Race in Georgia

It’s time.

I created a “Race in Georgia” draft several months ago. It was mostly out of annoyance with a certain creepy facebook stalker – apparently a Georgian living in America – who patrols all the expat sites and comments on everything everyone ever does in Georgia. His comments regarding the experience of certain friends of mine in this country were somewhat offensive, and he was annoyed with me for sticking up for them, and in his irritation he demanded that I refrain from posting my comments on the subject on my blog because he felt that it would stir up controversy and that I was an asshole.

Opinions on the matter of this post vary greatly. Many of my TLG friends have wanted me to post about race for months, and none of my fellow volunteers seem to be against it. Georgians, on the other hand, wish I wouldn’t stir the pot – they’re apparently afraid of what I’ll say. TLG officials have expressed concerns that my discussing race could potentially have negative ramifications for the program both in Georgia and among potential volunteers. So, so far I haven’t said anything, but the topic remains the elephant in the room that no one’s really talking about – at least not in a forum as public as this.

With all that buildup, you might find what I’m about to say anticlimactic. Controversy is good for my blog ratings, but getting to the truth in a way that people will be receptive to is better in the long run for everyone involved. I’d love to read disagreements in the comments section, but since this is a post about race, and race is a triggery subject for many people, please be extra careful about trying not to be offensive. I’ve done my due diligence by brewing this post for five months to make sure I could do the topic justice without alienating anyone or painting with too broad a brush, so the least you could do is wait ten minutes and then reread your comment to see if it contains anything that might be construed at racist or as supporting or defending racism.

With that out of the way…

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A good friend of mine – a Georgian woman – once asked me what the polite way was, in America, to identify someone as “black”. She knew not to use “negro” or the other “n” word, but had heard conflicting reports on the acceptability of “black,” “colored,” “African American,” etc. My first response was to explain that the current politically correct, post-modern, internet-liberal-vetted term is “POC” – “person of color” or “people of color.”

I am, however, aware that any term has its proponents and its detractors, and that it’s not always possible to avoid offending people, and that often it matters more how the term is used than what term is used, and that there are any number of other contingencies that I may or may not be aware of that vary from person to person and community to community. Due to this awareness, I went on to explain that if you’re really going for “polite,” it’s never – at least, in America – it’s never *really* polite to call attention to someone’s race or to any other potentially stigmatized difference.

In other words, it’s not the term that’s the problem. The problem is that you felt the need to distinguish between people of one color and people of another color in the first place. This is what bothers people, and this is why terms for race tend to slide from acceptable to unacceptable to offensive to you’ll get shot if you say it over the years. We keep coming up with new terms, and those terms keep getting loaded with all the baggage of discrimination and hatred and institutionalized bullshit and look, we know what you really mean when you use a word only to describe people you don’t really care for, so just stop doing that, okay?

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You see, it’s easy for me to become ranty. So look, I’m telling this story in anecdotes, so bear with me.

When I made the infamous Sex in Georgia post (I won’t even bother linking it, it’s probably how you found this blog anyway) what basically happened was that I violated a Georgian taboo. Talking about sex, questioning the validity of traditions, and implying stuff about Georgian religion, character, and identity are all somewhat taboo, and even moreso for a foreigner. They’re all delicate subjects that you have to tread very carefully around. I was well-meaning, and I wasn’t saying anything revolutionary, but I did not have a deep enough understanding of Georgian social standards to navigate the rocky shoals of that particular topic and its associated taboos without seriously pissing off a large number of Georgians.

*********************************************

Do you see where this is going? I didn’t – for several months, I failed to put the pieces together in a precise and coherent way and understand what was going on with this race issue in Georgia. It was Freud who finally led me to the epiphany. I was thinking about his book “Totem and Taboo” for some reason – possibly connected to Georgian religious habits -and I ended up looking up “Taboo” on Wikipedia to see if they mentioned Freud’s work on the topic (they do). I noticed that the article pointed out that discussion of race or racism could be considered taboo in the US. And that’s when it hit me.

Many TLGers – myself included – react in basically the same way to Georgians discussing race as Georgians reacted to me discussing sex.

One of the great things about being in another culture is that it can help you hold up a lens to your own culture and examine things you might otherwise never have realized were there. In a sense, your own cultural quirks are invisible to you if you have nothing to contrast them with.

I had never thought of the prohibitions of certain words and topics related to race in the US as “taboo.” But now, I wonder how I can credibly treat Georgians who tread on American racial taboos differently than I expect to be treated by Georgians who resent my treading on Georgian sex taboos. In other words, can I, with a straight face, criticize Georgian racial discourse and at the same time demand that Georgians not criticize American sexual discourse?

