Dealing with Discrimination and Solitude in Abroad


What does discrimination serve for?

How can a sensitive heart cope up?

Finding solitude in a jungle of discriminating situations is an oasis of peaceful solace as I focused only on my top priorities: my growing children, work, family, reaching out through inspiration and projects coming to full fruition. Despite the painful effects of discrimination, my wisdom is enriched for a broader horizon, wiser disposition in life, observing fairly and keenly the ill attitudes of offenders.

My sharper wit is my untouchable veil against the pricking thorns of racism.  My wisdom and serenity serve as impenetrable shield against the slashing swords of discrimination, a bitter pill we swallow as migrants.

In the last nineteen years, I had grown to deal with unfair share of various discriminations slamming painfully on my age, size, race, religion, work compensation, origin, sex and civil status but I’m still confident and firm as I stood to express that the unjust offenses are unaccepted, as a Filipino, not losing my identity, respect and dignity.

When my daughters got sick for two weeks, I was deprived of sleep and forgot to bring a document at the kindergarten class.

Across the street, the Swiss Italian kindergarten teacher screamed at me in Italian, “Hey, Asian brownie, what kind of memory do you have? I heard that many women in your country are in prostitution. Is that how you fished out your Swiss husband?”

Other mothers waited for my reaction as I held firmly my burning unshed tears gathering heavily in my eyes, I replied calmly in Italian,“Can I fix an appointment so we can talk about my country?”

The racist, ignorant Swiss Italian teacher who does not speak English was quite impressed on how I fluently talked Italian without any foreign accent. I told her that her overt hostile statement was offensive based on her very limited knowledge of Philippines regarding prostitution, poverty and corruption as shown in Swiss Italian channels. I gained her respect after explaining at great length, about Philippine history with a travel book and informing her significantly how we value our education, family, strong spiritual foundation and concerns for compatriots.

The worst prolonged discrimination I suffered was to be treated as substandard being a female, treated like “nothing,” by my former ex-Swiss Italian husband. For him a woman’s role is to obey the man, serve the man and stay at home. As a religious woman taking seriously the vows of matrimony, submitting myself for seven years doormat of his chauvinistic, selfish, dictatorial manipulation, continuous verbal degradation and psychological abuse in a function of a dutiful wife and a dedicated full time mother but treated like a slave. It was through a good aviation job and divorce that freed me from that chain of continuous domestic discriminating abuse.

Traveling and writing healed my past wounds as I gained back my lost self-confidence. When you have a strong self-esteem, you can face any form of discrimination  with a dignified mind, calm heart and wise spirit.

In one of my literary trips, an elite American lady told me, “Don’t you know that only poor people take Greyhound bus?”

Offended but defensive, I frankly and coldly told her, “You can say next time a poor naturalized Swiss Asian struggling mother working at Citation X jet flew from Europe to ride a Greyhound bus. I don’t have to be married to a rich German to tour Europe like you but with my savings I take train to visit European historical sites, fly across the Atlantic to hone my writing craft. It’s okay to be poor as I take this Greyhound bus. Remember life is like a wheel: not all poor will remain poor and not all poor are actually poor, inside and out.” As I stepped in the Greyhound bus, I realized how racist that elite American lady because all of the other passengers were of African American decent, I was the only Asian but I felt safe, confident and befriended some passengers.

As a divorcee, many destructive whispers, outburst from judgmental hearts like an Italian woman scolded me in a shop:

“Stay away from my son! You’re a divorced woman with baggage, too young and small to be a mother! You married a Swiss to have a better life. You come from a Third World country, just looking for someone to lean on.”

At that time I was not dating anyone, it dawned on me  that her son was the young respectable man of thirty, who sent me flowers. I was seething with controlled anger as she ranted, reeking of racial sneer.

“If you wish to talk to me, do so without prejudice.”  I matched her tone but in a respectable way. I spoke in perfect fluent Italian as I continued,

“What is it in a Third World country that you think you are in the First World with the way you behave? I married because of love but was treated like a slave. My daughters are not baggage, they are my life. I’m not interested on your son!”

While working in a law firm, I had to endure daily insults from a lawyer like:

“Didn’t you consider how lucky you are working for us and not work as a maid like your compatriots in Italy or are you much better in cleaning toilets than working on my court cases?”

Calmly I replied, “To match your provocations with anger will only court disaster. Most of my compatriots are degree holders too, it’s the system that does not give them much better job opportunities because company saves money on lower salary by giving the lowly jobs to migrants.”

Punches of discrimination spread by my friend who bitched around as if I was a collector of nationalities since I had German, French, Italian, Swiss, Dutch, Finnish and American suitors after my divorce.

“She became like a European, so modern, so precise, too independent. May be, she is collecting passports that’s why she dated them?”

Some compatriots see a divorcee as immoral detrimental way of life. Either I took it as a complement having qualities of a European or an insult for she maliciously defined suitors equivalent to lovers. With her tirade, friends avoided me like plague. I became detached, avoiding them too for my peace of mind.

A single struggling parent is a hot sip of gossip of discriminating blabbermouths. I didn’t care anymore because I built an impenetrable wall against insensitive moral hypocrites.

One time coming out from the church, a lady exclaimed at me: “You left your husband! You’re doomed for life! You still go to church?”

Ironically I told her, “Did the church issued a ban not to let divorcee enter the church? Did you see me melt to ashes when I knelt down to pray? Or do you want to check my ticket to heaven or hell?”

When you feel the punches of discrimination from irritating unavoidable situations in any sector dealing with judgmental, xenophobic, fake puritans and moral bigots, would you be passive or voice out that such maltreatment is unacceptable, as you have right to do so?

It is wise to reply and act in a diplomatic way with self-respect and dignity intact.

Learn well to speak fluently the foreign language of your new resident country, knowing their history, culture and social mores are our effective broom of confidence as we flexibly sweep off any discrimination.

Don’t let any discriminating incident push your self-esteem down. Lengthen your patience, broaden your insights, weigh the degree of the circumstance, character and attitude of the offender as you flexibly handle any discrimination with wit, philosophical humor, dignity, finesse, wisdom and respect.

Dealing with Discrimination and Solitude

© 2013 Ana Angelica Abaya van Doorn Unabridged original version, April 25, 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Author of the books:

Landscapes of a Heart, Whispers of a Soul

Rhythm of a Heart, Music of a Soul

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