Saturday, April 30, 2011

Minorities vs. Minorities

The idea of minorities hating minorities to me makes absolutely zero since, but it's all too common. Whether you're in the US or in Russia, you see it...and it's disappointing in so many ways.

*What I say about Elista in no way refers to the city as a whole or its people, but simply some of the people I have come across during my year here, many of whom I met in passing. Please know the people here are amazing and amazingly kind.*

In the US, the most visible form of minorities rallying against other minorities is concerned with the LGBT community. While this isn't an issue of race, people belonging to the LGBT community are certainly in the minority.  According to several exit polls, many African Americans (70% according to one poll), Latinos (53%) and Asian Americans (49%) voted in favor of California's prop 8 in 2008.* I'm not blaming these groups for Prop 8 not passing (that rests with California's white voters, of whom 49% voted in favor, but also make up over 65% of CA's voting population), but I just find it interesting that considering the civil rights issues at stake, that these minority groups voted against it.

Another instance in the US is illustrated in the  gay marriage struggle in New Jersey. The instance of minority groups in the US is illustrated nicely (and comically) by the Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac back in January 2010.  Here's the short video:

Anyways, I bring this up because I live in Elista, Russia where the majority of people here (my guess is between 85-95%) are minorities in Russia, being ethnically Mongolian, not Russian.  People here were severely persecuted during purges of Stalin, many being sent to Siberia where their native Kalmyk language was strictly forbidden and as a result is on its way to becoming a dead language (at least here in Russia).

The people here are vehemently against Russia's blatant xenophobia and, as it's called here 'nationalists' who have caused problems in bigger Russian cities, attacking minorities for not being Russian. Kalmyk people are also terrified of this extremism. I had a woman tell me the other day that her daughter in Moscow was to stay inside the whole day (April 20) as it was Hitler's birthday and there is a marked increase in nationalist violence on this day.

I find this interesting because as much as the people here hate Russia's extremism, they are still quite prejudiced against people of African descent (to a lesser extent Jewish people as well - I've had a few people tell me they hated Obama, Medvedev & Putin because they were 'Jews'...hmmm).  Giggles are often inevitable when Black people are mentioned here and there is (not always, certainly not always, but often) a tinge of disgust in their tone of voice.

What's more is that being a minority Republic in Southern Russia, Kalmykia has good relations between some of the most persecuted groups in Russia (Ossetia, Dagestan, Chechnya, etc) and welcome them with open arms. But still this idea of Black people being...well I don't know what word to use other than disgusting, is still common among people here.

Just today I met two guys who absolutely hated President Obama for no other reason than he is Black.  They had nothing to say about his policies, programs as President, but couldn't stop talking about how he was Black and could not fathom how Americans could ever possibly elect a Black president (I saw this with a really old guy in Germany once as well, but the difference here is that it's both young and old people).

I, on the other hand, was (and always am) completely baffled as to how they aren't not struck by the complete irony.  Anyone who has ever been to Russia will notice a very definite lack of Black people here. This is changing (very slow) and you'll see more than what I saw several years ago in St. Petersburg, but regardless the number is infinitesimally small.

Overall, Dear Readers, I am saddened by this. I don't understand racism and probably never will and it breaks my heart to see it here in Elista, a place where they are both victims and (in a way) perpetrators of racism (at least in thought).  I also don't mean to say that this includes everyone here in Elista. Not by a long shot! I've met many, many people (such as the people I work with and my students) who see this line of thought in their home and are as disgusted as I am.

*Here some articles where I was reading about Prop 8 in California: Huff PostLA TimesWash Post

101 Things: Keep my room tidy for a month

I've sort of neglected this list for a while, but have been slowly and unwittingly completing items off the list, one of which is keeping my room tidy for a month, #89 on my list.

I'm usually reallllly awful when it comes to keeping a clean room. I'll clean my room and within a few days or a week it's back to the way it was, looking as though a tiny hurricane had passed through.  It's always been this way and it's been this way so far here also.