***********************************************

Coming around to the point: Georgians do not have the same racial taboos as Americans and other Westerners do. For Georgians it is perfectly socially acceptable to not only point out the color of someone’s skin, but to do it using any word they happen to know (including the Greater and Lesser “n” words) – and it’s important to note that Georgians neither mean offense nor understand why anyone could be offended by this. It is perfectly socially acceptable to stare at someone who is a different color, to touch them to see what they feel like, and to express curiosity or other reactions to novelty towards them.

Most Georgians do not understand how these behaviors could possibly be experienced as racism by the people who encounter them. Even Georgians who do understand are at pains to defend their countrymen and explain to us crazy uptight Americans that we need to just relax because they didn’t mean any harm.

There are very good historical reasons for the racial taboos in America. They exist to keep the peace between two groups who have struggled with each other since the founding of our country. I am proud of how far America has come with regards to race – it’s actually one of the few things about America that I *am* genuinely proud of – but we as a country are just not done figuring things out in that regard yet.

Georgia has never had that kind of history. Georgia has never really faced racial tensions, race-based violence, institutionalized racial oppression, ethnic cleansing, etc. Georgians are actually a very tolerant people, and proud of it – they often brag about their religious tolerance and the peaceful coexistence of Christians (of various kinds), Jews, and Muslims in their country. There’s no reason for a race taboo in Georgia.

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This is not to say that there aren’t any racists in Georgia. There most certainly are, just like in every other society in the world. And many Georgians seem to have some variety of racial or nationalistic prejudice against Armenians and Azeris, but I haven’t figured out if this is based on race, class, or just healthy neighborly rivalry (like the way people in the US feel about Canadians…). And because there is no race taboo, it’s perfectly acceptable in Georgia for a racist to come right out and say things like “I think white people are the superior race and all others are the enemy” and everyone else will either let it slide or maybe just sort of seem vaguely embarrassed.

But the main problem that – pardon my indiscretion – “people of color” will face in Georgia with regards to race is that Georgians will very regularly make them conscious of the fact that they are different. Georgians will very unabashedly react differently – not necessarily bad differently, just differently – without understanding that treating people differently *at all* based on race is considered offensive in the West.

Westerners will experience this as racism, and will feel uncomfortable about it. Many of my friends in TLG have been able to accept this as another challenge of living in Georgia, while some have found that it makes them sufficiently uncomfortable to counterbalance the nice aspects of Georgia. This is an individual decision that I am privileged not to be faced with. It is, however, something to be aware of if you didn’t check the “Caucasian” box on your census form.

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So look. There’s much less violence and hate in Georgia than there is in America – no, seriously. It’s also much safer here than in neighboring Russia, where the Neo-Nazi movement seems to have actual traction for some reason and black people are occasionally killed in riots.

Let me give you one last anecdote. One of my Police Academy students was a Neo-Nazi. She used to quote KKK propaganda and say things like “we need to make the world safe for white babies” and “if my son married a black woman I would kill myself.” She was so over-the-top that she actually made her Georgian classmates somewhat uncomfortable, which is fucking impressive.

She came to my Thanksgiving Supra. Many of my guests that night were black, and at one point I witnessed this self-identified, proud Neo-Nazi showing one of my female African-American friends pictures of her son – the same son that she wanted to protect from wicked black girls. I later asked her about it and she said that although she “hated” black people, since she was a guest at my house and they were guests at my house, the rules of Georgian hospitality demanded that she be friendly and welcome them with open arms.

And honestly, this is what I love about Georgia. The people here are so friendly and accommodating and welcoming that it overcomes all other boundaries, including boundaries of race and ignorance and intolerance. And I think that this above all shows that Georgians are very receptive to changing their ideas about race and learning about other peoples.

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People who come to Georgia and look significantly different from the people one commonly encounters in Georgia face added challenges. It can be tiring and frustrating to be the subject of even more curiosity, to be followed, to be poked and prodded and questioned and propositioned even more than other foreigners. I have one friend who was born in China, raised in California, and is as American as they come, and she has expressed frustration with people constantly wanting to know where she is from, presumably because she never knows whether they are asking after her nationality or her “race,” whether they’re innocently making small-talk or questioning her American-ness and wondering if she really knows English as well as less Asian-looking Americans.

I think, though, that it’s important that people meet these issues head-on. Georgians may not know much about other peoples of the world, but they are not in the least bit xenophobic. Georgians are willing to learn and we have an opportunity to teach them.

