Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I had one of those humbling moments today: humbling not next to someone's strength of character, but because of the flaws in mine.

I know that it's wrong to be racist. It's wrong to avoid people because of different customs, and it's wrong to worry about someone else's skin color. But, I got an email from my instructor, who's name is Hideki*. I looked at his name, a name I could not pronounce, and the first thought that ran through my head was "I hope he can speak clear English".

There was immediately a feeling of shame. I went "I can't believe I thought that! I've never even met him, he might even be a she for all I know about non-western names. S/he might have lived in the United States for all her/his life and the only accent s/he has is a midwest one. Or, if s/he is from outside the US, they might speak better than you do".

So I call him up (it does turn out to be a him). And he has an accent, and it sounds Japanese (again, I'm not good with non-western). So the evil part of my brain comes up again with "You have a perfectly legitimate concern if you can't understand your instructor. 102 will be one of THE defining classes of your aviation career...you have to be comfortable with your instructor".

The other part jumps up "That's BS and you know it. You talked to him once on your cell phone: his accent isn't all that bad and probably the problem was with your phone. Step outside your comfort zone a little bit: you haven't been exposed to people of other races in a nuetral envirnment. You haven't even been exposed to many people of different races AT ALL, especially not Asian. Besides, how would you feel if a female pilot instructor didn't get any students because she was "incomprehensible"?"

Evil part: "You're going to say something stupid, and look like not only a newbie pilot, but a racist newbie pilot, switch fast"

AHHGG!! I KNOW this is not a minority's problem. My own shortcomings are my own faults. But it's just frustrating when not even knowing where to start when it comes to fixing your own internalized racism.


At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Teddy said...

if you can't understand your instructor, legitimately, get a new one. Over the radio, when you can only pay half your attention to them and are in a position of command over an aircraft, you need to easily understand your instructor in all aspects. If that gets in the way, it really doesn't matter if they are black, white, yellow, red, green or pink, either gender, whatever of so many varieties they might be. The plain fact of the matter is you have a problem with them, so get of your high horse and do something about it.

"Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu"


At 6:38 AM, Blogger Noumena said...

The plain fact of the matter is you have a problem with them, so get of your high horse and do something about it.

This doesn't seem so plain to me. Indeed, I think part of what Cassandra's struggling with is trying to figure out whether she really does have a problem with his accent or not.

Most schools have open registration the first few weeks. I'd suggest giving this instructor a shot during that period of time; you'd be amazed how fast your ear learns to 'hear through' a thick accent. Switch only if you find his accent genuinely impenetrable and don't think you'll get adequate instruction from him. (Those are two separate issues, by the way; I know of a math instructor who's won multiple teaching awards despite having an extremely thick Chinese accent.) If you do decide to switch out, consider meeting with the instructor briefly to explain your reasons and suggest that working on his accent would make him a more effective teacher. (Do so politely, &c., of course.)

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

It looks like this is going to be a non-problem: I have to switch my permanant launch time, so I'll probably get a new instructor.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

While there is no official comment policy, I am hereby letting it be known that if you put a pointless, insulting comment anonomously, I am going to delete it.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous me too said...

I was in engineering back in the '80s and had an individual teaching Statics. Well, I could not understand that person at all. I usually sat in the back row, thats the kind of person I was. Well I ended up moving to the front of the class, and still could not understand him. I dropped that class before the cutoff. I never took another class from that instructor again.
I have no issues with my actions.
Should I?


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