Okay, I confess. I'm not really that tech-savvy. In fact, I actually own a record player and do not own an MP3 player. That's how non-tech-oriented I am. (And I thought I was doing so well when I actually taught myself HTML back in the late '90s, but, alas, technology has passed me by once again.)
Sometime ago, I wrote a blogpost about dometic violence among refugees. I wrote this because I stumbled into a case of domestic violence among refugees. I have since been working to get this fixed but, alas, domestic violence situations are not easy to fix.
Essentially if the victim, usually a woman, is not "empowered" and does not know what she wants out of life and this relationship, then often she will go straight back into the situation and the result is that things will start all over again. Therefore just charging into the situation and slamming the guy against the wall and threatening him is not going to fix things.
[And, for the record, although this is usually women, men are just as stupid. There was a six month period once in which three men I knew had incidents where their girlfriends tried to stab them or assault them with knives. In none of these three cases, did the man break up with the woman. Curiously, it was one white woman, one black woman and one Asian woman involved and two white and one black men. Make of that what you will.]
Essentially, and this is my brilliant insight into the world that I learned from all this so treasure it please, it was hard earned, getting involved in a domestic violence situation is like walking into a potentially if not actually violent situation, a situation that if not handled right involves a very real risk of danger, and then taking the absolutely most confused, scared least qualified person present (i.e. the victim) and putting them in charge and hoping it will somehow turn out okay.
Among refugees these cases are actually more complicated than among non-immigrant Americans because of cultural and language barriers as well as a lack of awareness of what is expected behavior and what resources are available and what can actually be expected from these resources. Not to mention the fact that refugees often, quite frankly, live their lives in a haze where they just do not know things like the names of the cities three hours away and would not consider going there anyway unless there was a community of people from their ethnic group there who they could talk to and interact with. So it gets extra complicated.
Interestingly enough, the post got some unusual attention for reasons that really had nothing to do with the post itself. However, in it I mentioned that a program was put on in large part by an intern named Una Hardester. Apparently Hardester, 22 year old, female non-refugee, felt that the refugees needed anti-discrimination training. On hand, however, was a 43 year old male former refugee attorney named Artan Serjanej who felt that what refugees needed first were guidelines on how to behave in America, including lectures on the importance of not beating their wives. Hardester and the other women involved accused Artan Serjanej of not understanding refugees' true needs (!!!) and despite being a refugee himself of being insensitive.
So naturally they drove him out and refused to let him run programs anymore.
After all that's what we do in America when someone more experienced than ourselves does not share our idealistic view of the importance of advocating for people's rights.
Then, due to the high turnover at the refugee center, Hardester herself disappeared and I don't think they run this program anymore at all. (Well that solves . . . er . . . I don't know what that solves exactly but I'm sure it must solve something I guess. Otherwise, it would just be stupid, wouldn't it? )
So, in response to my posts Una Hardester is now calling me insensitive.
Of course, she is correct. I am insensitive. I am also, as I said, technologically impaired.
Which means that I am putting my response to her response which is at the bottom of this post here way up here because I just don't know any other way to do it.
Anyway, here goes . . .
Una, seem to be three things mixed in here.
First, Thanks for clarifying the differences between what you and Artan Serjanej and you and your buddies considered important. However might I suggest that a middle aged former refugee male might have some perspectives on the way middle aged refugee males think and act that a 22 year old, politically correct, non-refugee woman such as yourself might benefit to learn from? Might it be a valid point of view to say that the behaviors of some refugees when placed in a new foreign environment might make them a bigger threat to themselves than the police are? Particularly if they are engaging in activities that are accepted where they come from but will get them in big trouble while in this country? Activities such as smacking one’s wife when she acts disrespectful or wishes to handle her own finances?
Current thinking in cross-cultural education is that if you wish a person from another culture to model a behavior that he has not been taught (i.e. not seeing his wife as a piece of property but instead as a partner) then you need to identify where his or her current level of understanding lies and work from there. If you skip steps and assume knowledge that does not exist then learning will not take place.
The world does not work in a politically correct fashion. And the more you see, the more a lot of harsh realities are going to appear insensitive. As I‘ve mentioned more than once on this blog, I lived in Asia for four years and spent other time working for the ambulance, And one thing I’ve learned is that it is a mistake to try to work with young PC college women if you wish to actually make a difference in the world. You know why? Because the world is an insensitive, politically incorrect place and they don’t yet know it. Therefore they get angry when people casually make references to situations that do not fit their pre-conceived, ethnocentric, not the least bit truly multi-cultural paradigm of how the world should work. But someday you’ll understand what I mean, at least if you pay attention.
