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Reading through the comment sections of random social posting platforms is so enlightening.  It’s a revelatory process of socio/cultural evolution. Today I saw a post with two headlines from articles which revealed the insidious link between racism and depression, and one that pointed out the weird connection between smiling and racism.  Neither of them were particularly scientific, yet both proclaimed that the theories propounded in them worked. Smiling was supposed to reduce the feeling that racism might be present.  Racism or the perception of racism was a contributing factor to depression in the other one.

Since the headlines were juxtaposed to each other, following on the heels of the most recent excitation of assumed racism fueled rants; one might have got the idea that smiles were to blame for someone feeling assaulted by a racist.  If anyone can put up headlines about racism juxtaposed to any random facial expression, and have a whole slew of other random people jump on it as though it were a heinous assault, true or not, does this mean we all have to have no facial expression in order to make certain we are not offending someone?

When I was a little girl there were some racially connected sayings about people from the orient.. or Far East Asia, or China to be precise.  One of the sayings that caught my attention way back them was “the inscrutable oriental”.   As a little girl, I had to ask what inscrutable meant.  My Dad said it meant that people couldn’t figure them out. I think I took that statement as almost a challenge. As I grew up, I explored a little the art and handiwork of China, what ever came into my hands..  I saw each piece as a possible clue.

Much of the time I was only looking at American manufacturing processes transplanted to Asian soil and then the merchandise shipped back to us.  The earliest pieces were from Taiwan.  Later, I would also have the opportunity to observe pieces made in mainland China.  I became fascinated with Chinese movies (with English sub titles), and when I attended college, when required to take a language, I took Chinese.  I also ended up taking a course in Chinese Geography, which was fascinating but also incredibly intense because it covered so much time and territory in a single semester.

In the end, I finally decided that the reason that western people had such a hard time figuring out the Chinese wasn’t so much that their culture was different; after all, one can learn the different aspects of societal norms.  I eventually came to the conclusion that the most likely reason behind not being able to figure them out was because the people had been trained by centuries of oppression in not giving anything away in their expressions.

If this labeling everything as racist continues in this country, and people keep getting assaulted by hundreds of random strangers because someone somewhere labeled a picture of a facial expression as racist, then we too may become stone-faced and neutral in every interaction. We could become a whole new land full of inscrutable people.





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