Are you a refugee? My new black friend asked me as we sat to eat our lunch during break time. Although my highschool was a racially mixed school, there was clear segregation during break times. Everyone just sat with their racial group by choice. There were ofcause mixed race groups of friends on the school field but it seemed majority were more comfortable with thier own racial group. On the first break, I sat with my new white friends and they asked me so many questions about my hair and home country. I decided to sit with my new black friends during second break to see what they’re like aswell.
So after being asked if I was a refugee by my own kind, I looked at her, not sure what to say, feeling a mixture of disbelief and amusement at how unaware people can be. Ignorance is a harsh word to use, but I concluded she just had the perception that all black foreigners were refugees. She had not spoken to me much before now. Infact, we just met during the day. What a great way to start your first school day in South Africa, I thought to myself.
I then went on an explanation spree explaining how my parents were invited to come an work in South Africa due to exceptional skills in their fields of work. To which she became apologetic for her prior misconception. Fast forward to 5 years later, we became best of friends. I concluded that people’s perceptions are a reflection of themselves.
Our perceptions of people and things are shaped by what we are exposed to, upbringing, moral values, cultures and understanding of things. However, misconseptions are faulty opinions based on an incorrect way of understanding something. Thanks to social media, what we perceive online is not entirely the truth aswell, even more so than seeing someone in person. I can testify to this. Just the other week, I was going through a rough patch and just really trying to stay afloat, when a friend of mine sent me a text saying how she really envies me because I’m just doing so well and looking really great ( This was based on the new profile picture I put up, mind you I took this picture in January😂) I sat there thinking, well, I don’t exactly feel how she says I feel or at the time looked like she thought I looked. She formed her opinion based on what she saw and I guess I don’t blame her.
Just like one of my lecturers had the misconception that I was Muslim based on the fact that I denied having a meal during an event in our department. It was the season of Ramadan and it just so happened that we had a church fast during a Ramadan week. I did not want to say I was fasting so I politely turned down the meal. A Muslim class mate of mine also turned down the meal and said it was a period of fast for Muslims. So our lecturer apologised to us both saying the caterers forgot some students were Muslims. She did not seem to consider that perhaps I’m of a different religion. So to her, fasting and Muslims went hand in hand. And Christianity ke?
South Africa, being a rainbow nation is a very interesting place to live in. However due to thier history, each race group has their own perception of how the others are. And so even though I did not experience any of it, other race groups still pass the same judgements towards me based on the colour of my skin till they get to know me. So while at the shop with an elderly white family friend a few weeks ago, I experienced this kind of misconception. The elderly lady ran into a white friend of hers and jokingly introduced me as her daughter. I looked at her friend as she greeted me excitedly but also with much uneasiness unsure how to properly reply.
I immediately knew what she was thinking. Her body language gave it away. ” Aww an adopted African child! Let me be extra nice. I’m sure she’s so grateful to be in a better place now. How come her English is so good though😬?”. Trust me, naaaaaa, by the time we got talking and she got to realise I don’t need any pity looks she adjusted and became more amazed than anything. She probably could not understand what 2 African girls ( My sister and I) could be doing with an elderly white woman, if we were not adopted.
All these experiences taught me a few things about human perceptions and misconceptions.
- To hold my conclusions about anything I see online from anyone. People show you the side they want you to see. So becoming envious over anyone on social media is just a waste of time. Infact, envy in general. It is better to have admiration for someone, because then you can learn something from them. But envy leads to jealousy and it’s downhill from there.
- To ask questions if I am unsure about anything, when it comes to understanding someone I’ve never met or even someone I know well.
- To hold back judgement in every circumstance when dealing with people of a different race, culture or religion. All they know is all they’ve been exposed to.
- When people have misconceptions about you, don’t take it to heart. They may just perceive differently due to their background. Try to remain calm and either ignore the situation or use that moment to educate them and correct their faulty understanding.
And finally, things are not always as they seem!
P.s My ethical clearance for research has finally come through, so I have begun data collection for my masters project, hence the slight disappearance. I’m excited to finally begin the study! yay! When you pray, please include me in your prayers that all will go well! Thank you 😊