weeks on tickets. And then..not at the girl, but at whoever made the executive decision to leave this chick in this store to run it completely by herself. Are you kidding me?
If she can’t understand what the hell your customers are asking her, how does that help your business? Sure, she can memorize Pick 3 and cigarette packages and sizes, but if she cannot understand enough to think and respond to new and novel questions that directly relate to the item rack that is literally sitting in front of her face all day…if the girl doesn’t understand the word “more”…if she doesn’t have the miming capacity to figure it out by piecing together the mimed actions with the tiny bit of English she does know, what the f*#*$ business does she have running a store for the day? Any problems, any complaints, any assistance required and she doesn’t even have some fail-safe lines memorized like “I don’t know, manager back at 7, you come ask then”? And, apparently, because the lotto guy asked her and she caught enough to say she’s been working for three months (although she could have meant she worked there once three months ago for all we know), it’s not like she’s some emergency fill in, or so fresh off the boat brand new that she has to learn English and her new job all at once, and today is her first day.
Seriously, I’m sorry. Learning a new language as an adult is difficult, I’m sure. But if you can’t speak or understand English, even on a basic level, you can’t answer questions, or be of any help, which means you have no business working with customers. At least not alone. Really, I think the thing that really annoyed me was the fact that she couldn’t understand. At all. Cause if you can understand basic English, we’ll get through it. In fact, I’m all for it: and I would hope, if I was to move to a country that did speak English or French, because I do speak both, that people would be willing to be patient with me. Obviously, for this poor girl it was terribly overwhelming, and probably a bit frightening, to have no idea what the hell I was saying, or what, if any, repercussions would come from her not understanding, regardless of how nice and/or patient I was or wasn’t being. Which is why I’m annoyed at her boss: She should never have been left in that position in the first place.
I wouldn’t appreciate being put in that position, nor would I want to be. I remember this one job I got with Canon, the printer company, in the troubleshooting/technical support cue. Being bilingual, I could get either French or English calls. When I was put on the French cue for the day, I realized something extremely important: while I was quite proficient at speaking and reading and writing in French, that proficiency did not extend to the tiny details of a printer. Why would it? The only time I would have had any exposure to printer parts in french was in the user manual, and anytime I hit the french directions, I would flip til I found English. I mean, who knows anything about printer parts, let alone in a language other than their FIRST language? In English, I could bullshit my way through. In French, I was like a deer in headlights…they might as well have been speaking Cantonese. I realized this after my first day. So did my boss. I was never on the French cue-main lines again. Going forward I was on backfill-french, which meant that if a French call came in and I wasn’t on a call and the French operators were all busy, I would take the call, record the problems, get as far as I was comfortable with and understood, and then at the first sign of confusion, I would put them on hold and either wait til a francophone was available to assist in-call, or be transferred to.
They just threw this poor chick into the deep end without a life vest or those magical little inflatable wings…and with only the first few swimming lessons where they teach you to put your face under the water and blow bubbles without panicking and inhaling chlorine, and teach you how to kick your legs while holding on to the side of the pool. Until she’s learned how to at least float on her back and make little mini-kicks with her legs to get to the side of the pool, she shouldn’t be left unsupervised, even in the shallow end. But, for the deep end…shouldn’t she at least have gotten through the doggie paddle lessons?
Just saying. Sigh.
Ok, I’m gonna go back to wallowing in my hole of death-fever despair. I’m actually considering going to a doctor, but it just sounds like more work than its worth…considering that, in my experience, doctors are mostly there to waste my time and energy and accomplish nothing and tell me I’m just fine even when there’s obvious factual proof I’m dying. (Starts slowly covering face with duvet as she sinks lower and lower into the comfort of oblivion…an Episode of Psych waiting patiently for her to return so it can go back to watching her).
2 thoughts on “Racists are Morons: but Knowing Basic English in Customer-focused Jobs a Must”
Racism will forever be. National geographic has tried to explain that with all the cross racial breeding that on 50-100 years there will be no distinguishable race. Even of there is no race there will still be heavy racism. The societal constraints placed on people will take far much longer to absolve than any actual race issue. We are forever doomed to hate the fat, the skinny, the rich, the poor. Like I said racism will forever be.
This is very true, there seems to be something in human nature that causes us to live in large communities, but yet form smaller sub groups so we can hate the people that don’t fit into our little clan. And as long as there is reason to think the grass is greener on the other side, or to fear the unknown, the cycle of hate will continue.
Although I’m pretty sure that whoever said there will be no pure races left forgot about that small subgroup of white people that would prefer to burn their kid alive then let them have a child with someone other than a white person… And I know that many cultures do have small sub groups that are the same. While they can say that the majority of people will be some hybrid of races, making the majority some mixture of two or more races, there will forever be small minorities of each race that will never step outside their race, or even culture (like Pakistan and India ) to carry their bloodline on.
Thanks for your reply, it was great to have even more to consider on this subject!