Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why is this OK?

I've been stewing about this for a while and with all the buzz today about someone else who said something politically incorrect and the uproar it has brought, I decided I had to take time to write about an incident that has me, well, pretty much outraged.
 
Last week, in the same day, I got two emails inviting or reminding me about two upcoming events. The first was from my cousin, who also reminded us that we were having an ornament exchange.
 
The second came with the reminder that we are having a Chinese gift exchange. Huh?
 
I wrote back and asked, why was it called that? I am pretty sure everyone in the group knows my daughters are Chinese, but even if they don't, when did we become so desensitized to being discriminatory to some groups and so hypersensitive to others?
 
Recently I heard an older woman tell about inviting someone who is Asian to an event and they brought her a present. But as she pointed out, this is typical, that most Asian people bring you a gift, rather than take one from you, which is the point of the above mentioned gift exchange.
 
I did a little research to see if I could find why it was called a Chinese gift exchange and came across an article written by an ex-pat living in China. She attended a Christmas party, in China, and part of the entertainment was a "Chinese" gift exchange. The Chinese people were horrified that someone would take their present and it did not matter whether it was a joke gift or something they truly loved; they just did not find the concept funny.  
 
I thought maybe I was just hypersensitive, but I asked a co-worker what she thought. She had never heard that expression and thought I meant we were exchanging gifts from China, which sounds like a good idea to me.
 
When I got a second reminder for the party with the Chinese gift exchange, I opened it hoping that they would have taken the hint and chosen a different name for the gift exchange, although gift exchange seems to be pretty clear without adding a label to it. I was shocked to see it was still there, with no hint that there was anything wrong with it.
 
Maybe I am hypersensitive on this topic, but I cannot imagine this group thinking it would be appropriate to label it with a different race's name. I remember being confronted in the 80's when I described someone and named their race in my description. I was asked why that was important to the conversation. I stumbled and stuttered and tried to explain, but of course, the race of the person had nothing to do with who they were or the conversation. The same goes for any type of label, which was reinforced while completing my Masters in Rehab Counseling. When you are working with someone with a disability, you look to the person first, not the disability.
 
So why, in our era of enlightenment, is a title like "Chinese" gift exchange still accepted?

 
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

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