Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hate is a virus.

I'm probably not supposed to write this article. At least that's what I keep telling myself, but something keeps poking me in the side telling me to get it out. Get it out or it will bury itself so far underneath the skin you won't be able to find it anymore. It will make you uncomfortable.

These are my kids. They are beautiful in my eyes with their dark eyes and caramel skin. They are dark-haired and lovely because of my husband.

This is my husband. He was born in our warm neighboring country to the south. He is my heart and together we have created and raised three fierce and vibrant children.

This is me. I was born in northeast Ohio about seventy-five miles south of Cleveland in a small blip on the map of nowhere. I had an idyllic childhood full of good things. But until I met my husband, I never knew the things that were missing. The things that were never said. The things that until now, have never made me pause to think.

I never heard my parents say the "N" word. Ever. That didn't stop me from growing up in a society that taught you to grab your purse a little tighter when a black person got in the same elevator with you. Those words were never said that would have helped me to see there was nothing to be afraid of.

Someone "other" than had the "privilege" of growing up in such a great small town.

But we aren't racist here. Not even a little. Isn't that the sentiment?

My husband asked me if I sat beside someone of a different color or country would I feel uncomfortable? Would my heart automatically fear or be pure? He holds no hate for others and was never taught to - but he sees so much hate here in people's eyes.

We are so privileged to be from an area that doesn't hate people. We sit here tightly bound up in our warm, tastefully decorated homes and feel so glad that we don't have to deal with many "other" people. My husband has had so many people tell him, "Aren't you SO glad you have what you have here? I bet it was so hard in Mexico. You're so lucky to be here!"

Most people mean well. It's the meaning well part and the tongue that speaks without filtering their thoughts that is the problem. Most of us honestly believe that we come from the greatest nation on the planet. The best, the most privileged, the most free - when in reality we can't see what's just across our borders. We see the beaches in Mexico, so beautiful, right? But when I talk to people that go to them they say, "But you'll never catch me outside the gates of the resort, though, I would be too scared. I don't want to be kidnapped." Fear, at it's best, makes us believe that what we have and where we live is the best. We will go to a country to enjoy a resort and be waited on hand and foot, but we won't step outside of it and be touched by something "other" than what we deem worthy. We might see something we don't want to and be scared or we might eat something unsanitary. Just not safe, right?

My world opened up to light and life when I married my husband. I found love, acceptance, and blindness to what color of skin he was. He was my husband, not a skin color. Regardless, people saw his looks and his accent and deemed him someone who doesn't know a lot. His accent meant that he "just didn't understand" the way Americans did. If I could count how many times someone told me that he "didn't understand" I would have lost track years ago. Have you ever gone to another country and spoken their language, broken but trying? His native language is Spanish, and his second language is English. He speaks perfectly. Even now, though, there are times that people mistake an accent for a learning disability. He is someone "other" than a Holmes Countian. "He doesn't know the way we do things here so he'd better get used to it." I'm so glad he never listened and did things his own way. We need new ways of doing things or we as a country will die.

We have such a misunderstanding of each other here in the grand old U.S.A. If you are a Christian, then you are supposed to worship God, guns, and the bill of rights. If you say one word against it then you are a communist or foreigner. When Obama was elected as our Commander-in-Chief you would have thought the world was coming to an end. I was ready to disconnect my laptop for all the hate-speak that was being played out on Facebook. I have never in my life seen grown adults throw words around the way they did. Was it because he was black? People tried really hard to say he was not born in the U.S.A so he could become someone "other" than a born and bred American. We can't have true Americans spouting a different view, now can we?

I'm probably making you uncomfortable.

It never feels good to realize that we alienate "others" does it? My children, because of their skin color and thick hair, have been told numerous times to "go back to Mexico." Children don't say things like that off-handedly, they learn it. When they reply that they were born in Ohio it doesn't make a difference. You are brown so you are different. You are someone "other" than what is the norm around here. They have grown thick skins and are able to deal with these lines that are thrown at them. I'm sure this is how Obama felt being accused of being born in another country. My children were born here as well and shouldn't ever have to prove it.