On the other hand, I really wish Georgians would be a tiny bit more understanding when we non-Georgians get frustrated by the differing treatment we receive. Men are treated differently than women, Asians are treated differently than Europeans, people of more recent African descent are treated differently than people of less recent African descent, and we’re not used to it, and we find it frustrating and sometimes offensive, and we need to express these feelings and issues in order to keep up the will and the wherewithal to promote better relations between Georgia and the English-speaking world. So when we go on facebook and complain about the toll this is taking on us, please don’t go apeshit and tell us that our experiences are invalid or that we’re overreacting – and yes, Givi Bitsadze, that means you – because no one is saying that Georgians are racists. We’re just saying that race adds another dimension to the culture shock that we’re already experiencing and our lives would be easier if we could just be people for a few days instead of a black person or a Chinese person or a gay person or a female person or whatever.

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Several months ago, in the early days of this blog, I linked to Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine. One of my friends once said that I reminded her of him, which was honestly one of the best compliments anyone has ever given to me. Jay Smooth is absolutely brilliant, and his incisive, relevant commentary makes me laugh, cry, and hang on every word. I wish I could be a thousandth as insightful and expressive and persuasive as this guy.

And when it comes to questions of race, a picture may be worth a thousand words but an Ill Doctrine video is worth at least forty thousand:

This last one isn’t about race, but it was so inspiring that I couldn’t resist adding it:

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37 Responses to Race in Georgia

  1. --> says:

    > Georgians are willing to learn and we have an opportunity to teach them.

    > The people here are so friendly and accommodating and welcoming
    > that it overcomes all other boundaries, including boundaries of race
    > and ignorance and intolerance.

    > And I think that this above all shows that Georgians are very
    >receptive to changing their ideas about race and
    > learning about other peoples.

    Neal, few blog entries ago, about apples and snakes I’ve asked you a question how to combat ignorance.

    I’ve got my answer. Thank you. Not good – _great_ job.

  2. --> says:

    Perfectly, well balanced blog entry, taking all aspects of the story.

    I personally want to point one thing to current and future TLG teachers and/or any other Western expats planning to stay in Georgia for more than just a few days/weeks:

    This is a human nature to stereotype and act based on stereotypes, simply because it is easy. In general, this kind of approach would work in a situation when one is familiar with the surroundings and is well aware what rules of the game in that environment is. However, when the environment changes, everything changes – ‘we are not in Kansas any more’ – stereotypes and consequent actions/inaction of one place are not applicable to another one.

    My favorite example demonstrating this is following – one American guy broke his leg while stepping down from a train in India. Reason was simple – there was no step and he did not look down while stepping down. He just simply assumed that there will be a step. Here is the question – have you ever thought that when doors of an elevator (lift in British English) open there might be no elevator there and you will fall into the elevator’s shaft if you do not look where are you stepping?

    ************************

    Georgia now is pretty much the same as Japan was in mid 1860-80ies in terms of local population’s awareness of the life in outside world. The population is quite homogeneous and most people outside of the capital have seen foreigners only on TV. They never seen/experienced something which is not familiar to them. Especially this is applicable to ‘people of color’ and other minorities – locals are simple not used to them and do not know how to deal with them. At the same time, locals act based on their own stereotypes which only increases feelings of confusion/embarrassment /offense Westerners are experiencing from time to time.

    Homogeneous population also is a contributing factor (with a lot of other factors) in the non-existence of privacy and political correctness the way Westerners know it. For the same reason – in the society with single degree of separation there are no secrets or a need to maintain distance between individuals.

    And here comes the greatest asset of people who came from diverse ethnic backgrounds and societies – being educators and cultural ambassadors: be sincere and try to explain to locals why you feel offended if such case happens. It works.

  3. Robin Carlisle says:

    Simply, empathetically, sympathethically, unbelievably, quite honestly… brilliant! I just love watching your heart and mind grow and then get set to words. Sometimes I swear I can even hear music when I read you. I don’t know what made you choose Georgia, but Georgia certainly made a good choice in choosing you. You’ve done us ALL proud, Neal. Keep going…

  4. VK says:

    Brutally accurate post. I just wish that by TLG, tourists and other ways Georgian people could start having more relations with other races. And for that end, I wish that my government were investing money to teach human rights in schools, like it is in UK, so to eliminate all the unnatural race, religion, gender and minorities issues-related ignorance Georgian people happen to be now.

  5. Nino says:

    “On the other hand, I really wish Georgians would be a tiny bit more understanding when we non-Georgians get frustrated by the differing treatment we receive.”

    I was just interested whether the term “non-Georgians” (or non-Armenians, non-Italians, etc.) is a regular form for (American) English. Or do you happen to have an influence from Georgians, who call everybody else than themselves as “non-Georgians”?
    Thank you.

