voices

I am writing from the heart here. So its going to come out in a stream of consciousness that I will try to go back and edit as best as I can but it wont’ be the best editing.

I am so sad to see a country so divided. Every issue seems to become a Dem vs Republican issue. A virus that has no political leanings has become the most politicized topic of this decade.  If you think the president and government didn’t handle things in a timely fashion then you must be a “Dem” and therefore bad. If you agree with the president then you are bad because you are a “right winger”. 

I am not one for labels and I will not be pigeon -holed into being a Dem or a right winger. I have always tried to look at things from a middle perspective and it has gotten me criticized many times. I have voted republican and democrat. I have changed my party affiliation back and forth on my voter registration so I can vote in primaries.

So today I am speaking as a middle of the roader. I have my opinions but I won’t be pigeon-holed to one side or the other.

But I write because my heart hurts. I am sad. I see the protests in this country over the hideous death of George Floyd  and I wonder why so many white people don’t get it- they think the protests are about this one thing- it is not this one thing. It is about something white people cannot relate to. We can never really understand because we are white. We do not face the day to day discrimination and prejudice and racism that people of color do in this country. That is a fact.

Many people know that I raised three Asian children, We adopted them in the early part of this century. When my husband Kevin and I brought them to this very white but sublime area in MD we live in I didn’t think about racism and the fact my children would encounter that as they grew. But they did. I think I was shocked when my daughter retold me a racist joke she had heard at school when she was about 8 or 9 and I had to explain to her why that was not so funny. That it degraded people of color and she was in that group. Maybe up until then she didn’t realize she was different -she knew she was Asian – not white but I had never had to tell her that people were judged by their skin color and ethnicity and that sometime she might encounter hate..it was not a topic I wanted to open up. It hurt me to think that my kids would ever have to deal with the hatred or racism but they did.

In high school many words were said to my kids. I found out about most of it much later. My daughter wanted to be white- change her eyes. For a time she wore makeup so white she looked like one of those pretty Japanese Geishas who powder their faces white.  But in high school none of us wanted to be the different one – but she was. In time she has learned to embrace her ethnicity and her exotic beauty. But there are scars where the unkind words cut her.

Once I had to contact the school after someone told my kid -in the middle of class while my kid was reading aloud- something that was not easy for her to do – to go back to where she came from. It wasn’t the first time she had been called out for being Asian (she told me later) but she was embarrassed  because it was in class in front of everyone and she couldn’t walk away and the teacher did not do anything. So my child called me up very upset to tell me what happened .

I am sure the teacher ignored a teachable moment because she was uncomfortable – racism is a hard topic to discuss – but we can’t allow that in a class- we have call it out. And eventually we got a some resolution. A detention- a letter of apology. But I wonder if it changed the students heart who said the words.  Did they understand the words hurt? 

One of my kids was being bullied at school for being Asian and he finally cracked one day- not because the bully was bullying him but because he began to pick on a friend and my son went to his friends defense. I would like to say he spoke out to the bully  in defense but instead he squashed a donut on the bully. Then this led to a challenge to a fight off school grounds. My kid showed up for that fight and got pummeled. Lost the fight but gained some street cred. And made amends with that bully.

I didn’t condone the violence when I found out later and had I known about this before this entire story would be different. But my kid cracked. The pin popped his balloon. When I finally found out about this event , I asked my kid if it might have been better to use his words to stop the bully  and my son said yes – but he just lost it and thus the donut incident. Then he had to show up to a fight to save face and get beat up. And the bully apologized. Who knows if this was a learning moment for him. But it was for my son- he is not a violent kid- and he wasn’t proud of his actions – but he was glad in s sense he stood up to hate. 

There were times I actually felt bad for living in such a white area. That perhaps we should have moved to a more diverse area. But that would not change anything. In fact living here may have shielded them from worse racism. In order to keep them safe I told my kids they would need to turn the other cheek – to ignore nasty comments about their race and ethnicity – that those hateful words were a show of ignorance. As humans we all have to learn to have a thick skin but it doesn’t make the barbs that bounce off us ok just because we deflect them. My childhood “Fat Albert”  label still stings when I think of it. 

I am a white mom raising Asian kids…I can sympathize, protect and defend but I will never really get it – I am white- and just by being white I automatically at privilege in this country.  I tell them to turn their cheeks because I want them to be safe. But in essence I am really shutting down their voices. I have always encouraged them to use their voices and why should they have to take abuse for their color? Their ethnicity? They are beautiful people – they are humans with souls and feelings.

How can people not see how awful it is for a black man to be out jogging and when he stops to looks at a new home under construction – something I have done many times- and then he is chased down by a two white men and then shot and killed? I am pretty sure had that had been a white jogger that would not have happened. Its sickening.

I have seen on the internet white people say “white people get killed by police and we don’t protest.” The fact is true white people do get killed by police. But the protests over the death of George Floyd are not about just Mr Floyd. This horrible death is the pin that popped the balloon and the hurt and sadness and the anger flowed out and people of color said- “we must speak out. We need to be heard…we have had enough”. This is not one event for people of color this is their every single day.

I agree with protest. I think protests are a way of people to speak their mind. To get attention for their issues and to emote. It is one of the best freedoms we have in this country. I am not surprised at the enormity of the protests that are occurring. I am not surprised some have become violent.  I don’t agree with that.  I don’t like anyone getting hurt. But tensions are high. And looting? That is someone who is using the events as an excuse to steal. They aren’t about the cause. Many of the protests have been peaceful. Police officers kneeling down with protesters. What a sight to see.

I think this is escalating because we need better leadership. There is nobody at the top saying – we care – we want to help – we see you. The president can’t change the hearts of all the people – he can’t make a culture of hate change overnight. But he can help bring justice where wrongs have been done. And he can lead with compassion and not divide the people more and more with every tweet.  He can send out the military to protect but he must see the people who are screaming to be heard.

There is a logical balance to help protect people and property during a protest that becomes violent. But we have to see that the protests are the symptom of a much larger issue. The hate is the cancer and the reactions are the symptoms. Somehow we have to make changes to kill that cancer of hate.

I don’t blame all this on President Trump. He didn’t cause this to happen. These issues are pervasive and go back years and many administrations have faced these same issues and haven’t done much to initiate change.  There has been ongoing police brutality against people of color. The divisions  in this country and in the administration have existed for years before President Trump was in office. But this is his moment and thus far he hasn’t been the type of president that brings people together. He lives in a divide and conquer world.

I have read that his advisors are split on how he should deal with this. Be more compassionate which would help his black vote or be more militant which would appease his base. Again politics at play and because of this the right response will never be found. When one is looking at his own gain there is no compassion for others there is only action for the gain of reelection. This is a situation I am sure he hopes will just go away it is not good in a campaign year. Maybe a presidential term should only be 6 years – you get one go- – maybe it would be easier to react more honestly to events when reelection is off the table. Just a thought.

People of color are trying to be heard. They are hurting. They are angry because nobody is hearing their voices. My daughter is a young adult now living in a city where there have been protests. It is upsetting to her and scary.  She knows the injustice…she has been poked with nasty words and judged for her Asian-ness. She gets it. She sees people calling out for help for compassion for love. And she wonders -as I do -who at the top is going to hear them? Is anyone really listening? 

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