My last two posts have sort of flirted with the issue of racism. I provided a couple examples of comments I heard and how they impacted my feelings. Now I think it’s important to go back a bit further to when I was a young boy growing up in suburban Seattle and the influence my parents and family played. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Week continues.
The suburbs of Seattle in the early 70s weren’t so diverse. Of course this meant the public schools I attended weren’t either. My parents chose the neighborhood for the size of the home and the amenities it offered. When they left California in 1970 to start a new life in Seattle, they already had four children therefore a big house was a must. Three more children would arrive and thus the seven children called Seattle home.
My dad was born in Arkansas, but spent most of his formative years in Northern California. My mom grew up on the East Coast, making nearly daily trips into New York City in her teenage years. Her dad was a banker and they moved west to pursue a job in California. My parents met in college, wed in their early 20s, and gave life to seven blond hair blue-eyed kids.
Anyways, that’s an abbreviated history of my parents. I recall many racist remarks my father would blurt out. Most tended to be disparaging towards Asians for some reason. My wife and I lived above a popular Asian grocery store before we bought our first house. My dad happened to pay us a visit once and sadly made jokes at the expense of Asians. I bring this up because as an adult it pained me to see he hadn’t changed his ways.
As I typed this post I recalled hostility my father had towards hispanics too. I distinctly remember a time when we were visiting my aunt in California. My dad was highly suspicious of a hispanic man. My mom later explained to me there was a time (before I can recall) when they were robbed at knife point by a "Mexican guy". I don’t think my dad ever let that incident go and had a blanketed distrust of all hispanics. (Typing this paragraph really bothers me.)
Experience: As a child I was very active. I rode my bike all over our neighborhood, spent hours in the pool during the summer months, built "forts" in the woods, played hoops at my neighbor’s house, and all that other stuff boys do. Thankfully for me I didn’t care about race as long as my neighbors wanted to go outside and play, that’s all that mattered to me. I didn’t care if they weren’t white like me. If they wanted to play basketball, that’s all I cared about.
When I was about 15 my friend’s mom sat me down in their house and gave me an Islam 101 tutorial. It was the best thing to happen to me. No I didn’t convert, but it was so kind of her to reach out. She was a quiet woman so I could tell it was necessary for her to share the importance of her family’s beliefs. The event had such a lasting impact I can remember the talk as if it happened yesterday.
Thoughts: racist thoughts happen in my head. Yes, it’s true and it really eats away at me sometimes. For example, I catch myself locking the car doors if I drive through a part of town deemed unsafe. There are plenty more examples, but for some reason none stand out. I try to strike these thoughts from my mind the minute they happen. Nobody is free from these thoughts. My thinking is this is a fairly normal process, kind of a filter so to speak. Whether you choose to verbalize these thoughts or act out is when it becomes more of an issue.
Actions: I’ve told myself not to use race to describe someone if at all possible. If I’m telling a story there’s no need to point out "my Chinese buddy and I went skiing last week"… There’s no significance to his race here. Now with the case of yesterday’s post it played a pivotal role to identify their races. As a whole though I try to avoid using races to modify a noun.
Monkey Boy’s Final Thought: I don’t really have a direction for this post, more than anything I wanted to share a few thoughts on this very sensitive issue. When discussing the topic of racism I don’t think it’s possible to be too "politically correct". Someone brought that up yesterday. It’s kind of like preserving the environment. You may or may not agree global warming exists, but why not play it safe and do our part to protect it for future generations? Why not do our part to minimize the impacts of racism by being more considerate of other cultures?