  6. Brook says:

    I’ve been trying to find literature on racism in Georgia, and am so glad I came across this post.
    I’m a Black South African and have experienced and am still experiencing racism in this country every now and again. It hits me when I least expect it, which is why it’s hard to get used to it. Specially during this ‘post apartheid era’.
    I’m anxious as to whether racism over there is worse than here or is rather a breath of fresh air compared to what we go through and have lived through in South Africa as Blacks.
    It’s a pity I’m only getting Americans’ views on this. I’d love to hear what South Africans think. Do you know of any that are over there? Do they have blogs? Please?

    • --> says:

      Brook,

      It is not a racism per se – the way you know it. It is just the fact that black people are treated differently because locals are not used to them. And that ‘differently’ does not necessarily means a bad thing – it is rather curiosity.

      You need to get used to that you’ll be stared a lot and people point at you or come and touch you. Again, in general they do not mean any harm – they are just curious and expressing that curiosity openly because privacy is non existent.

      If you are an athletically built/tall/etc expect to be treated like a celebrity – people will come and ask you to sign autographs and take photos with them. Because of stereotypes people would think that you are an American and are either a rap singer or professional athlete.

      • panoptical says:

        “Most Georgians do not understand how these behaviors could possibly be experienced as racism by the people who encounter them. Even Georgians who do understand are at pains to defend their countrymen and explain to us crazy uptight Americans that we need to just relax because they didn’t mean any harm.”

        I hope you didn’t think that by explaining this behavior, I was in any way condoning it. I pointed this out because it’s something about Georgia that bothers many non-Georgians, myself included.

        If Georgia expects to be seen as a modern, Westernized country, Georgians are going to have to learn to respect other people’s boundaries. They might as well start learning now before people who are far less culturally sensitive and far less invested in this country than I am show up, have bad experiences, and go and tell all their friends that Georgia is an ignorant backwater – something that has already started happening in a fairly high-profile case that you may have heard about.

        And believe me – even though you may not be able to understand why this is true – when you make comments like this you’re contributing to the perception of Georgia as an ignorant and racist country. Many of my friends in America would read what you just wrote, be offended, and say to themselves “well if that’s really the way things are in Georgia then I’ll certainly never go there.”

        I know that you’re trying to help, but specifically a statement like “it’s not racism, it’s just that black people are treated differently” makes it sound like you have absolutely no understanding of what we mean when we talk about racism, and when you say “you need to get used to people staring and touching you” it’s kind of like you’re telling the person who is impacted by racism that their feelings about being touched are inferior or subordinate to Georgians’ feelings about touching. In other words, you can’t respond to “this makes me uncomfortable” with “your discomfort is of no consequence, because what is going on in my mind trumps what is going on in your mind” without it sounding like what you’re actually saying is that black people’s needs are less important than Georgian people’s needs, which (going back to my previous point) would absolutely be racist.

        I know that you are trying to offer helpful advice, but this is what I mean when I say that Georgians don’t have the cultural experience to participate in modern Western racial discourse without stepping on toes. Of course, you have to make mistakes to learn, so I hope you take this comment as intended – I’m just trying to point out where you’re bumping up against American (and many post-colonial countries’) racial sore spots.

        And I know that I’ve built up a reputation as some kind of super-liberal, but I bet if you polled Americans with the question “Is it racist to assume that any tall black person you meet is an athlete or a rapper and try to get their autograph?” the vast overwhelming majority would answer that yes, it absolutely was racist. That’s why when Georgians tell Americans that there is no racism in Georgia we tend to just smile and nod – it’s because you’ve just said something that we think is so crazy that it’s not even worth arguing about.

        • --> says:

          And believe me – even though you may not be able to understand why this is true – when you make comments like this you’re contributing to the perception of Georgia as an ignorant and racist country.

          “it’s not racism, it’s just that black people are treated differently” makes it sound like you have absolutely no understanding of what we mean when we talk about racism, and when you say “you need to get used to people staring and touching you” it’s kind of like you’re telling the person who is impacted by racism that their feelings about being touched are inferior or subordinate to Georgians’ feelings about touching.
          ************

          I have a feeling that the original blog post and this comment was written by two different persons.

          Neal – when you go to school, ask your English teacher colleague what Georgian expression ‘დათვური სამსახური’ means. Because when you make comments like above you are making ‘დათვური სამსახური’ to TLG.

          The rest – when we meet in Tbilisi.

    • panoptical says:

      My inclination is to say that it is a completely different kind of thing from what you are used to. Whether it’s better or worse probably depends on your personal preferences.

      There’s generally not a lot of malicious racism here – people won’t want to harm you because of your race – and in fact you’ll probably experience a lot more of the famous Georgian “friendliness” because of your race. As the other commenter said, people will be very curious about you and approach you and possibly want to touch your skin or hair. People will make assumptions about you – many of which will not be flattering – and people will probably say very offensive things to you from time to time without really understanding why or how what they said was offensive.

