Thursday, 16 June 2011

Reality VS Perception

Nope, I'm not gonna get into THAT discussion of "if there is reality or reality is created by perception", I just wanna give one example that falls into the grey area between the two, supposedly they do exist.

I'm Vietnamese, no doubt. But when I travelled in Africa I was called nzungu (a white person). I tried my hardest to tell them my skin is light brown but they said it was because I stupidly want sun tan. According to many, there are only 3 races: black, white, and Chinese. If I'm not Chinese, I must be white.

However, an African friend later told me the truth. I was called nzungu because I dress like a white backpacker, I stay with the white, eat food so ridiculously expensive that only white travellers can afford. I followed my friend's advice to dress up like a local the day after. The effect was different. No one followed me, no finger pointing, no nzungu, no ...marrige proposal (!) neither.

One of my African student once told me with irritation: "Obama is not black, he is half white or half black. But to suit the situation, let's call him black".


  1. Your story confirms that people's perception of one another can easily be manipulated, and therefore it's better to avoid them, unless you are stronger, which is also relative

  2. Obama's cultural and ethnic identities are very important to him. He is proud of his identities. This word takes away his preference and minimizes his experiences.

  3. Briggette Woodard28 June 2011 at 17:17

    He is what he identifies with, culturally. Let's respect him for that and not White, Black or Half-n-Half.

  4. @ Mary and @ Briggett - totally agree with the two of you. It is interesting that we have never paid this much attention to or have talked about any other president as it relates to their skin color, culture, etc. There were other presidents in the USA who were not 100% in their race, culture, etc.

  5. Interestingly, I heard a fascinating interview on public radio with Jonathan Kay about his new book called "Among the Truthers." He has interviewed many different people that believe in conspiracy theories including those related to Obama's birth place. He tries to get in the head of the people believing in conspiracies and explain the depth of their beliefs. Although I won't due justice to his explanation, a more in depth look at people focusing on Obama's birth place reveals a greater concern with his social agenda that "may be driven from people outside the US and how that might overturn the current value system in the country." (my quotes not the authors)
    For those of us working in inclusiveness and diversity, (and others, of course), it would serve as an interesting read and chance to understand different ways of thinking. Here is the link to the NY times review of Kay's work:

  6. Thanks Lisa for the link. In deed, there's much more too say about conspiracy nowadays that social media and social network has become so powerful. I know many of my friends in South Africa who perceive the "Night of the Long knives" or "White cleansing operation" after Nelson Mandela's death as very real and they are stocking food and weapon to deal with it. There is no way I can convince them that most of what they hear is not based on FACT. They hear what they expect or want to hear. It is almost the same as we tend to feel there is something ghostly if people tell us we are in a haunted house.

    This is nothing new. In research classes, we learn that it is called Researcher's bias, either conscious or unconscious. The same with Obama. Those who want to see him black will name him the first Black President, either to suit their emotional need (unconscious) or to serve their manipulative agenda (conscious, conspiracy, or media's purpose to create extreme...etc). There are people who want to see him just as another White president with similar shortcomings and typical US policies.

    I wrote this blog entry just to give one example of how we, due to our human nature, tend to label things around us the way we expect it to be. The whole field of interculturalism is, in principle, to deal with this tendency and to make people aware of the fact before passing judgement. In deed, Obama is who he is, not black, not white, not half half.

  7. whatever2000@yahoo.com28 June 2011 at 17:54

    SOmeone once told me "The art of leadership is partly the art of manipulating other". Well, you can replace the "M" word with Inspiring, motivating, stimulating, provoking, stirring, touching...etc They are all component parts of manipulating.

  8. Interesting and painful to understand just what this president has been through. Barack and Michelle are and continue to be the most vetted couple in American political history. He's too black, not black enough, a terrorist, socialist, communist, unpatriotic, the anti-Christ. All thinly mask a profound racism threaded deeply in the fabric of this country ...

  9. As I continue to read the thread, it appears that so many people (thinking of conspiracy) who believe the lies. It is as if truth is hidden never to be found. We will take a theory and run with it.

    Not sure of your faith beliefs, but wanted to share with you a book I've written and release on, May 18 titled, "Who Told You That?" The sub-title is: The truth about the lies. This book is selling like crazy and I'm told people are ready for the truth. Yes, it is biblically based, but it has real life situations throughout the entire book. It is take from the scripture where God walks into the garden and Adam and Eve were hiding. When God asks, "Where are you" Adam replies, "We are naked..." I love God's reply - "Who told you..." Powerful. This is how I respond to people all the time. When I hear about polls and such I reply, 1) I was not included in the polling 2) Which side of the coin established the polling 3) What are the percentages based upon, and 4) What are the facts.

    Case and point - yesterday while reading (not listenting - but reading) Michelle Bachman's interview on she stated, "our founding fathers fought tirelessly to end slavery." I sat and wondered how many people would even question that statement. The truth - our founding fathers were slave owners.

    It's time to ask, "Who Told You That?" and expose the lies! Stop falling for the spin. I did a talk on the subject matter and found quickly it was a book that needed to be written and released. If you would like to purchase the book, you may go to and enter the ISBN number 978-1-257-75311-6

  10. whatever2000@yahoo.com29 June 2011 at 16:41

    Rick, it is indeed interesting to see how we as human being can't help pigeon-holing people, labeling all things around us so it makes us comfortable.


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