Tuesday, August 05, 2008

We Are Cursed

I have a confession to make about us Russian immigrants as a whole.

But first, a story.

I had a Russian coworker once. I started a new job, and she had already been there for six months. The girl was younger than me by a good dozen years. I did not find her. She found me. My third day on the new job, she shot me a "let's be friends" email. She just rooted randomly through the company directory, came across a Russian-sounding last name, and decided she wanted to be friends with that person, sight unseen.

So Natasha, as was her name, started coming over a few times every day and stopping by for a thirty-, forty-minute chat in our native language. I was mortified. I didn't want to look in front of everybody else as a slacker who spends all her work hours yakking about who knows what. And I didn't have the courage to tell Natasha to go play in traffic. So it went on until Natasha started looking for a new job. Now she came by with tales of interviews. I nodded, half-listening, casting longing glances at my screen, where work was waiting. Truth be told, I wanted to get back to work. Natasha was seriously more boring than what I did for a living.

One day, though, Natasha got my full attention.

"I have an interview with the Jewish Family Association tomorrow, how 'bout that? They talked to me on the phone - the pay is good. The benefits are awesome! At this rate, I'm going to start liking Jews soon enough."

I choked on my mint. "Wait, what?"

"At this rate, I'm gonna start liking Jews soon enough."

I cursed my blond hair and blue eyes. Even though I'm of Jewish descent, I have always been the anti-Semite magnet back in Russia, because I don't look the part. Every one of them felt the urge to complain to the blonde girl about the evil Semites that were running, and ruining, the country.

After the interview, Natasha came to me with the update.

"I talked to their controller. He's a typical Jew, but a nice guy."


And so it went. Finally, I came out to her. She stared.

"You don't look it," were Natasha's first words.

Her next words were, "Some of my best friends are Jewish."


Eventually, Natasha found her job and came to my desk for what turned to be our last chat. I, as usual, nodded and half-listened.

"Blah, blah, blah, I can only send my kids to a private school," I heard. Lazily, I inquired:


"Whaddaya mean why?! Don't you know that public schools are full of blacks? Your boys are in a public school, you should know that. Didn't you look at that when picking the school? In every public school I checked out, I saw them. There's this school that's supposed to be good, good ratings, everything, I come in for a visit, and there they are, walking down the hallways! Didn't you ever check for it?"

"I didn't look at that; I looked at the test results," I told her in disbelief. Inside, I begged: please, please shut up. Like, NOW. No one around us understood Russian, but I was mortified nonetheless.

Natasha plowed right on.

"Don't you know they're going to grow older and shoot our children?"

"No..." Why did I not tell her to go fuck herself? I cannot tell you. I went into a state of shock, I guess. I could not believe I was sitting there, in the 21st century, listening to that crap. It was too deranged to be real.

Eventually Natasha left. She came back on her last day and asked for my home address, in case she ever felt like stopping by. I told her we were selling our house. She sent me an email from her new job. I deleted it without opening and rubbed my hands with Purell. Sometime later, at a happy hour, a coworker walked up to me and asked how Latisha was doing, meaning Natasha. I found it highly ironic.

What I am trying to tell you with this half-funny, half-creepy story is that I grew up in a country where everybody was the same skin color, and almost everybody was the same ethnicity (in my home town, anyway).

As a result, even the best of us are not colorblind and have to constantly check ourselves to see if we're not being racist. The worst of us are xenophobic dinosaurs like Natasha, bless her soul.

Do I even need to tell you who the Russian community is going to vote for this November, and why?

God help us. If you ever pray, pray for us. Rampant emigration is our only hope. Even if we do not outlive our superstitions, our American- and European-born children will.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:14 PM

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