      One of my friends went to a hospital once and overheard the doctor refer to her as a “Negroid,” which at least was something that a doctor might plausibly have been taught as an acceptable scientific term especially if they went to medical school three or four decades ago. If that’s the kind of stuff that you can go home and laugh about with your friends, then you’ll do fine here. Just don’t vent too much about it on the internet.

      There’s one South African that I know of here – she blogs at http://thegingerwhinger.weebly.com/the-blog.html.

      • Steve says:

        Race exists.
        Georgian society and many other societies in the world rightly recognize racial distinction.
        The leftist dream of a post-racial utopia is utter nonsense.

        Thankfully the Georgians are smart enough to realize that.

        • panoptical says:

          ::smiles and nods::

          Thank you, Steve the Racist. Your comment added so much to this conversation.

      • --> says:

        One of my friends went to a hospital once and overheard the doctor refer to her as a “Negroid”.

        I was in my school biology/anatomy book 25 years ago and obviously was in that doctor’s textbook too.

        An the same time:

        Negroid:

        a presumed human “race” consisting mostly of Sub-Saharan Africans. This classification is based on the discredited typological model. The term “Negroid” was derived from the Latin word for the color black.

        http://anthro.palomar.edu/vary/glossary.htm#sectN

        • panoptical says:

          25 years, three or four decades… close enough. I believe my point remains intact despite this minor semantic hiccup.

          “This classification is based on the discredited typological model.”

          Yeah, that about sums it up.

          I mean, do I have to make it explicit? There are doctors in Georgia – excuse me, I mean to say, there is at least one doctor in Georgia – who uses terminology based on a discredited model of race, presumably because said doctor’s education is outdated by some number of years, call it 25 plus however old your textbook was when you studied anatomy plus however long it takes for new information to propagate through the textbook-writing industry. One worries what other discredited medical knowledge doctors here might be working from, but that’s a whole nother post.

          A person’s individual response to this could be to laugh at it, like we laugh at other hilariously outmoded relics from the 1970s (like the marshutkas in Tbilisi) that we sometimes find in use in Georgia. However, for some people, I imagine such a thing would bring up unhappy or disturbing associations. I personally thought it was kind of funny, but then I’m apparently some kind of Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrid abomination, so what do I know?

  7. Brook says:

    Whew! Thanks guys! It’s a lot to take in! I, personally didn’t take offense in any of the comments and took what I could from them.
    Thanks for the link, I’m on it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Who the hell are you to tell Georgians what they should or shoulnd’t do? Are you the “ambassador of truth” from the West? You ignorance is astounding. Talk about an UGLY AMERICAN. You’re the reason why most people dislike obnoxious, ignorant expats and dumb American tourists.

    • panoptical says:

      So here’s where I point out that nowhere in this post did I tell Georgians what they should or shouldn’t do, and you change the subject because you can’t find any actual evidence of what you’ve just accused me of, and we go back and forth like that until you exhaust your misdirected, incoherent rage and storm off in a self-righteous huff.

      And just think, we could have avoided this whole mess if only you had read the post you are responding to until you actually comprehended the words in it and what they meant. I guess it’s easier to just yell meaningless insults at people than to try to understand them.

      • Tony says:

        You are telling Georgians what they should and shouldn’t do, Neal. You do this by criticizing the fact that these people notice the ‘Africanness’ or ‘Chineseness’ of a person (a perfectly normal observation), by criticizing the way that these people reject the Western social construct of homosexuality, and by acknowledging traditional gender roles in society.

        So what if they think like this? What makes you so certain that what you believe about race, sexuality, gender and so on is more valid than what Georgians believe?

        If racial or sexual ‘minorities’ feel so uncomfortable here then the answer is quite simple: leave.

        I for one hope that the TLG program is either scrapped entirely, or applicants are screened properly in future. Having people from the West coming here and evangelizing the people of Georgia with their ‘progressive’ gospel is going to cause far more damage than good in the long run.

        • panoptical says:

          I’m glad you commented, because you’ve made the illogic of this position more explicit so that I can properly address why you and the troll are wrong.

          First of all, making observations about the different ways Georgians approach social issues does not amount to criticism. When I say that people of different ethnic backgrounds are treated differently in Georgia, that is exactly what I mean. If you choose to read into that statement that I think that Georgians are wrong to treat people differently based on skin color or facial features, then you are making an assumption that cannot be confirmed in the text. I have specifically been careful not to attach a value judgement to these observations, and if you look again you’ll see that I say things like “it can be tiring and frustrating to be the subject of even more curiosity” and “Most Georgians do not understand how these behaviors could possibly be experienced as racism by the people who encounter them.” In other words, I focus on the experience of the people who are in Georgia, not on the moral character of Georgians or Georgian society.

