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My Life As A Minority


“He’s not a Chinese. What could he possibly know about medicine – let alone about history or politics?” Like most language learners, my listening ability was greater than my speaking ability. As a newcomer to living in Shanghai, China, my hospital colleagues simply assumed that I did not understand them. But their seemingly private comments were received with more comprehension than they assumed. Honestly, such remarks didn’t much bother me. I realized Chinese culture and philosophy were much deeper and more expansive than my own North American.


“He is not an African. Why would he want to live here? We have little to offer. Surely, he must be an agent of the CIA.” Years later, as a newcomer to living in Angola, southern Africa, my next-door neighbors were very slow to respond when I walked over to introduce myself. Their apprehension I found to be quite understandable. Until only recently, white people of European dissent – like myself – had principally only come to exploit them. Honestly, in light of this painful history I didn’t find their apprehension too troubling. Rather, I was determined to make a better impression.


My daughter, Elizabeth, photographed above, grew up in this mixed culture environment. She developed values of care for everyone and justice for all. These have endured into adulthood. A glimpse of her life, and perhaps my own as well, is but a snapshot of what we all may gain from living- at least for a time – as a minority.


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