Tag Archives: Montenegro

Explaining the Face of My American Boyfriend

In the past five years, I’ve lived a life different from the life of a typical Montenegrin. I’ve traveled, succeeded academically and professionally, and grown to be an opinionated and loud individual. I did all of this on my own – which might be the most non-Montenegrin thing – to be able to preserve your integrity, and still do well. However, I wouldn’t have become who I am if it wasn’t for the assistance of many individuals who have entered my life, and those who have affected it indirectly. One of these people is my partner, an intelligent, beautiful, hard-working American man who supports and challenges me in ways I can only try my best to repay. He also happens to be of East Asian descent.

This is a very difficult topic for me to write about, not because of the reception of those who are uninterested in it – I am used to eye rolls whenever I try to engage people in a conversation about race and ethnicity, or social issues in general. What makes this daunting and intimidating is that I might not be able to fully translate what I feel into words, and my understanding of the issue at hand might be limited and warped by my own experiences. It is also very unfortunate that my partner’s colorful personality has to be reduced to his race and ethnicity in this article, but both of us feel that it is crucial for us to contribute to this conversation.

I was born in Montenegro, a small country in the southeast of Europe, where perceivably white people make up well over 95% of the population (I am part of this population). Race is barely discussed here, and when it is, it’s rarely pretty. Small communities of Montenegrins of color are disregarded, or regarded in most inhumane ways. It might be naïve to expect white Montenegrins (this sounds a bit redundant, but I use this phrase because Montenegrins of color do exist) to be critical of issues of race and ethnicity, and it’s understandable why we sometimes don’t. After all, our existence here has been reduced to a very simple life, where no improvement or progress seem possible in the sea of corruption, ignorance, and complacency. I digress, though.

About four years ago, I came back to Montenegro after spending nine months in the US. Many things about me were different, but as things go here, what stood out the most was the fact that I’ve “succeeded in life” by starting a relationship. Usually, finding an American boyfriend is regarded as a huge accomplishment here, but it seemed to me that many of my friends, acquaintances, and family members were very confused by my choice. It wasn’t only Montenegrins, it was a huge amount of whites I happen to know, both American and non-American alike, who seemed to not really understand that one can be a person of color, and also be American. What’s most disappointing, though, is that most of these individuals don’t think this is an issue – because, to them, everyone is responsible for creating and nurturing their own identity. But it is easy to be of this opinion when your identity is rarely questioned.

I have heard many comments and I have been asked many questions regarding my boyfriend’s race and ethnicity (for a lot of Europeans, race, ethnicity, and nationality are interchangeable and synonymous). A friend of mine once told me that “he’s good-looking, he doesn’t look Asian at all!”, as if you can’t be good-looking and Asian at the same time; a member of my family laughed when looking at a picture of my partner and I, asking what I’d do if my children “looked like that”; after I went back to the US again, a rumor was started that I “went to America to marry a Chinese man”. Once I got into a conversation with a friend about being in Montenegro and finding a job, to which I was given advice to leave Montenegro and marry in Taiwan. I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I immediately knew what she meant, but after I asked why Taiwan, she went on to question my young man’s Americanness – by claiming he might be born in America, but that that doesn’t make him American if his parents emigrated from Asia. I tried to explain how being American works, only to be laughed off and told that I take things too seriously. Another friend randomly remembered that she had never asked me where my boyfriend’s parents were from, I’m guessing because of the ignorant perception that, to too many, being American means being white. Maybe one day, those like her will understand that, when someone immigrates into the US at the age of 20, and spends the majority of their life in the US, they are American and they say they are from the US. Someone else told me that my boyfriend would probably get mad at her if he knew she couldn’t tell the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese. A girl from a country near Montenegro once pulled her eyes back when asking about his parents. These comments and actions imply that racism against Asians and those of Asian descent is so commonplace and normalized, especially in European nations, to the point where speaking up against it is seen as overly sensitive and unfounded, regardless of how offensive it is. In some of these instances, I tried to have moderately calm and productive discussions, but it feels that most of the time, my attempts are in vain when trying to explain that one doesn’t have to only be white (or black) to be American. The only thing that I managed to do is create this false sense of respect and understanding by these people, but what does that do when their idea of a true American is so inaccurate? Why is it that when people see my partner and I together, they are more likely to think that I’m the American one, and he’s the non-American one? Why is he the one being asked where he’s really from, and I can pass as an American when my accent doesn’t show?

It’s also important to mention that a lot of these comments are new and shocking to my partner. He grew up on Long Island, which I hear was very different from the Midwest where we met, and Montenegro where I grew up. He only knows of a diverse society, he’s traveled to more places than many people know of, and his life is rich with experience and unparalleled intelligence. He also happens to be the most patriotic American I know. So it kinda sucks that his belonging to the American nation is questioned by random Europeans whose lives are so simple it hurts, or by some American whites who so obviously should move back to Europe where their hearts truly belong.

