Thursday, June 28, 2007

Daniel and the case of the 'dirty' money!

Remember I told you about my new caregiver-Daniel (the manny)? Daniel is a pleasant All-American kid, finishing up college and aspires to teach math to middle schoolers.
Kind of your 'average Joe', so I was surprised when he told me the story of what happened to him at a local gas station.

He needed gas, but didn't have much money on him, so he was scrounging around his car looking for loose change. When he tried to hand the attendant his money-which he admits was a little sticky-the attendant shouted at him that he was not going to take his 'dirty money'. Of course, 'dirty money' doesn't always mean that the money isn't physically clean-but is generally assumed to mean it is tainted somehow-at least in our country.

Oh, by the way, keep in mind that the attendant was of Middle Eastern descent and may have, in fact, been disturbed that the money was not clean (as in spic 'n span clean-not legimate clean).

Daniel responded to the attendant with a snide and inappropriate comment about the gentleman's gratitude for the honor of living in the United States.
Needless to say, this generated an equally hostile response from the attendant and Daniel ended up leaving the money on top of the counter and stalking away. With his anger Daniel took away a little more evidence to support his 'truth' about people from the Middle East and maybe even all immigrants.

What really happened?

Was the real problem that the attendant didn't want to take money that was dirty, sticky or otherwise unappealing. Maybe he wanted Daniel to find money that was more acceptable. I think that is a reasonable explanation for the encounter.

Daniel reacted as he did-not because he is a bad person but because he has biases that get cemented by the media-don't all Middle Eastern people hate Americans and are just waiting for the next opportunity to cause our country harm-and other experiences.

Don't get me wrong: there is a lot of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and there are people, though not exclusively of Middle Eastern descent that are planning our demise-and this becomes our opinion of all people from the Middle East.

Daniel fell into a classic stereotypical racist trap-one dictated by his biases about people from the Middle East.

What do you think Daniel would have done if the gas station attendant had been a white kid? Probably would have found some cleaner money.

We have to actively work against knee-jerk biased reactions. Education helps. So does a cool head and the presence of mind to understand why we think and act like we do. No one says it is easy-but at this point in world history do we have any choice.

Makes you think, doesn't it.

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