ARMAN DZIDZOVIC, 22, BEDFORD-STUYVESANT
ARMAN DZIDZOVIC, 22, BEDFORD-STUYVESANT
WORD ON THE STREET: Do you think New York City is special?
ARMAN: I think it’s a lot more special than other places because of its mix of people. New York City forces people who come here to get along with different types of people. You can’t hold yourself off from meeting someone from a different culture than yourself.
So the melting pot quality is what sets it apart?
I would definitely say that just because of the fact that even people who are kind of closed-minded are forced to get out of their box, no matter what they do.
But there are plenty of racists in New York.
Yeah, but even those racists — like a guy who hates Hassids and lives in Brooklyn — will be forced to deal with them and be civil. He will have to learn to tolerate them, even though inside he hates them.
So you feel like racist New Yorkers are more qualified to be racist? Do they, in a way, earn their right to be so compared to others who live totally excluded from the racial groups they hate?
You can’t really say that one racist is more qualified than another.
Well, maybe you can, but there are different degrees of racism. … Stereotypes are built on what you see everyday. For example, in terms of Latinos, if a guy lives somewhere in Louisiana where they don’t have very many Latinos, he might have all these stereotypes that aren’t really built on any personal experience. He hasn’t met many Latinos to judge, but he judges them anyway, e.g. “These Mexicans are taking all my jobs.” Maybe just that one Mexican took your job, not all the Mexicans. Though there are definitely some stereotypes you can pick up from living in New York.
What are some good ones?
Well, I’m thinking more like regionalism, like, “New York is the greatest place in the world.”
I call that glorified townie-ism.
Exactly, glorified townie-ism. We think we are the shit, and everyone else is some half homeless uncultured redneck. I never really have to leave, everyone just comes here and visits me. I helped convince my best friend in Pittsburgh and my other friend from Chicago to move here and live with me. I am in New York, why would they want to be anywhere else? That’s kind of how it always works out for me. Everyone is going to come here eventually.
Friends do come visit me a lot more since I moved here.
Yeah, they aren’t going to come to Minneapolis.
I love Minneapolis, but you are right. … So, you are going to be the new intern, that sounds kind of demeaning, but I am paying you, so…
Let’s say “assistant.”
Yeah, there’s no school credit involved so you shouldn’t be an “intern.”
Right. I’m the Word on the Street assistant.
Word on the street assistant, welcome aboard.
So why do you stay in New York?
I moved here when I was six. I came here on a refugee program from Bosnia during the war. First I used to live in a community where there were a lot of Bosnians. I didn’t speak English for a long time — I didn’t want to speak English, I just wanted to go back home. After a while, I just started to like it more and more, and I got more into the art scene and music scene. I have been to other cities, Paris, London, LA, but I just think the scenes here are a lot more common and plentiful than in other places.
I am trying to lead the fight against that by being a homegrown immigrant.
“Homegrown immigrant” is contradictory.
Well, that’s the American way, you come here as a young immigrant and fight your way up and see what happens. That’s the notion in America, and that’s a true American in my eyes: someone who moves here and works his way up.
Is this person more American than an American who was born here?
Sometimes, yeah, because he once had it worse. Sometimes Americans take their lives for granted and don’t realize how easy it is compared to other people’s.
Sure, I can see that, but as a native, I ask you if you know how tough it is to move from Iowa City to New York City?
Sure, but take coming from Bosnia.
OK, touché. Have you seen any old Yugos around here?
All the time, man.
No you don’t.
Oh, you mean the cars? I thought you mean the people. I think I have only seen one around here. Actually, in Bosnia we used to put old Porsche engines into Yugo cars and turn them into sports cars that went 0-60 in five seconds. They were sports cars that fell apart constantly.
What does that say about Yugoslavian workmanship?
The cars that stayed in our country lasted a long time. For some reason, the cars we sent here fell apart. The main reason I think that happened was because we didn’t give a fuck, we were like, “Let’s make a quick buck off of these dumb Americans, and give them some shitty cars that we won’t put any money into and let’s see what happens.”
What happened was we stopped buying your fucking cars and now you’re the laughing stock of European auto-making.
OK, but who else made cars? Did you see Polaks make any cars? The Russian cars are pretty bad, too. At least we made a quick buck.
Why do you think so many people think saying “Polak” is racist?
It’s like the people who think saying “Jew” is racist.
Like a “Jew bakery.” That’s not racist.
My whole perception of racism is a little different. I could give a fuck because all my ancestors have nothing to do with that. We were the highway of Europe that the Turks, Hungarians and Austrians all ran through. We never got a chance to pick on anybody because we were the ones getting stomped on. See, that’s why when a minority is getting picked on, I’m like, “Oh, that’s sad, I’m sorry. Life is so hard.” I don’t really give a shit.
So in America, are you white or black?
You could say I am a little Turkish because I am Muslim, but I am non-practicing. You could also say I am white because I look white, but I also tan pretty well in the summer. I’m a little bit of everything. I’m Eastern European. I’m Balkan.
What’s the toughest thing you ever had to explain to a child?
To a child? There was this one kid in Sarajevo (where I’m from), and he was a baby during the war. He didn’t understand what happened, and he would ask me why. If you really look at it, there are a lot of really dumb reasons why all those people died, why his cousins and family died, but there aren’t any good reasons.
What do you think that kid is doing now?
He’s probably back home studying somewhere in Bosnia, trying to get a job. Hopefully. If you think the job market is bad here, they’re just laughing at you over there.