          The second massive and unjustified leap of logic that you made is conflating criticism with prescriptivism. Even if I had said “I think that Georgian attitudes towards race are ethically unjustifiable” – which would certainly be critical – that’s not the same as saying “I think that Georgian attitudes towards race are ethically unjustifiable and that Georgians should change them.” If you are unable to draw a logical distinction between not liking something and demanding that it be “fixed,” that is your problem, not mine.

          “So what if they think like this?”

          I had a student get very angry at me once because fruit is an uncountable noun and vegetable is a countable noun. He demanded that I explain this feature of the English language to me and I could see how offended he was by what I was telling him about the language.

          You remind me of that student. I’ll tell you what I told him: I didn’t invent the English language; I’m just telling you some of its features.

          Georgian people regularly make people who are not straight white Christian males uncomfortable. I’m not making this up – it happens, really – I’m just telling people about it. Because coming to Georgia only to discover that there’s this big secret everyone’s been keeping to avoid offending the Georgians that ends up making your life miserable would really suck.

          There’s currently no English-language resource on the internet that I know of that accurately describes conditions here for gays, for people of color, for foreign women, and for various other groups that I have talked about or will talk about. That’s what this blog is about.

          So it’s really ironic that you should criticize me for proselytizing and colonizing when I’m the one – practically the only one – promoting true cultural understanding between Georgia and the English-speaking world.

  9. Whatever says:

    And please you talking about postolonial countries is a joke. You exhibit the same exact imperialist attitudes of coloniziners that postcolonial countries have come to despise.

    • panoptical says:

      Yes, colonizers are notorious for making posts decrying racism.

    • Tony says:

      @Whatever – You’re absolutely right.

      Neal’s a neo-colonialist. People like him are determined to export their corrupt and failed ideology to the non-Western world under the guise of progress and so-called ‘human rights’. His opinions are neither needed nor wanted in Georgia.

      • panoptical says:

        You’re right, Tony. People shouldn’t exchange ideas or talk about their values. Look how oppressive I’m being by writing a blog about social issues in Georgia! How will the Georgian people ever escape the cruel yoke of my WordPress website? I’m single-handedly colonizing Georgia one English-speaking Georgian internet user at a time.

  10. Ilyk Eyaj says:

    @ Whatever and Tony….You use a lot of circular logic.

    Go read some Franz Fanon and Tajudeen Abdul Raheem and do some serious research on perceptions of race, whitness, white studies, white consciousness theory of the countries of the former Soviet Union and critical race theory during the reign of the Soviet Union. The information is readily available and it’s not difficult to find. Then come back with a solid argument.

    If you are on this blog commenting for the correct reasons; expansion of knowledge, dialogue and discourse then you will actually take the time to investigate what I’m talking about. If you are here simply due to ego and to “win” an argument just for the sake of “winning” then maybe doing research on critical race theory in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus isn’t for you.

    @ Neal. You are correct when you made the parallel between the North American discomfort about topics involving race and the Georgian discomfort about topics involving sex.

    @ Whatever and Tony…..there really is a plethora of information about race, perceptions of race, racism, and whiteness in the former Soviet countries including the Caucasus region. Do your homework. If you have a serious quest for knowledge and this isn’t about ego then I can actually give you info and academics you can email about this. However, I’m reiterating again, if it’s about ego then it would be pointless for you to read this literature out there.

    • panoptical says:

      Meh. They’ve already managed to implicitly shoehorn Edward Said’s ideology into an argument supporting sexism, homophobia, and white privilege. I’d rather not witness the pathetic spectacle of them trying to do the same with Fanon.

    • Tony says:

      Hi Ilyk.
      What you’re basically saying is that until I align myself with your obscure ‘whiteness studies’ (anti-white racist) pseudo-academics, I have nothing valid to say.
      Well, thanks but no thanks. Consider me egotistic then.
      And Neal there’s no connection between what we’re talking about and what Edward Said stood for.

    • Whatever says:

      I have read Fanon, Said, Spivak and other theorists that discuss colonialism, race and gender. What is your point besides “read these theorists”? One of the main points that all these theorists are making is that Western hegemony should not be imposed on other countries by force. It is one thing to point out things you don’t like about Georgia, but it is very obnoxious to constantly tell Georgians what they should or shouldn’t do. It is actually quite ridiculous. I guess the author of this blog heavily is heavily affected by “The White Man’s Burden” where he is trying to enlighten ignorant Georgian masses? And constantly exhibits the attitudes of imperialist colonizer.

      • panoptical says:

        So can you honestly not see any difference between imposing Western hegemony on Georgia by force and being invited to Georgia by the Georgian government for the explicit purpose of teaching Georgians about Western language and culture?