What makes this all very ironic is that I sometimes complain about how difficult this is for me, how I’m tired of the anxious anticipation I feel when people are about to ask me about my partner’s or his parents’ citizenship, how these comments frustrate me, and how infuriating it is that I’m still learning how to react properly and productively in these situations. In reality, these comments don’t put me at any disadvantage, but they do affect people dear to me, and countless Americans I don’t know. But what is the best approach? If I were to deny that he can speak Mandarin, or that someone in his family has at some point in the past immigrated into the US from Asia, just like many other Americans did, that would just fuel people’s belief that he’s just a citizen of an East Asian country living in the US. But I don’t want to deny these things, because they are what makes his experience as an American unique and American. It is unfair that he has to choose between being American and e.g. Chinese or Taiwanese, as if it’s mutually exclusive to be American and to be Asian, when in reality, the US nation encompasses countless world cultures and those cultures are the essence of being American.

P.S. Many of the points I’m making in this article were brought up by my boyfriend in our conversations and discussions. I’d like to thank him for always being willing and understanding enough to talk to me about this stuff.

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Sex-selective abortions in Montenegro

Apparently, Montenegro is one of the 4 countries in the world with the most unbalanced sex ratio (110 boys to 100 girls as opposed to 105 boys to 100 girls which is the common ratio). Women try to find out the sex of the baby as early as possible so they can abort if they’re expecting a girl, because of the pressure to carry on the family name. This data was published back in 2011 but no one did anything until Europe voiced their concerns. How Montenegro intends to deal with this issue is by not allowing women to find out the sex of the baby so early on instead of just fighting against and raising awareness about gendercide. My suggestion is to just not allow stupid people to procreate.

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white feminism

I’m Not Okay With Lily Allen’s Racist New Video: When Satire Crosses The Line

According to this video, Lily Allen doesn’t need to shake her ass for anyone because she’s an intellectual but unfortunately black girls are not so smart… Since when is it okay to fight sexism with racism and cultural appropriation? When Beyoncé said bitch in Bow Down, white feminists flipped shit but now they’re all like “omg Lily is doing so much for feminism!!!!! I DON’T NEED TO SHAKE MY ASS CUZ I’M SMART!!!! IT’S HARD OUT HERE FOR A BITCH!!!” How are we going to fight gender inequality if we as women don’t think of each other as equal? This reminds me of a conversation we had in our English literature class a couple of days ago. We were talking about Wuthering Heights, and somehow we ended up talking about sexism and feminism. One of my classmates expressed her frustration with double standards and said that she believes that we’ll never reach gender equality. That somehow led to our professor mentioning Middle Eastern women who “have no rights and have to wear hijabs”. At this point I got really mad and frustrated so I told her that Middle Eastern women or Muslim women in general choose to wear hijabs because they’re freaking religious (and I mentioned Saudi girls I met in the US who I talked to about this), to which she replied with “I have a friend who works in Saudi Arabia and I went there and they told me that I can’t wear shorts so you can’t tell me they have rights to choose, they just HAVE to dress that way”, and then she added “if someone told you that they don’t have to wear hijabs, they lied to you and tried to sell you that story because you come from a place that is westernized.” A bunch of my classmates agreed with my professor, of course, because god forbid you don’t kiss your professor’s ass and have your own opinion, right? They all agreed that western women have rights to choose, to which I said that we still have to wear makeup to work if we want people to take us seriously and we can’t dye our hair blue or green or other “crazy colors” if we want to get a decent job. I also pointed out that in order for us to achieve equality, we need to stop slut shaming (which is something that is really popular here in Montenegro), and it’s funny how they all agreed even though that they themselves slut shame all day every day. Despite all my attempts to prove my point, they just didn’t get it. So, basically, how women here feel about this issue is: “oh wow I have a right to dress down or dress up but I choose to dress up because I’m an intelligent woman I’m not a slut hahah but poor Muslim women who don’t get to show off their skin…………” Isn’t this painfully sad and ridiculous?

Oh, also, I decided to watch a little TV in the past two days because I rarely watch it anymore, and I had the privilege to see Serbian guys in blackface, while other Serbians spoke made up Chinese. Can I seek an asylum in another country on account of I’m surrounded by idiots?

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Montenegro is a sad excuse for a country

Today, a gay pride parade was held in Montenegro’s capital for the first time. A 15 year old guy tried making a homemade bomb to throw it at parade’s participants, but as he was making it it blew up in his face (karma’s a bitch huh). During the parade, a bunch of people (mostly males) were trying to attack the participants, throw things at them (and the police!), set anything they could on fire, etc. The police was forced to use CS gas on hooligans and vandals who basically tried to destroy as much as they could because of their rage. A bunch of them apparently gathered around the US embassy where the police used CS gas and the ambulance was seen, and people assume the police and the attackers were hurt… Yesterday, an LGBT activist was attacked in downtown Podgorica by 3 20 year olds. They approached him and asked if he “was a fa**ot” and after he told them to leave him alone, they attacked him from behind, and as he lost consciousness, they ran off.

