A Worldview So Narrow It Looks Like A Chopstick

, , , , | Friendly | December 14, 2018

My university classmate tells me this story. She’s eating in a restaurant at a Chinese airport and has been using a fork instead of chopsticks. Nearby are an older Chinese woman and her adult daughter, who are mocking her in Mandarin about it, talking about how white people are too clumsy to be able to use chopsticks.

My classmate, who has lived in China and had years of Mandarin lessons through her military career, turns to them and says politely in their language that normally she can use chopsticks just fine, but she injured her dominant wrist and can’t manage it right now.

The daughter is embarrassed as h*** and falls over herself apologizing. The mother, however, silently freaks out. She refuses to speak to or even look at my classmate, and seems to be pretending that she doesn’t exist. The daughter apologizes again, saying a white woman speaking Mandarin is too big of a shock for her. She explains that it’s so far out of her worldview that she honestly can’t accept it.

Throughout their conversation, the mother continues to stare into the middle distance and pretend she can’t hear them, rather than confront the mind-shattering idea that people who don’t look like you are capable of learning your language.

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