I want to use this post to discuss something I experienced a few weeks ago. It was one of those days where an impending exam leads to an early morning study session right before classes start, hopefully accompanied by some variation of a hot caffeinated beverage. On this particular morning I had just set up camp at an empty table, a coveted place near an outlet, in Armstrong and made my way over to the coffee stand. As a pertinent part of this story, I much prefer tea over coffee and as such have squirreled away several packets in my backpack. When I requested a cup of hot water to put my tea bag in, the lady at the counter replied
” I don’t know how you people drink it so hot.”
My mind at the point was extremely muddled from lack of sleep and it took me a few seconds to process her statement. She continued,
“Like isn’t it painful? How do you do it?”
In a shocked state, I tried to explain the mechanics of steeping tea to her; you logically have to wait a bit before drinking it. I went back to my table in a daze.
To recap, this woman thought I had the rather superhuman ability to enjoy guzzling boiling hot water and not end up in the emergency room. As if I was some species of underwater fish that lived near volcanoes, which I can assure you I’m definitely not. All because I look and am Chinese.
Situations like this, rooted in ignorance, are startling but unfortunately not that uncommon. In this particular case, it felt like the question came out of genuine curiosity rather than mean spirited mockery, which presents an interesting quandary. Should I have gotten angry and offended at this woman or should I have seen it as an opportunity broaden the perspective of a fellow human? Should people be responsible for educating themselves? Why should I take on the burden of educating others? Is this the most efficient and just way to make society more accepting and aware? These are hard questions to answer and I’m sure if there’s a universal correct answer, it might depend on individual situations and people. Just some food for thought.