racism

I Am Ignorant

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At twenty-one years of age, I was a newlywed living on the eastern side of Washington State.

In 1974 I had married my high-school sweetheart who was enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at a local Washington university. I met my then-husband in high school while living in Honolulu, Hawaii where my family moved in 1965.

It was a beautiful, spring day when my husband and I walked hand-in-hand through the streets of the eastern Washington city looking for a restaurant where we could have a weekend lunch date. We approached a corner, my husband pushed the WALK button so we could cross the street, and when it flashed green we proceeded to walk across the street.

A woman approached us from the other direction on the crosswalk, pointed her finger at us, and yelled,

Thou shalt not mix with other races! You are an abomination!

I am white, my former husband, Chinese.

My happily married, joyful self was astounded at the hatred and intolerant attitude thrust our way. We had never encountered such vehemence when living in Hawaii as a young couple, so please understand how hurt and shocked I was. I was so taken aback, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “F*ck you!” My twenty-one-year-old self stood up for herself and her marriage partner in the quickest way she knew how.

As of this writing, in all my sixty-seven years of life, that is the only me-directed racism I have ever experienced. But that is not the case for people of color.

  • I have never been pulled over for driving while being white.
  • I’ve never been asked to prove that I belong in the neighborhood in which I was walking or riding my bike.
  • To my knowledge, I have never been followed through a department store by a store employee or store security personnel while shopping as a white woman.
  • Again, to my knowledge, I have never been turned down for a job for which I was highly qualified because of the color of my skin.

My current husband of twenty years and I have three daughters between us. My daughter is a beautiful mixture of Caucasian and Chinese, my husband’s daughters are Caucasian. While our girls were growing up, we instructed them on how to be safe when out and about; we helped them recognize dangerous, every-day situations they should try to avoid but we’ve never had to have “the talk” that so many parents have had to have with their non-white children, especially their sons.

  • If asked, show law enforcement your hands and ask permission to get something from your vehicle’s glovebox.
  • Don’t wear your hood out on the street and don’t put your hands in your pockets.
  • If you get stopped, don’t run.
  • And by God, please, please, just get home alive.

I have an educated knowledge and keen awareness of the issue but I lack sufficient experience to truly understand the challenges faced by many people of color. I am ignorant in the sense that other than that one incident forty-six years ago, I have not been personally hurt – emotionally or physically – in the manner in which so many have been, and still are.

I understand the sentiment, All Lives Matter, but BrenĂ© Brown offers the following in her book, Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:

I believe Black Lives Matter is a movement to rehumanize black citizens. All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion…the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens.

It is my hope that one day soon, we will all get it right. The general public learns more each and every time an incident of racism makes it to the news, but shouldn’t we have learned something more by now, given the number of horrid headline incidents that have occurred nationwide?

We all can do better. 

I will do better.