The best way that I have been able to contextualize the issues of identity and race in America is to relate them to the problems other countries have. For my blog, I am going to share a few personal experiences from studying abroad and then describe how they made me think about American society and the problems we have here. The first experiences are the conversations I participated in with my Spanish family about race, and the second experience is an identity/crime issue.
If you read my last blog post, you know that I lived with a host family while living in Granada. My family was very curious about everything, from my religion to my thoughts about gay marriage and politics. Before this experience I had no idea about the problems other countries had about race. I can tell you now that America is certainly not the only country with issues. I remember watching TV with my Senora one day and there was a story on about an interracial couple facing some sort of legal issue. My Senora became enraged, and started telling me about these two people she knew that used to date, and one was “so white” and the other was “so black”. She made it seem like the whole city knew about this scandal, and that it was seen in such an awful way. The way she expressed herself with no filter made me think that this was typical chit-chat in Spain, and talking to her about this issue really made me realize how much America has grown since slavery. I believe concepts like interracial relationships will become more and more accepted as time goes by. I told her that in America there are undoubtedly people against interracial relationships, but that there has been progress in its acceptance among society. It didn’t seem like there had been much progress in Spain.
Now, onto identity issues. I do not know much about law, but I was shocked at the lack of legal importance in Spain. One night when I was out in Granada, I was walking home through the Albaicin (which is the old quarters of the town) and a man went after my friend and tried to rob her. I went back to help and was pushed over in the man’s attempt to grab my purse. We got away fine because a group of guys came down the hill and yelled at him to get away, but the memory still frightens me. I think this can be related to an identity/gender issue, because if it were men that were walking along, they would not have been attacked (according to my host family). When I told them about this experience they said that there really was nothing that could be done, and that filing a police report would be pointless. From this experience, I began thinking about the differences between Spain and America. This event really surprised me, because I believe that in America it would not be taken so lightly. I know that there are differing ideas about identity between countries, but the complete what seemed like lack of respect for women was appalling to me because everyone talked about it like it was just something that usually happens. In fact, when I told my host family (all women), they fed me numerous stories of their own about getting robbed, and practically blamed it on themselves. I think in the America there is still a problem of women being seen as prey and not as respected as men, but I do believe that our legal system is helping to combat this issue. I am certain that identity and gender roles have evolved to different extents in different countries, and that our country is one of the most developed. But has it developed enough? Should we be proud of our development in relation to many European countries, or is this not an accurate way of measuring right and wrong?