Prove it they must, though, because the laws that have been trying to go into effect in this country help to perpetuate this. I hear this sentiment all the time, "I'm so tired of everyone turning this into a racial thing. They just need to stop." I heard this many times from people that didn't want to hear what we had to say about the treatment my husband and children received. They tired of it easily. Why do they tire of it? Are they convicted? Or do they just want to continue living in the bubble of falseness that doesn't let the real world in? I hear politicos saying that the "race agenda" is being pushed too far. I say it isn't. They don't have to actually live through what "others" have to. They want it quieted because they just don't want to deal with it.

Have you ever been targeted because of your skin color?

When my children went to the Mennonite Youth Conference in Phoenix, AZ several weeks ago we pondered what to send with them. Should we send their passports? Their birth certificates? No one has to think about the fact that because they are brown they might be stopped and asked where they are from. Someone I told this to laughed and said why in the world would you need to send documents with them? I looked at them and said why wouldn't we have thought about it? Sheriff Arpaio has done a number on Arizona with the mistreatment of people detained for the way they look. He is flat out racially-profiling. How can we not as concerned parents think about sending our children the safest and most prepared way?

Being targeted for the way we look brings me to the most recent heartache I've felt. When Trayvon Martin was killed it went straight to my heart. He was a young black man, targeted for how he looked, and shot by a man that for all rights and purposes was someone "other" than the norm himself. What fear has America put in him?

My husband says that if George Zimmerman had killed a white person he would've been played heavily as the hispanic. Because it was a black person, he was portrayed as more white and the race card wasn't dealt. He was the "Peruvian" guy, not the hispanic. He said Zimmerman should have served time for killing a human being. I don't care if he's black, hispanic, or white. If you do the crime you need to serve the time. This hating of each other needs to stop. Trayvon, at the very least, deserved justice. Hate is a virus that will eat us if we let it.

We need to wake up, America. We are a fallen country. I've heard the worst racist comments in my life in reading several articles about this. They say Trayvon was a pothead, a thug, an awful kid. This we may not ever know but the ultimate question is this - did he deserve to die because he was black and walking home? If it was a white child would Zimmerman have even glanced twice at him? Racism is alive and well in America.

Obama was criticized for saying that Trayvon could've been his own son. Trayvon could have been MY son walking down the street and because he looks brown been targeted for doing something wrong. When we try to get across the point that colors are treated differently, the backlash begins.

We don't want pity, and I say we because when I married my husband his struggle became our struggle. I live it everyday with him. It does exist, though, this struggle of Americans thinking that because we are from here we are better. We look down on "others" because we don't want to deal with them and the positions we have put them in. I have heard growing up that the black people need to just "get over" what happened to them and live their lives. "They need to stop complaining! I'm so tired of hearing it!" Only people whose skin doesn't glisten caramel and ebony in the sunlight can say this. They have never lived it. Never experienced it. Never heard the stories passed down from generation to generation of the pain and tumult they lived through.

I am white. I have not lived it. But now I see.

Most will never try to understand it and keep perpetuating the myths that we live with. We will get up, have our trendy coffee, and go about our day. I, too, drink my trendy coffee and get ready for my day. But mixed in my brew is the urgency to open people up, literally split them in half with knowledge. I long to impart another way, another urgent way of seeing life and the beautiful people that live in it. When we die and stand before our God will we say, "Lord, I've served you by believing in the Bill of Rights, keeping America pure, hanging tight to my guns, and not letting "others" take it away from me." Or will we be able to say that we embraced everything God put on this earth, all the beautiful colors he made in the myriad faces of people everywhere? I fear that we are so far gone it can't be saved, and for that I am sad.

Yet, I will never give up.
Never quit trying.
Never quit writing.
We must stop the fear of the past.
We must stop the virus of hate before it eats us alive.