Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Drop-Dead Gorgeous

  I was raised in a white, middle-class American family. I was sheltered and protected. My father worked hard to find work and better work, and my parents never let me know money was ever tight until it was no longer such a concern. I lived in a safe home, in safe suburb neighborhoods, and went to safe, well-funded schools. No one ever persecuted me for my race, religion, or gender, and I never really saw evidence that anyone I knew was. I was never taught to judge someone based on race, religion, or gender. These, among other things, were just parts of a person and meant nothing beyond their basic identifying purpose: to me, if a person had white skin that meant they had white skin, and if a person had brown skin that meant they were brown. I didn't attach much more assumption than that. I mean, I assumed a white person had whit parents and a brown person had at least one brown parent - but I didn't presume to know anything about a person or their parents just because I could see their skin color. After all, what could the color of someone's skin or hair or eyes possibly tell you about their beliefs, their income, their background, etc.? It that sounds too simple to be true, it's not really; it was just a kind of naivete. I rather preferred it, really.

 I knew what racism was, of course, but it was something I learned about in classes and maybe saw on the news. It really seemed to me to be largely a thing of the past, and anyone who judged based on race (or religion, gender, or whathaveyou) was behind-the-times and probably just plain mean. I didn't understand that there were, in truth, communities where people were actively discriminated against or persecuted. I'm sure my own community had its share of stereotypes and discrimination, but as I said, I was sheltered.

  That was how I viewed the world - for the most part still believing in my illusion - as a young adult. So when I fell in love with and married my husband, as far as I was concerned, his name came from a wonderful heritage and his brown skin was simply beautiful. I won't say I didn't realize ours was an interracial marriage because of course I did, and that made me love it even more. I loved that we were proof that skin color didn't matter beyond the fact that I needed sunscreen and my husband didn't; we were progressive - if I wanted to accept a label like that - because of our mixed races. It was amusing to me when someone didn't know enough about Spanish to pronounce my new name, or looked at me like my name was a mistake. And all I thought about our children was how drop-dead gorgeous they would be.

  The world, however, has been giving me a rude awakening lately, with mobs of people I can see all over the internet or TV who now literally want my gorgeous child to drop dead. Why? Because she IS a drop-dead gorgeous brown. I've listened to them, seen the footage and reports of these followers actions, and all their hate speech and violence essentially comes down to "hate everyone who is brown because we've decided they're all bad." I take the threats and hate being directed at my husband and daughter very personally, naturally, and so for the first time in my life, I feel threatened. Threatened by a mob with an angry leader that is being incredibly publicized, condoning and promoting fear, hate, and real violence. They are threatening my family. They are threatening me.

  Let me elaborate on my family. As I said, I am white, and I was raised in middle-class American society. My family has been in America long enough to have generally forgotten where we came from. My maiden name is Scottish, but my ancestors bore that name to America before the revolution. So I'd say I'm about as "American" as one can get. And I would say the same for my husband. He was raised in lower-middle-class American society, much like me. His family has been in America long enough to have generally forgotten where they came from. With effort, we can trace his ancestors back to native sheep farmers in the Colorado area in the 1500s. Again, I'd say that's about as "American" as you can get. He just happens to be Hispanic American.

  What's interesting to me is that on any government census or identification form, there are spaces marked for "race" that include white, black, and Asian, but there is no place for my husband (he's not white, he's brown, but he's also not Asian or black or African-American). If he is given a box, it is called "indeterminate race." That seems unfair to me to label him that. The problem lies with assigning a name for all people with brown skin color that would a) make sense and b) be accepted. They do, however, add a separate section where we can each mark whether we are of Hispanic descent. I mark I am not; he marks that he is. But Hispanic is not a race. So my husband is "indeterminate," meaning, "he's brown." To make matters more complicated, when I look at my husband I just think, "What a handsome guy!" but most people lift an eyebrow and ask, "Where are you from?" And he answers, "Colorado." They chuckle, then say, "Okay, but where are you from?" He repeats, "Colorado." They don't chuckle anymore, certain they're being misunderstood, and say, "Okay, but where is your family from?" Same answer: "Colorado." People give up with questions then, thinking he's being a wise guy. "Okay," they say, "but you look like you're from..." some few say Mexico; a lot say India; too many make this hand gesture to indicate "somewhere foreign." We are patient, smile, and repeat, "Nope. He's just from Colorado." I sometimes want to add, "would you like to see his genealogy charts? They go back to the 1500s - everyone was from the area of Colorado." But I don't; it would be overkill. The point is, looking at my husband, no one can guess where he's from. Probably no one could guess where I'm from just by looking at me, but because I'm white, they don't care. So why do they care because my husband is brown?

  They care because they're being told that brown equals foreign. (May I just say I still prefer my naive view: brown just equals brown.) That, in itself, is just kind of annoying. More annoying is when someone asks my husband, a native English speaker, "Where did you learn to speak English so well?" The answer: "The same place you did: at home and school."

  What is worse than annoying - what is scary - is when people are told and believe that brown equals bad, or brown equals dangerous, or brown equals illegal immigrant, or brown equals terrorist or possible terrorist. Because they act on those assumptions. They act violently, hatefully, and feel justified.

  Now we have a presidential candidate who is spewing this venom across the nation, telling his followers that anyone brown is bad and should be treated as less than a person. He is cheering and encouraging violence against skin color, simple as that. And if he and his supporters are not stopped, guess who is on the list? My brown, Hispanic-American husband of "indeterminate" race whom people always assume must have come from outside his own country. What would they do to him if they encountered him - in the store, in a church, at his work, or (heaven forbid) in the street? Look at reports of what they ARE ALREADY DOING for the answer.

  My world has become racist and scary. I know now what it is to fear prejudices, to realize they could very well be anywhere or everywhere. And my daughter - my beautiful, Hispanic, American, white-but-brown child - what will they think of her? What kind of world will she face? What kind of prejudices will she face? What would these people do to her?

  Please understand this is why I will not stop sharing posts against Trump. He and his supporters are quite literally attacking my family. We will not be silent victims. Nor will we be mean ones. I refuse to let us become "victims" at all, and I'm starting by making sure everyone I know is aware of what Trump is doing. And then, hopefully people are attentive enough to realize, "He's talking about... but I know those people! He shouldn't be allowed to do that. No one should." And I suggest that if you don't want my drop-dead gorgeous daughter to grow up in a world where she is being told to "drop dead," you find a way to stand up for those being persecuted. Find a voice for good and use it, especially against this bad.

  I have faith in people, and I have faith in my country. I do not believe Trump has any real chance at the Presidency. What scares me is how loud and how widespread his doctrine is, and what people are doing because of it. If it were a few hundred idiots who wanted to listen to idiocy at a rally, that would just be sad to see. But there are thousands and thousands who do more than listen - they engage those they're being taught to fear in criminal ways, and that... that is truly terrifying.

Leave your thoughts and comments please!