I don’t know if I am skilled enough to write on this subject. I’m going to make an attempt, with the possibility that this may never see publication. If you are reading this, then I am satisfied that I somewhat clearly communicated what is on my heart. It seems that saying nothing is seen as cowardly, and yet I know I am taking a risk as I write.
When I grew up my family was shunned by much of the community. I was bullied relentlessly. Before you shut me down as just another person who says they were a victim too, hear me out.
I later learned that a mistake had been made in the printing of a geneology book that listed me and my siblings as born in Mexico. As a result, everyone in the community thought our family came from Mexico. That put us in a different class.
In Junior High a family actually arrived from Mexico and the children came to our school. They lived on a property adjacent to the school. In the garage, which was separate from the house, and visible from the school, their teenage son hanged himself. I saw the rejection he faced in school because he was different but I never imagined it would end in such tragedy.
In grade five I had a crush on a native boy who was in grade six. One day the police were at the school because he had pulled a knife on a teacher.
In high school I had Chinese friends who helped me with my Math and improved my ping pong skills. After high school I worked for a Chinese boss who owned a Chinese restaurant in our town.
I lived in the Philippines where I saw racism when Filipino children were told that the missionary’s stomach was fat because he ate children. I got my hair cut in the “bakla” area of town. Our sons were taunted by children calling them that name. The NPA–New People’s Army (Communist) had skirmishes with the Philippine military. Muslims began to broadcast their call to prayer in our community and I heard their angry rants against “Americanos” on Fridays at noon. A missionary couple from our island was kidnapped along with others at a resort. Some of those kidnapped were beheaded. The missionary husband died from a gunshot wound during their rescue by the military many months later.
I am endeared to Indigenous people and Filipinos and Chinese because I have known so many of them. More recently I have made friends with people of various other nationalities as I worked at a college. I live in Surrey, BC where we have a large Indo-Canadian population. I am accustomed to seeing a representation of many different cultures around me. I’ve learned about the different nuances and values of various nationalities and I continue to observe and learn.
Being a guest in another country for five years has given me a broader understanding of racism. After an extended time of living among nationals in the Philippines, I found myself in a setting with Caucasian people and I thought I was different from them. I felt brown. I was shy. I actually had to remind myself that these were my people.
The reason why I feel less than qualified to speak to this subject is because, although I have had varied experiences with exclusion and discrimination, I do not know what it is like to be of another skin color while living in a predominantly Caucasian nation. I know that in the Philippines we always felt different. We could never escape from that fact, even if we forgot it for awhile. But we were generally treated well in the Philippines. There was enclaves of people that resented us. We knew who they were. We also knew they were dangerous. We tried not to pay attention to these groups or to go to their area of town.
I’ve been taught to love everyone equally because God created us equal. I used to say I don’t see color, but that statement has been misconstrued. When I have a friend of color, I forget that they are colored until I see a characteristic that is particular to their background. This is the same if they are white and from another nationality. I worked with Americans for years and then encountered a couple from Germany. I noticed that my Canadian upbringing and Germanic background in some ways aligned me more with the German couple.
Different characteristics of people from varying locales fascinate me. I was not born in Mexico. My grandparents were not born in Mexico. But my mother was. Her mother was adopted by a couple who moved to Mexico when she was six. My mother was sixteen when her family later moved to Canada. They were fleeing a drought that had devastated their farm. Initially they worked in sugar beet fields in Manitoba and tomato fields in Ontario. So, in a sense the community was correct in their assumption about us. Living in Mexico and immigrating to Canada shaped my mother in a way nothing else could and I deeply love her and respect who she is.
The bullying I experienced made me stronger because I sought my own identity apart from how others saw me or treated me.
I see class distinctions within every culture and some cultures are much less kind to those of a lower class. My Christian background has taught me not to prefer those of higher status or give them special treatment. We are all created equal.
I am as distressed as anyone over the unnecessary and cruel and unjust death of George Floyd. Where attention needs to be given to making changes to prevent racism and inequality, I am all in favor of making these changes.
However, there is something that is troubling me about this picture. I think it is the myopic vision, the near-sightedness, in other words. The immediate demand to “defund” the police, for instance is very lacking in vision. Think of all the people who call the police daily to come to their defense. Think of what would happen if there was no law enforcement to intervene and help settle altercations, investigate thefts and solve murders.
People are upset. I get that. It is very upsetting when power is abused and justice is miscarried.
I also get that people need to have a voice. They need to know someone is listening and taking action.
But I have a bigger concern. Without presenting a thought out plan, we could just be advocating anarchy. Who could possibly benefit from that?
The problem I have is that we no longer seem to be discerning who we should be listening to. Some messages are helpful. Some are not.
When I got married I heard a very good piece of advice. When you have a disagreement, it is not a matter of who is right, but what is right. In the heat of the moment we can make judgments that we end up regretting. That is why we need to take a breath, and take a step back, and look at the whole picture. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions right now. We need a careful analysis.