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Posts Tagged ‘society’

I’ve been watching the post-Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict drama unfold over the last few days.  I’ve seen much of the African-American community absolutely flabbergasted that Zimmerman could be found innocent. I’ve seen much of the White community screaming and yelling that this trial was not about race, but about self-defense.  I’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter and other social media supporting either Martin’s family or Zimmerman; demonizing one or the other.

If it weren’t so tragic; if a young man hadn’t lost his life; if another man hadn’t ruined his own life; if the underlying current of racism that still exists in this country wasn’t so clumsily exposed, I would find it all almost amusing – the media seems to.

I am not Trayvon Martin.

Nor am I George Zimmerman.

I am not African-American.

I am not White.

Nor am I Asian or Native American.

I have never had the privilege and comfort that White (Hispanic or otherwise), African-American or any other racial communities have long taken for granted – a true sense of community, of belonging, of “us”; one that goes to the very core of their being, of their identity.

I am a HAPA.  You see, I am half-Japanese.  My other half is mostly white with a sprinkling of Native American for good measure.  I am both White and Asian, yet I am neither.  I went to preschool, kindergarten and first grade in Japan – where I wasn’t nearly Japanese enough to be truly embraced into the culture or accepted by my peers.  I finished my schooling in Miami and Seattle, where I wasn’t quite White enough to be part of that ethnic group either; again never truly fitting in with any of my peers.

All of my life I have never quite fit in to any group…except well, maybe my fraternity in college (we were truly the island of beer drinking misfit toys) but that is neither an ethnic nor racial group.

I’ve watched both Whites and African-Americans dig in their heels, point fingers, lay blame.  If Zimmerman hadn’t… If Martin hadn’t… If only Zimmerman had… If only Martin had…

I’ve engaged some of the folks on both sides regarding the verdict.  Nobody wants to listen to what the other has to say.  They don’t want to know what they don’t know; they don’t want to understand what they don’t understand.  They didn’t grow up in each other’s communities.  They can’t possibly know the unfounded fear that each has of the other.

Now don’t get me wrong.  A significant majority of my non African American friends seem to have fallen on the Trayvon Martin side of the argument, but even they seem unable to grasp what it means to be Black in America.

Jess recently wrote about finally understanding what a African American mother must goes through every time she sends her babies out into the world – the fear, the worry.  I was somewhat surprised, in part, because growing up I felt like I was that baby no matter where I went.  It didn’t matter if I was riding my bike through a White neighborhood, a Black neighborhood, a Latino one or an Asian one…no matter where I went, I was a stranger, I was different and therefore drew some underlying suspicion.  The parents of the girls I dated were more often than not slightly uncomfortable at first, in part because they just were not sure “who” or “what” I was.  Although I embraced the fact that I was half-Asian and half-White, publicly stating that I had the best of both worlds, internally I was constantly at sea, knowing that my ship could never dock permanently anywhere.

Ultimately though, I think my racial ambiguity has helped me develop the people skills I have to today.  I was forced to figure out a way to connect with people without the luxury of either the unspoken racial connection I witness when two people of the same race meet or the racial recognition one has for someone of a distinctly different race.

My lack of race I think enables me to see the casual racism by both Whites and African Americans (and Asians for that matter) that others don’t see in themselves.  This case exposed what still exists in this country – racial tensions that bubble beneath the surface, just low enough in some places that many people have learned or chosen to ignore it.  We’ve come a long way in 60 years.  We still have a long way to go.

My hope is that, as I have had to do all my life out of necessity,  people will try to at least imagine walking in the shoes of someone who did not grow up in the same environment as themselves – imagine what it must be like when others assume you are a criminal; imagine what it is like when others assume you are a racist; imagine what it is like when others assume you are taking advantage of the system; imagine what it is like when others assume you are privileged.

We are more similar to each other than different; we all want personal happiness, we all want to see our parents live long and our children thrive.  My hope is that people will recognize that these similarities should bond us together instead of letting our differences drive us apart.  I envy the connection that people have to those within their own race, but I am grateful that my lack of race, my lack of belonging, my lack of  “us”  has forced me to simply see people for who they are.

Me and a fellow Hapa - not quite White...not quite Asian

Me and a fellow Hapa – not quite White…not quite Asian

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I love my country. This nation of our, despite our issues, is still the greatest in the world; a beacon of hope; a land of opportunity.  Politics have become more partisan in this country, but we still believe in democracy.  We disagree, we debate, we sometimes even raise our voices, but in the end, we go to the voting booths to decide our future instead of picking up pistols and rifles.

It’s okay that we disagree with each other when it comes to national security, women’s health issues, economic responsibility, gay and minority rights, defense spending and so on.  We are a nation of over 300 million people – we are bound to disagree on a lot of things.

Obviously Ann Coulter and I are on different sides of the aisle.  Honestly, I don’t think there is a single thing that I agree with her on and you know what?  That’s okay.  Wherever one is on the political spectrum, that’s okay because we all have the right to have our voice heard, even someone as extreme as Ann.

***

But my daughter Brooke is not on the Political Spectrum…she’s on the Autism Spectrum.  I remember struggling when Jess and I had to fill out forms for the Department of Developmental Services, which at the time was called the Department of Mental Retardation.  From the perspective of the State, she falls into that category.

Last night, after the third debate, Ann Coulter tweeted this:

I know that people still use the term “retard” as a slur.  I know that there will always be people who don’t see anything wrong with using the word, and honestly, if you are in the privacy of your own home, I refuse to tell you what you can or cannot say…

…but if you are a high profile pundit; someone who somehow still seems to have sway over those in her party, maybe, just maybe it’s time to stop using playground terms from the 1950’s.

Ann,  I know that there is a whole segment of the population that you don’t care about and that you think are completely wrong.  I get that.  I don’t agree with you, but I get that.  But when you use words like “retard” you are marginalizing and minimizing a whole segment of the population – a population that includes my little girl.

***

Jess is always saying that we need to just ignore Ann Coulter when she makes these kinds of statements – that this is what she feeds off of; the negative response – almost like some weird demon creature that feeds off of negative human energy.  For a very long time I have disagreed with her (Jess) because I feel it’s important to engage those that disagree with your world view.  But this is not the first time Ann has used the word “retard” and based on her past behavior I can’t imagine that it will be her last.  Maybe, just maybe it’s time to completely ignore her.  There was a flood of negative response the last time she tweeted “retard” and it didn’t seem to have any effect on her.  I was one of the thousands that tweeted back at her condemning the tweet.  Here I am writing a post (believe me, I see the irony), but after this I am done, and I hope you are too.

What’s the most powerful thing you can do to stop someone who obviously craves the spotlight and will do anything to get in it?

Ignore her.

If we don’t respond, then she has nothing to feed on.  If we don’t respond, she doesn’t get the satisfaction.  No doubt, she will crank it up several notches to get our attention (extinction burst anyone?), but we must hold firm and simply ignore Ann’s desperate cries for attention, because in the end, that will be the only thing she understands.

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