as a member of a cultural & religious minority group, one of the statement that completely and totally annoys the heck out of me* is the phrase "when in rome, do like the romans". the purpose of this phrase is to try to eliminate all difference, especially difference practiced by persons of colour. it's the cry of the fearful: "be like us, we don't want to have to deal with something we aren't familiar with; we're too lazy to adjust; it's your own fault for being different so you should do all the work required to change; and you're in OUR country, geddit, it's OUR country & you have to do what WE say."
the false premise underlying "when in rome etc" is this: if only you behaved more like us, we would love you and treat you exactly like one of us. when the only difference remaining is your skin colour, which you can't help**, then you will no longer face any kind of discrimination. lose your accent, lose that clothing, lose the smelly food, and YOU WILL BELONG.
this is a false premise because the people who believe in the "when in rome" doctrine have no intention of liking or treating certain people as equals. because people who do everything right & try to fit in still face problems, still get excluded. they are still "them" and "migrants" and other.
more than that, it nicely puts the responsibility for discrimination back on the discriminated. it is one of the most blatant forms of victim blaming i've seen. the people who blithely spit out this line can then comfortably go on being arrogant and hateful while smugly knowing they are completely in the right.
i recognise that one of the reasons behind this attitude is a fear of losing the local culture. but why? it's not like you aren't in the majority. it's not like you don't hold the positions of power and influence. it's not like you don't have the greatest public voice. and if one day you aren't in the majority any more, then according to your own beliefs, you don't have the right to cultural dominance any more. hopefully, when you're in the minority (around 2025 or so?), the new majority will have gone way past the "when in rome" thing, and will be happy for you to live, dress, pray & eat the way you want.
and what happens when the person you are directing the whole "when in rome" thing at is actually one of the romans? like me, for example. i'm one of the romans, so that surely means you're going to change your ways to become more like me? right?? ooohhh, of course not. cos i'm still in the minority therefore i must still be wrong.
in which case, let's break down each one of your cultural beliefs and practices. let's examine them one by one. and if any one of them fails to fall within the definition of what the "majority" does, then you will definitely stop doing that thing, right? right?? we're all going to wear the same types of clothing, and worship in the same way (too bad atheists, christians are in the majority), and eat meat & 2 veg for dinner (no more thai green curry, mate, that's not OUR traditional food) & a mince pie for lunch. majority rules, yippee, and we will live according to the weekly opinion polls on matters cultural, so that we will all know what is the appropriate way to be. it'll be a wonderful life. why don't you believe me?
or maybe you're going to pull the length-of-time-in-nz line. the one which starts with "well, i was BORN here" and keeps going with "and so were my parents and grand-parents [etc etc, as applies to your family situation]. this makes me MORE of a nz'er than you; it's means i have the greater entitlement than you and i get to tell you what to do, because YOU are in MY country. that means YOU'RE still the one that has to change".
i love it when people pull that one. because, people who pull the length-of-time argument do surely forget that there are a brown-skinned people who will totally win that one. so, i say sweetly, if it's length-of-time that makes you more of a nz'er than me, then surely you support the schools all switching to te reo for the full curriculum? you're totally willing to change and adopt tikanga, cos they are surely more nz'er than you could ever be, right?? right??? i thought not.
and finally, if you're really going to invoke romans, have you read about how the romans behaved when they went to other countries? do you know any history at all? because if those who migrate to this country behave like the romans did when they migrated, your goose is surely cooked. be careful what you ask for.
*i had to work really hard not to use swear words there, and only did so because i don't want filters to block the blog for those who are forced to have them. so just imagine a whole lot of f-itty-f words replacing what's there.
**well, actually you could help, if you would only take the time & trouble to invest in bleaching treatments, you lazy lot. michael jackson could do it, why can't you?.