        I’m doing the job that the Georgian government is literally paying me to do: educating Georgians about how to interact with and understand the Western world, and explaining to people in the West what Georgia is like.

        Also – and I’ve made this point before, as has every other blogger who’s been plagued by commenters who are long on outrage but short on common sense – I’m not forcing anybody to read this blog. In fact, it is in English (and often written with very complex grammar and advanced vocabulary) and on the internet, which means that in order to read it Georgians have to actively seek it out and already possess the skills to understand and interact with the West to some extent. In fact, the only way I can imagine to make it *more* difficult for Georgians to read this would be to somehow block Georgian IPs.

        Look, obviously you don’t like my ideas – and since my ideas involve treating women, gays, and black people like human beings, I will assume that it is because you are a sexist, homophobic racist – but if you view the mere presence in the world of ideas that you don’t like as an imposition, I suggest you go live in a cave far from human civilization.

        • whatever says:

          you to turn to insults instead of trying to argue a point, anyone who slightly disagrees with you, you start calling homophobic, sexist, racist etc. I haven’t said ANYTHING that would even slightly indicate that I am any of those things. It’s pretty crazy that you just accused me of being all those tings without a slight evidence of me being so.

          Secondly, you don’t seem to understand what Western Hegemony means. It is not only about invading countries by military force, there is such thing as cultural and Ideological hegemony. Since you are not capable of engaging in any mature debate, and start turning to insults every time someone slightly disagrees with you, there really is no point trying to argue with you. Just another dumb tourist making superficial observations about a country that he obviously doesn’t know much about.

        • panoptical says:

          “Who the hell are you to tell Georgians what they should or shoulnd’t do? Are you the “ambassador of truth” from the West? You ignorance is astounding. Talk about an UGLY AMERICAN. You’re the reason why most people dislike obnoxious, ignorant expats and dumb American tourists.”

          So let me get this straight: you open with this (which you posted as “anonymous” but with the same email and IP addresses), and then turn around and accuse me of turning to insults? Maybe the next time you start a conversation you might want to avoid calling someone ugly, obnoxious, ignorant, astoundingly ignorant, and dumb. It will make you look less hypocritical when you fly off the handle at the slightest provocation.

        • whatever says:

          And for the record I didn’t say you were invaiding Georgia. I just said you exhibit imperialistic attitudes of colonizers.

  11. --> says:

    Neal,

    Before going to the point let me say from the beginning – you are preaching to the quire in your answer.
    Now, to the point: it might be boring to start the discussion with this lengthy explanation, but being an engineer and dealing with precise objects and matter I have one very simple rule – before starting a discussion let’s agree on definitions.
    There are three parts/stages in an argument:
    1. Fact/event statement, which is answered by a question WHAT has happened or happening. Example: ‘People of color will get stared a lot in Georgia’.
    2. Explanation of the fact/event, answered by question WHY the event/fact has happened or happening. Example: ‘People of color are got stared in Georgia because of homogeneous population – they are not used to them’.
    3. Conclusion of the argument, answered by the question HOW good or bad is the event/fact/experience FROM THE POINT and moral prospective of the presenter of the argument. Example: ‘Locals staring at people of color do not necessarily mean any harm’.
    Now I think that you would not dispute the statements of the facts I made in my reply. I think that you do not dispute explanations either.
    What you dispute is assessment of the event (#3) and that is the most subjective in these three stages because it is entirely based on our values and environment. And that values and environment are so imprinted in us that it is very hard to think outside of box even for the people raised in a free society and went thru debate camps. This is because we identify ourselves with our fundamental values and we do not like when there values are challenged.
    I will give you following examples based on my own life experience living in different countries and cultures. I’d define them as ‘pain points’. You can mention these pain points and you will see how well behaved, educated people from respected countries/cultures are transformed to complete lunatics:
    1. Georgians: if you want to drive a Georgian crazy you need to tell them that his/her country is retarded, and they are unfriendly.
    2. Russians: tell Russians that their country’s contribution to world culture is not so great and their country brought more evil than good to human history and their neighbors. You can also show them Octopus Map of Europe (google it).
    3. Israelis: tell them that they need to change behavior if they want to have peace with Palestinians. That also includes leaving occupied territories.
    4. Arabs/Muslims: tell them that their religion is evil and their lifestyle and culture is from Stone Age.
    5. Americans in general: tell them that there is nothing wrong when 21 year old guy is marring 15 year old girl. Or the latest example – that there is nothing wrong with when 62 year old guy forces a $3000/day hotel maid to have sex with him, (Google ‘French agape over treatment of’).
    6. (mostly) Americans of color: tell them that what they experience is not a racism and they need get rid of their victim mentality to move forward.
    In an argument, when one party hears/witnesses one or few cases which are unacceptable for their moral values and as a result makes a broadly generalized conclusion of the argument like one of above listed, without taking into consideration all aspects of the situation or – the hell gate will open.
    As a result the maker of the conclusion will get an (absolutely predictable) reaction from other party which is completely opposite from their initial goal – convince other party that their argument is valid. This is because other party would treat above mentioned conclusion as a personal insult and threat to themselves.
    People deal with threats (second level of Maslow’s pyramid) completely differently than they deal with a debate arguments (level four and above): when one feels threatened people try to eliminate source of threat altogether without thinking if opposite party is right or wrong.
    **************************
    What I wanted to demonstrate with above examples if following: one ALWAYS needs to define/remember for him/herself what they want to engage in debates/discussion, in other words – keep in mind what one’s ROI on energy spent on that discussion would be and what one would archive as a result.
    Secondly, when engaging into debate and presenting arguments or justify actions from the point of the moral superiority it will almost always lead into dead end.
    I would like you to think about this.

