Cultural Sensitivity

Governor’s school was a program which accepted grade schoolers into a Summer program that was intended to focus on some science or art. Well I hated art at the time and science was boring so I applied for the Governor’s school of international studies. I was astonished when I was accepted, but when I reflect upon it now… perhaps my acceptance was given once they realized my nationality. I probably had to fulfill that portion of the pie graph, but regardless the reason I was accepted into this highly selective program. I’m obviously a genius.

The program, other than the fact it was during the Summer, was actually a lot of fun. That would account for the reason why at the age of 36 I still remember the memories I made there. I can’t help but remember one incident that stood out and is the cause of my title “cultural sensitivity.” It was during this program that I learned how sensitive some people could be and I can now firmly attribute that to culture. And unless you spend time living in each and every single culture, you’ll never get why those people feel that way. And yes, I said “those people” because all of you ARE those people to me.

The group was excited because we were going to a baseball game in Memphis and it was a chance for some of the attendees from around the state to see our lovely city. I snickered when they said “lovely city” during the morning announcements, but held my tongue about what I really thought of M town. This was a hard thing to do for a tenth grader, but I was learning that sometimes it wasn’t always the wisest thing to open your mouth. Besides, the evening out would allow me to talk to her or her. The Summer had been eventful so far!

As everyone got onto the buses and filled in the rows, I looked for Jay and found him holding a seat for me near the back. The baseball field wasn’t far and even though I wasn’t overly fond of baseball, it was good to be out of the dorms of U of M campus. It had been fun living away from home for the Summer, but the rules and nightly curfew were annoying. So was the director. I noticed he seemed to be pretty lame about everything and I think he noticed me noticing him. I wasn’t sure if our mutual notice was a good thing or not.

The game went about as planned. Baseball games tend to do that. There was a first inning and after that a second one. Surprisingly a third followed. I was utterly bored by the fourth and wondered why anyone even invented this stupid game when Jay touched my arm and motioned for me to follow him and a group of our friends who had started heading towards the food stands. We were having a good time eating some great food, I was drinking a slurpee and chatting with someone cute when Jay turned around a noticed a couple rides setup. We started walking towards them when I noticed the No Food sign.

I wanted to go for a ride as well, but I had my drink and it still had some ice at the bottom that I wanted to finish. I turned around and saw one of the instructors of the Summer program, a guy I actually had spoken to a few times and felt was on good terms with. I asked him if he would hold my cup and he said “yes,” nodding his head in understanding. He wasn’t American, but it was clear we understood each other so I ran off to get on the ride with the group. I quickly forgot about the cup and became focused solely on the good time we were having.

As the groups were beginning to get on the bus and I was standing in line with my friends, I suddenly felt a hand grab my neck. It jerked me backward by the shoulder and I was suddenly face to face with the director and he was angry!

“What did you say to Andy!” he yelled at me as I tried to process what was going on and what he was even asking me. I felt and heard my friends also confused coming up to see what was going on.

“Dude… what are you talking about? I didn’t do anything to Andy!” I half yelled back, but because I was in the tenth grade and my voice was still maturing it kind of came out as a squeak. It sounded like a roar to me though!

“He said you gave him some trash. You need to go apologize to him!” he yelled as he half pushed half shoved me towards a waiting Andy near the end of the line.

I began walking towards him…

“Hey Andy, I am sorry for whatever I did! … What did I do?” I immediately asked when I saw him.

“You gave me trash and then you just run off!” Andy retorted angrily.

I was a little shocked and stuttered a second before replying “well it wasn’t trash, I meant to come back and get it. I’m sorry again!”

Andy and I weren’t friends for the rest of the Summer. The director never liked me either and I learned a valuable lesson about cultural sensitivity, asking for favors, not forgetting about cups, how distracting friends can be, and that baseball does indeed truly suck. I would also like to note that it is possible when that director jerked my shoulder it ruined any chance I had of becoming a professional baseball pitcher even if I had and will never pitch a game in my life.

-Opinionated Man



20 thoughts on “Cultural Sensitivity

  1. If I’m at an event and someone asks me if I will hold onto something of theirs while they take off somewhere, I’d respectfully refuse.
    “Why?” you ask
    …because one should never put an undue or unnecessary onus on another.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gee. We were at a church picnic today and someone handed me a cheese wrapper and asked me to throw it in the trash. I didn’t know I should’ve been offended. Lesson learned. I’ll make sure to be offended next time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The most ridiculous part of the story is that Andy felt the need to tattle on you to the camp director for handing him your cup and the camp director felt the need to intervene on his behalf. This was high school, not preschool.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have to admit abandoning your cup to this poor chap was inconsiderate, but it could have been handled differently. After awhile, I would’ve just tossed it and SOL to you. I might’ve ribbed you about it, but no big deal otherwise.
    I avoid and never kid anyone of a different background than myself. Actually, I don’t even kid with those with Hispanic in them, which is my other half for the same reason: It’s too risky for one, you never know how someone will take it. I learned that the hard way. I didn’t grow up in that culture, so I’m not familiar with it. Also, when I lived in the south, I could never kid or speak casually to a black person the same way my black coworker could because it would be considered offensive, or “disrespectful” which is sad. I was set straight right away on that when I moved there. I’m sure that’s true of many cultures. Things get “lost in translation” somehow and what seems innocent to us, may not be to them. Which is why bridging the racial gap is so difficult.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m confused on how he thought you gave him trash because you said “can you hold my cup” not “can you throw this away for me?” Eh. Perception is a whole new beast.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Interesting. Andy wasn’t much of a friend if he couldn’t voice his thoughts to you and had to rag on you on an issue you didn’t even know. Perception of cultures is certainly different and I guess we only learn from mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

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