So I decided to change...kind of. Once my room reaches a point, I get fed up and clean it. This time happened about a month and a half ago, when it was just....ugh. So I cleaned it. And for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I managed to keep it clean for a month! That includes clothes, dishes, sweeping, the works!  I don't know how I did it, but I did.

Unfortunately though, it is now back to post-hurricane status and it's time for another cleaning.  The bad part of all this is that I eventually let my room get really dirty again. The good news is that now I know I can keep it clean without really thinking about it. I just need to make this a habit. So Dear Readers, here's to keeping our rooms nice and tidy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

StuffRussiansLike - Update: April, 25 2011

Been a really long time since I've update the StuffRussiansLike blog, but I finally have the time (and motivation) to do so! Take a look!

63. Soup: Russians are, in my opinion, masters of soup.  It doesn't matter if you don't like Russian food because you WILL like Russian soup.  Whether it's борщ или щи (borsch or shchie) or any other type of soup, the Russians are pretty good at it. Throw in a spoonful of сметана и укроп and you have a bowl of perfection!

64.  Diplomas/Certificates: Russians love, love, LOVE to hand out certificates for EVERYTHING! Haha I'm not sure how much weight they actually carry, but they give them out like they're going out of style. My dorm has certificates that literally say (in Russian): "Best Dormitory Kitchen - 2nd Floor". This means the 2nd floor kitchen of my dorm received a certificate for being the best. This, to me, is baffling, but hilarious! *Each one is not official too, without that ever-important stamp.*
This one is an actual diploma for university and not just a random one. I'll get a pic of a random one.

65.  Repetitive Calling: This is based on the idea that Russians never, ever turn their mobile phones on silent and that virtually nowhere is an inappropriate place to answer your phone. What this means to them is that it's strange when someone doesn't answer their phone, a fluke. So they call back. And they call back. And they call back. I might be in class and the same person will call me 6 times before finally giving up, but as an American I won't answer my phone in class.  It's crazy.

So, Dear Readers, please keep your thoughts & ideas coming!

Why I Would Make An Awesome Lion

I understand that I haven't blogged in what seems like forever and this blog post certainly has nothing to do with Russia, but I felt that this one in particular needed to be written. What can you do right?

Here's why I believe that I would make the most bitching of lions!

  1. Hair: I am an extremely hairy guy. Those of you that know me know that I have been shaving since I was far too young, my hair is often long and I am always wearing a vest...if you catch my drift. What this means is that if I were a lion, I'd be rocking a serious Mufasa-like mane.
  2. Laziness: I am notoriously lazy and male lions don't do jack. They make female lions do the brunt of the work and while I'm against that, I am good at being lazy so even though I disagree with the process, I'm good at it.
  3. Motivation: What I mean by this is that through laziness, I am motivated by procrastination. When things get down to the wire and need to be done, I can get them done. Much like a male lion chills out most of the time, he does what he really has to when the pride's survival is on the line.
  4. Agility: While I may not look the part, I'm quick when I need to be, some might even say I'm spry...just like a cat, or in this case, a lion!
  5. Roar: Something virtually no one knows about me is that I can roar like MoFo. I sound EXACTLY like a lion when I roar. It's crazy. But don't ask me to roar for you...cause I won't.
  6. Nocturnal: While lions aren't necessarily nocturnal like many animals, they are very nocturnal as am I. I like to go to bed late and wake up even later. It just works out. I'm not a morning person in the slightest.
  7. Chasing Down Animals: While I can't do it in human form, I like to try and chase down animals, though unsuccessfully. I think the fact that I LIKE to do this would make me a more effective lion.
  8. The Sun: Okay, so this one may not exactly apply to lions since they live in pretty warm places in Africa and are more inclined to lie in the shade. It does, however, apply to house cats in the US, so I'm calling that close enough. I, like cats, like to pick a place on the carpet where the sun is coming through and curl up and lie down. The sun is warm, the carpet is warm and life is good.

So Dear Readers, this is why I would make a great lion! Stay tuned very soon for more updates to the StuffRussiansLike blog as well as blogs about black beans, a trip to Volgograd, Easter (Пасха) and a few other things!