No words can explain my disbelief. I have never seen a nation so freaking idiotic. I’d have so much more to say but I really can’t find words to describe how stupid this quasi-nation is. I’ll just say that none of these bigots and homophobes are doing anything to stop rape, domestic violence, unbearable poverty caused by this damned government, let alone minority marginalization. They themselves are unable to find jobs and pay the bills, so how come they’re so preoccupied with the LGBTQ community trying to fight for their rights?

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Smeće i cigarete

That’s a random table in my university building… Empty plastic bottles of coke, candy bar wrappers, and if you look closely at the floor, there are a couple of discarded cigarette butts. My professor took this picture and uploaded it on Facebook. Just today I sat next to a girl who was smoking and she gave me the nastiest look when I started coughing… Just so you know, the administration does nothing to resolve these issues of people just leaving their ish everywhere and smoking in everybody’s face and affecting everyone’s health, mostly because they don’t care, but also because they themselves smoke in the building. I was talking to a professor of mine a while ago, and he mentioned that he wrote numerous petitions to make our administration finally prohibit smoking in the building (note that it is illegal to smoke in public indoor areas, it’s just that no one cares), but they just disregarded all his requests.

In other news, I started driving two days ago and I’m absolutely lousy! My reflexes are unbelievably slow, I can’t multitask, and being in control of a car is just overwhelming to me. Hopefully it gets better!

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Montenegro NY Times

Montenegro NY Times

This all sounds like a short film or something with the dramatic ending. I always thought it was in a pretty cool location on the peninsula; by the sea and all.

“During the feast, in the no-smoking section, my waiter stood four feet away smoking a cigarette. It was so absurd I could only laugh.”

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How foreign am I?

I have always felt that the whole concept of being foreign is a little nonsensical. What does it mean to be foreign? If you find yourself within political borders of a country other than the country you were born in or the country you grew up in, that makes you a foreigner to the people who were born and raised in the country you are currently in. So you gain the “foreigner” title. Not only that I absolutely despise putting labels on people and letting their given labels define them; I also feel that letting someone’s nationality define how different they are is entirely absurd. Especially since it’s a relative term – just because you’re considered a foreigner in one place, doesn’t mean you’re considered a foreigner in another. That just makes the whole concept meaningless. I’m a “foreigner” because someone else thinks so? If you want to put labels on me, let it be something that could actually apply, like, human being or something. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to acknowledge that someone is from a different country, however, if it all comes down to “hey, let me show you how things are done here, silly foreigner“, then I don’t want to hear any of it. This all comes from people focusing so much on national, ethnic, race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. differences, which is something I don’t feel like going into right now. It’s becoming annoying even if people are like “Oh my gawd I think it’s so cool that you’re Pakistani/gay/black/American/a pink centaur!” We all know that it’s cool! It just seems to me that some of us, as a part of a nation, treat other people based on how nationally and ethnically different they are from us. And when I am treated that way, I can’t help but feel that people are blind to everything I have to offer, except for Montenegrin, Albanian, or foreign.

What I believe foreign is is simply a feeling of not belonging somewhere. Not on a national level, but any level. You may be foreign in a certain group of people, for example, which is a reciprocated feeling, not just something that is given to you and pasted on your forehead. Unfortunately, political borders do shape societies within them, which does differentiate nations. There’s individuality though. Montenegro, for example, is a very tiny country with a lot of different groups of people. And most of those groups are foreign to me, and I’m foreign to them. I have struggled very much to find a group of people or even a single person that would accept me for who I am. There were countless situations in which I had to keep my mouth shut or just try to blend in, just so I wouldn’t have to explain myself, what I am about and what I believe in. I am very relatable and adaptable, but it doesn’t change the fact that being in the presence of some people has restricted me in terms of how I behaved and how I expressed myself. In the past, I believed that being in a country like America would make everything easier. People there are a lot different, right? However, I realized that being able to express yourself provides little pleasure if you’re not understood. Recently, I started thinking about how, maybe, the people who have experienced similar things as me (specifically, Montenegrins who have studied abroad), might be the ones who I would be able to connect with. People with similar beliefs, views, interests, ambitions, I sure should be able to relate to them, right? Wrong. I went from believing there are very few people who see how faulty our society is, to thinking there is actually a lot of people who see our society clearly. Then I realized, a lot of them are conformists. They see how faulty our society is, sure, but their ambition is great enough for them to conform. They make changes which are solely convenient for them. They learned a lot, and they apply it in their Montenegrin ways. And our Montenegrin ways are to blame for our country’s cultural and economical decay. It is disappointing to realize how my year out of the country changed so little about how I see the country I grew up in.

What I definitely know is that being treated as a foreigner by some Americans and being treated as a foreigner by some Montenegrins has shaped who I am, how I treat people and what I think of them.

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