Day: June 20, 2013

Racism May Not Be the Worst Thing About Racism

I moved to America because of racism. Not the racism you find in America, but the racism I faced in back home, in Germany.

It may seem odd, but Germans were still wildly racist in 1998. Instead of targeting the (relatively) few Jews, they had chosen Southern European immigrants, especially those from Turkey, plus the asylum seekers to whom the constitution granted general welcome (but not the people that followed that constitution). An Italian looks Southern European enough. I was a target.

America has its very own problem with racism, and it’s pretty big. But it didn’t affect people that looked like Southern Europeans (at least, not anymore). I flew under the radar and could count on people’s lack of specific bias and fairness, and it worked out for me.

One thing that stayed with me, though, was a certain curiosity about racism. It seemed that racism didn’t follow much logic: not the opinions proffered, but also not the way it affected people or its distribution among them.


Old Yeller

An important change is happening right now: I am finding myself yelling more and more often for people to get out of my way on a wave. Just yesterday, I had to do it five times.

Now, you may ask, what is the reason for this change? Are people getting ruder and snaking more waves? Not so, it turns out. People are just as nice or as rude as they ever were, but I am getting better at surfing.

It used to be that I was too afraid of my incompetence to actually jump on a wave that someone else was paddling for. I would start paddling, notice that someone else was getting into the wave, and give up. I was frustrated all day long – and while much of it was the unsportsmanlike behavior of certain surfers, a good chunk was also that I didn’t want to compete, because I didn’t know how to handle the competition.

I am feeling much more confident, nowadays. I have steered around other surfers successfully, avoided hits and bangs, and I have cut out of a wave when someone snaked me badly. I also got faster on the face, estimating the correct speed and angle better, and catching a better spot for take-off.