    Meanwhile I will look forward toward our meeting in Tbilisi in about three weeks.
    –i.n.
    P.S. Nocole’s case we’ll discuss face2face because there is always two sides in a story.
    P.P.S. Oh yaah, one good example, consider the statement: ‘United States has no right to teach anyone about morality and one’s right because Founding Fathers were slave-owners and the genocide of Indian population’. I’ve heard this argument quite often.

    • panoptical says:

      Thank you for going to the trouble to break this argument down into smaller pieces, because now I can see what our misunderstanding is more clearly.

      I am not disputing #3 at all. I do not think that Georgians *mean* any harm when they stare. In fact I think I explicitly said that numerous times.

      What I am trying to communicate is that regardless of whether they mean it or not, Georgians *cause* harm when they stare, and point, and touch, and follow people around to see what they will do. They cause people to feel uncomfortable, alienated, and in some cases even unsafe.

      You and other Georgians have repeatedly said that these are unacceptable and invalid reactions to being treated like circus animals and that people whose appearances stir Georgian curiosity ought to just get over it. That is where our disagreement is. I think that people have a right to their feelings.

      Again, by telling people that they are wrong to feel uncomfortable when they are treated in these ways, you are effectively saying that their values and culture are invalid. That is offensive.

      Now, maybe you don’t care about offending your foreign guests. That’s certainly valid, and if Georgians in general have agreed to abandon their tradition of hospitality, there’s nothing that I can do about it.

      However, my impression was that Georgians prided themselves on how they treated guests, so I thought that maybe Georgians would appreciate tips on how not to offend visitors from other countries. Silly me.

  12. pogidaga says:

    Neal, interesting observations that Georgians are as touchy about the subject of sex as Americans are touchy about the subject of race. I know little about the former, but i’ve observed the latter first-hand.

    I’ve never been to Africa, but long ago i did read one amusing account of a white Peace Corp volunteer who went to a remote spot somewhere there. Most of the people had never seen a white person before and stared at him, innocently of course. The children even went up to him and rubbed his arm to see if the “white” would come off. They didn’t mean any harm or disrespect by it.

    In the novel “The Shipping News” there is an amusing scene where a shipwreck victim is rescued on a remote coast in Newfoundland by villagers who had never seen a black person before. While he was unconscious, they cleaned off all the fuel oil coating his skin, and then kept on scrubbing trying to clean the “black” off not knowing it was his normal color.

    Living in the US, I look forward to the day when everyone “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I also look forward to the day when race relations is a boring subject and nobody takes offense where no offense was offered.

    Maybe in time we can be like the Newfoundlanders. After they got used to the unusual color of the shipwreck victim’s skin, they treated him just like everybody else. They were not burdened by negative stereotypes. He loved living in a color-blind society and never left.

  13. Pingback: Sex in Georgia: The Anniversary | Georgia On My Mind

  14. Makhmad kHAN says:

    Georgians, Chechens, Azeris and Armenians are all considered non-white by Russians and other Eastern Europeans. Some neo-Nazis go as far as calling them ‘black’. I am a Pakistani guy, and everybody knows what we look like, and this Georgian guy met me and kept saying to me that I looked like a Chechen or a Georgian, my other Pakistani friend looks more Indian, and he kept insisting when I asked him why he thought he looked Indian and he said in his heavily accented English ‘I am from Georgia, I do not know what a lot of nationalities are supposed to look like, I saw this guy before and my eyes couldn’t make a difference between him and an Indian, like my eyes cannot make a difference when I see you from a person of the Caucasus mountains”.This attitude confused me. It seemed like his racial knowledge of people was very narrow. I am by no standards a white man. That is my point.

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