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Pet Sins October 2009

Unconstructive 'minority' anger - does bashing the 'majority' culture really help anyone?

I've lived and worked in a number of countries, and had numerous conversations with people from all over. And there is a recurring trend I see among very different cultural/socio-political contexts - the tendency of *some* members of a 'minority' group (not necessarily a numerical minority) to pass disparaging comments about displays of the 'majority' culture. By no means, do I imply that all, or even most 'minorities' do that. Nor is such behavior specific to particular ethnic groups.

In the United States, I've heard black Americans make fun of white culture (and not in the 'healthy', truly funny way some comedians do, but in a bitter, negative way). In Singapore, I've heard Malays (natives) pass bigoted remarks about Chinese (the majority immigrant population) cultural displays. In Korea, there are some who love emphasizing the inferiority of Japanese and Chinese morality and culture compared to Korean culture whenever they perceive that their East Asian neighbors are receiving more allegedly undeserved attention internationally. And I've even seen this kind of behavior online - in a multi-ethnic online community with an ethnic majority, an ethnic minority member picks on posts with informational articles about the majority culture and criticizes said articles in an unconstructive, mocking way.

Now I'm NOT saying that *some* members of the majority culture do not similarly denigrate the minority cultures in question. But do two wrongs make a right? But I think I can guess at the motivation behind these negative talkers because I, in fact, used to be one of them. We feel frustrated that our beautiful, rich cultures are not given the recognition they deserve, and instead we have to watch a 'majority group' hog the media outlets. It is perhaps not surprising that some of us develop a resentment against majority cultural displays. But we fail to understand that the problem is not majority cultural displays, but lack of minority cultural displays. And how exactly does bashing the 'majority culture' accomplish anything with regards to the lack of minority cultural displays?

Once I realized that promoting one's own culture has NOTHING to do with tearing someone else's culture down, I was able to move on to more constructive activities, like actually doing something for my own community instead of hating someone else's. Now I feel sad when I see others stuck in the negative rut where I used to be. All the negative energy they spend attacking the majority culture only widens the divide between communities and turns into a vicious cycle in which the majority distances itself even more from the minority and the minority in turn becomes more marginalized and dissatisfied. If only we could replace this negativity with positive energy that benefits our own cultures.

Oct 2007