If you really believe that all ethnic groups have the same propensity for crime and domestic violence as all other ethnic groups (i.e. "Though the resettlement process is extremely stressful, refugees are no more likely to commit crimes, against their family members or anyone else, than citizens born and raised in this country.") then you are a very ignorant person. As stated, multi-cultural means *ACKNOWLEDGING* that different cultures behave differently, not ignoring it. However, I will give you the chance to offer statistics to back up this very important statement. But, I bet you can't.
If you actually go out and visit refugees, you’ll see that they have much bigger needs than anti-discrimination in housing training. (Some day I will write about all the problems refugees have with housing and a lot of them stem from the fact that the refugee center makes promises to landlords it cannot keep . At least one landlord asked me if he could come to me after I straightened out a dispute between him and his tenants and said the refugee center never returns his calls. I advised him to speak directly to his tenants and they could come to me if they wished. )
Second, you are exaggerating or mis-stating some things. You were, I believe, an unpaid intern at the refugee center. You said you left in September, I assume to go back to school. Jen Barcam is now the volunteer coordinator. But it was on January 27 that her hiring was publically announced. This is one reason that the refugee center was such a mess. There was a four month period during which the refugee center had no paid volunteer coordinator. During this time a volunteer did much of the duties, and although she was great, being a volunteer she could not do all of the duties that needed to be done to keep things running smoothly. Although during this four month period one person was hired, he quit after one day, as he found the place frightful. (I believe his quote was “This is not the experience I wish to have had in the future.”) Because things were such a mess the director was unable to keep her scheduled interviews with candidates for the position and they often sat for hours in the waiting room looking confused, surrounded by unhappy refugees and doing their best to force a smile when people spoke to them. (I am sure there are several of these people out there now talking about “the crazy interview I had last year at the refugee center.”)
During the interim, Eh Eh Cho taught several classes. From what I understand the refugees like her classes, at least they tell me so, but these focus on nutrition and inter-personal communication. I think I'll go out on a limb here and argue that these classes are based on the assumption that refugees have important things they need to learn if they are going to live well, behave right and stay out of trouble in America and Eh Eh Cho does her best to teach them these things.
When I worked at the refugee center, I often had to recruit my own volunteers and when I didn’t I often found myself stuck. In fact, being the intensely multi-cultural guy that I am, I often recruited them from among the refugees and, believe it or not, worked well with them and treated them in such a way that they got a lot out of the experience. (Some day I hope to write more about this.)
And now, because they helped me, I try to help them and take care of them. And sometimes I try to help them and their friends.
Thirdly, as for my comments on the Nepali-Burmese (Ghorkakhali), again we have the problem of a 22 year old woman who is trying to impose a PC view of the world on a non-PC reality. “You’re not supposed to say that!” you cry. “But it’s true!” I say. “But it can’t be true because it’s not the way things should be,” you say. “Sadly,” I say, “It is true, Una. This is the way things are.” )
Una, there are at least nine Nepali-Burmese (Gorkhakali) people in Albany. I know eight of them. Of these eight people, two are guilty of domestic violence, three are guilty of tax evasion, others work off the books and receive benefits, two drive regularly without a driver’s license and a third also did so, actually hitting a parked car, before she finally got her driver’s license, and another one is alleged to frequently walk up to women and tell them how big his penis is. Is this typical behavior among Nepali-Burmese? I have no idea, because these are the only eight that I have ever met.
As for consequences to me for speaking the truth about them, well, I guess they will have to find someone else to offer them free English and driving lessons, writing job applications for them, teaching how to change light bulbs, trying to get them to put bread in the freezer before it turns green and puffy and helping them out in a thousand little ways. Fortunately there are many other, much more decent refugees out there who also need help (including the wives of these losers who are currently being domestically abused. Hey, Una, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you go out and try to help them? I’ve been working on this problem for a while in several ways but so far haven’t gotten the results I’d like to see. Maybe you can do something about it. Of, if you’d prefer, I think I can give you a lot of suggestions on ways to help refugees. They’re not glamorous but they surely could use the help.).
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