The people of the world according to…..

Having recently engaged in some discussions on the matter of racial tolerance in Poland, I was pleased to see that the Christmas show at Zosia’s school provided me with more raw material.

The show was, as usual, very good with lots of tear-jerking Christmas moments where the youngsters got up and performed while doting parents sat convinced that their offspring are destined to become superstars of stage and screen. Here’s a short clip of “Silent Night”, imagine this going for about an hour and you’ve got the general idea.

It was roughly half way through that I noticed a little girl with a dark brown painted face, a Lion-tooth necklace and a Zulu skirt and I knew we were in for something special. She was part of a group who were representing the people of the world bringing Christmas wishes to Młociny. Here they all are in all their glory:

People of the world unite

I didn’t catch everything they said so forgive me but as best I can recall the world according to somebody at the school consists of:

A – Eskimos
B – Africans
C – Chinese
D – Japanese
E – Arabs
F – Red Indians
G – White girls from Poland (Her first words were “I am a white girl….”)

Unless this particular mix of peoples is a standard script for Polish Christmas school events, you have to wonder what though process goes into creating such a thing. I’ve tried various routes of logical thought but none of them lead to this particular line-up.

We have a brown painted face for Africa but no yellow paint for China or Japan. We have two of the seven representing extremely small minorities – Eskimos and Red Indians (she introduced herself as an Indian) and both are caricatures long since outdated. We have two relatively close (on a global scale) Chinese and Japanese and yet huge parts of the world are ignored – Australasia, South America, Indian sub-continent to mention just a few. The Arab is Sinbad’s sister, the African is straight out of a cartoon book that’s probably banned in most countries, the Red Indian is Sitting Bull’s daughter, Chinese and Japanese women are almost the same except Japanese women have an ogi (folding fan).

I know, I’m being completely unreasonable. This is a kids Christmas show and they are all no more than 7/8 years old, no harm done and I’m sure everyone taking part and attending realises that the world does not look like this….or do they?


11 thoughts on “The people of the world according to…..

  1. Ian: a member of my team thought it’d be a good idea to send a little “Christmas Greetings” thing via email so she mocked-up a few examples. All said “Merry Christmas” or something along those lines. Here’s how the conversation went:

    Me: …They look good, but shouldn’t it be “happy holidays” or something so we don’t offend someone Jewish? [we have colleagues across the US, Canada and Mexico and the corporate office is in NYC and I know at least a few people from that part of the country are Jewish…]

    Her: Well… no, it doesn’t have to be, because everyone celebrates Christmas! It isn’t a religious thing any more, it’s just about gifts and family isn’t it?

    Me: Maybe for most people, but not people that are actually Jewish or not Christian.

    Her: Really? So they don’t …they don’t celebrate Christmas?

    Me: …No, really. Some people that aren’t Christian …don’t celebrate Christmas.

    Her: Hmmm…

    So, yes, they do. A shorter story: earlier this year Capgemini had a themed party. People had to dress up in Chinese, Indian, American or Polish costume. I went as a jailed Chinese dissident. At least mine was authentic. :)

  2. Comeeeeon – I am truly happy that Poland has not succumbed to this political correctness garbage. Christmas is Christmas, and if it’s Christmas you wish people a merry Christmas. Just, like if it’s Ramadan or the Passover you wish them a happy Ramadan or Passover.

  3. All this political corectness is getting way out of hand. I wish everyone a Merry Christ mas as I have done since on this earth. It never was a problem before and now everyone is watching their p’s and Q’s …not me and if no one likes it tough. And what’s the big deal of wishing someone a Merry Christmas…’s only 2 words.

  4. You sound very self-righteous. I couldn’t disagree more with your misguided stance. I live in the UK, where the received orthodoxy is that we must not do anything to upset the Muslims, tut-tut. Hence, no crib scenes, no carols, etc. You get the picture.
    And in Andalucia, a small Muslim boy has just taken to court his teacher for a ‘racist’ attempt to upset him by daring to mention that the mountainous climate in the village of Trevelez was advantageous to curing hams (the ‘h’ word supposedly being a racist provocation to a Muslim).

    Lady, per-leeeese. Enough already.

    For years, I have celebrated Hannukah, the Diwali Festival of Lights and at times Eid. I can’t see why the courtesy should not be reciprocated.

    Lay off with the ‘Happy Holidays’ nonsense. I am not very Christian, I am afraid, but this absurd reversed racism and cultural masochism is bringing out a militant Christian in me. See what you’ve done…

    Merry Christmas to you, and to all the assorted Eskimos in your acquiantance.

  5. From my daughter’s school experience, the teacher will have proposed the idea of depicting the people of all nations, whilst the children and parents (or the other way round at this age) will have come up with concrete ideas based both on their notions of how to depict people and the costumes that they can put together. The teacher may have some final guiding hand on the detail, most obviously if the kids/parents can’t think what to do, but won’t usually dictate any particular dress.

    I rather like the African depiction. Although faded (Man U?) t-shirt and worn jeans may be more realistic, that could be just as much European/USAn/West Indian, etc. In these days of valuing past cultural heritage as a defence against the uniformity of multiculturalism, the school line shows someone immediately identifiable as African – a bit quaint and old film stereotype, no doubt, but a difficult job well done.

    Pretty much the same goes for the attempts at showing all of the other parts of the world, although none are as clearly successful in telling me where the people are supposed to come from. Admittedly, the Arab girl looks completely Asian, but that’s what many Polish girls look like, so it’s hard to get right. Its particularly good to see no yellow faces – having watched Chinese and Japanese films, I never understood those myself. (I except the Polish girl from this, of course, as she could be from at least 3 continents, but I assume the intention was just to show a Polish girl being herself.)

    You’ve confused me, though, about the Red Indian girl introducing herself as Indian. Isn’t a Red Indian an Indian (in both English and with the usual inflections, Polish), whilst the people from India are something different in Polish?

  6. Steve, The Polish word ‘Indianin’, which is the word she used, can mean both American Indians and people from India. You could also use ‘Hindus’ for someone from India, although this sort of downgrades the 20% of the population who are not of the Hindu faith.

    My main point was that she used the word Indian, as in Red Indian, as opposed to any of the more PC versions – Native or American Indian. Then again, her language may not allow for such distinctions, which is kind of what this post is about anyway.

  7. We say “from India,” to avoid confusion since so many American Indians live in this area. Someone from India would be an”Indian–from India,” even though “Asian Indian” is more concise–we never say “Asian” in the US. To us, that means Chinese or Japanese even though people from the UK refer to them as “Orientals.” We usually reserve that term for rugs or certain types of cats. Even though a store might be called an Oriental Grocery, the person himself would be called an Asian and the market would be referred to as an Asian Market.

    I suspected that this term had an unsavory connotation connected to the past, so I looked it up and found out that “Asian” is the preferred term for “Oriental,” although “Oriental” is not an ethnic slur, per se. In fact, Oriental is simply reminiscent of earlier eras of despotic empires, exotic lands, and customs. It is merely looked down upon in order to escape the dated feel and is now widely taken as offensive, except in phrases where it is acceptable such as Oriental cuisine or Oriental medicine. (Free Online Dictionary).

    Black-facing isn’t a politically-correct thing to do, although it may be educational if Poland is so short on other races that they have to resort to such a thing to bring the message across. Nothing in the message was derogatory. I suppose the teacher was just doing her/his best! :)

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