So, this happened.
It’s hard for me to figure out what’s more disgusting about this video.
The slurs? The fact that this woman spewed out the foulest language imaginable in front of her two young kids? The ease with which she jumped to racist talk when angry?
As the man in the video says, racism is alive and well.
We hear about it everyday. The recent Don Sterling episode was just one example in a very long history of discrimination and utter disregard for an entire race. As appalled as we all are when the story hits the front page, how often do we encounter this in our own backyards and do nothing?
I hear it at work in the stories my coworkers tell and the words they choose to describe people of other races:
Speak English, you’re in America.
And it’s not just racism but misogyny as well. The way women are talked about, laughed at, criticized, or just plain condemned by those who work with me or near me is downright nauseating.
It shames me that I don’t stand up to it more. I could be like this guy and pull out my camera, record, and upload on YouTube. That’s what people do these days. And bravo to them for putting it out there. We need more people pushing this conversation into the mainstream.
Because as he said, racism is alive and well.
But is this really helping? We watch these videos, or read the rants on social media and people argue back and forth on message boards. People are outraged and express that anger through all kinds of outlets online or in person. Given how pervasive racism and misogyny are though, how much is any of it actually contributing towards tangible change?
I’m no saint. I judge and stereotype too. It’s easier for me to shut it out and just ignore it when I hear it from others, but I’m also quick to jump to conclusions. My experiences growing up led me to reject anything that pegged me (or anyone) into a racial profile and I stayed away from many aspects of my own cultural background as a result. I’ll admit that stems from my own insecurities which leads to a lack of understanding and unfair bias. Guilty as charged.
I spent most of my life defending the fact that I was Latino because I didn’t follow the preconceived notions of what a Latino looks like or acts like. It got to a point where I was so sick of having the conversation that I learned to tune out the racist talk. I am who I am, an amalgamation of the immigrant experience, New York urban upbringing, with a propensity for nerdy discourse and overthinking things. Take it or leave it.
But I’m beginning to question my ignorance. Not only have I lost out on embracing the beauty of my heritage, I’ve also become afraid to challenge others when I’m offended. By turning off my response to racism, I’ve become an uncomfortable bystander in moments when I really just want to turn to the person and ask them, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
I hate confrontations. I’ve gotten by, by staying out of the fray, observing but not commenting, judging but not acting, feeling guilty but not forgiving; and I realize how horrible that makes me feel.
I don’t know what the right answer is. Battling every single person who says something racist or misogynistic seems impossible. And besides, responding in kind with your own verbal onslaught doesn’t solve anything.
You judge, I judge, we all judge, but no one wins.
Nor am I a naive idealist who believes that one day we’ll live in a world without racism. It’s always been there because it’s bred out of fear. And fear is never going anywhere.
That said, we’ve come a long way this past century in so many incredible ways. We have freedoms in this country that others in the world fight and die for every day, without ever realizing those dreams.
I can send my future daughter to school and not have to worry that masked gunmen will pluck her out of her class and sell her to the highest bidder. #BringBackOurGirls
I can marry and divorce a man without having my family stone me to death. #YesAllWomen
I can go to school or take a job in any industry I want regardless of my gender. #YesAllWomen
Immigrants like my parents can came to this country without speaking the language, and raise five children with the resources and benefits provided by our government. They are then able to gain citizenship and continue to fight for their rights without censorship or reprisal. A huge win for two Latinos who came out of brutal poverty and dictatorship. #Latism
For all of that I am thankful.
It will take more experience and conversation for me to understand my place in the daily battles of us versus them.
I do know that the goal for myself and my loved ones is to change that to we, to embrace everyone without prejudice along any lines; race, gender, physical disability, mental health, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, job title…or any choices made that I just don’t understand because I can’t relate.
My hope is that I can pass this along to my children. That the day they see me angry in a parking lot, that I handle it constructively and mindful that my children are learning how to deal with difficult situations from my example. Nothing like this woman who chose to teach her children the worst, as they too started cursing at the man in the car.
Violence perpetuates violence. Racism perpetuates racism. It’s a cycle.
I’ve made a conscious effort to stay away from some of the stickier subjects on this blog for different reasons. I didn’t even have the intention of posting something today, until I saw this video in my news feed. I’m sure I’ll come back to this post thinking I forgot an important point or wishing that I’d said something more eloquent or profound.
But I realize that all of that is besides the point. You can’t force people to change, but you do have a choice in how you react and treat those around you.
I chose to start this day with a reflection on my part in the dialogue around me. It’s a daily struggle for me to internalize all of the misguided ignorance I hear, but I also know that there are many people out there who don’t share those thoughts. I’m relying on my faith that soon I’ll be out of this environment and around like-minded company who can at least participate in a constructive conversation about the topic. For now, I have this blog and all of you.
This was a stream of consciousness meant to unburden some of these pent up feelings, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
What did you think about the video?
How do you choose to deal with hurtful comments that are racist or misogynistic in nature?
Why do we have such a hard time accepting people of other cultures or the opposite sex?
What are you thankful for this week?
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on FB and Twitter.