As someone who straddles the divide between white and Asian, I never really considered the implications of not being 100% Caucasian. Sure, there was that racist parent in high school who wouldn’t let me stay in rooms by myself because she thought I was Hispanic (like that makes it better), and a few hurtful remarks over the years about my skin color and assumed heritage, but overall, I’ve been fairly well off. My white privilege, borne of being raised in a primarily Caucasian family, was something I never quite understood until I was in my mid-twenties.
I used to be painfully shy – afraid of eye contact, afraid of confrontation, afraid of speaking my mind. An unexpected effect of nursing school was that I began to grow a backbone and a conscience. The embers of my passion for downtrodden people slowly flickered into a flame. Advocacy has been heavily emphasized over the last 3 years, and I dabbled in volunteer work and establishing relationships with refugee families and members of other vulnerable populations.
As nursing school progressed, I began to realize that micro-aggressions towards POC and LGBTQIA individuals were happening all around me. My tiny flame was fanned by my friends and my passion to “save” humanity (thanks, Mass Effect). In servant leadership, we studied the words and actions of MLK, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others. I soon realized that my inaction was just as harmful as the aggressive actions taken by others. So I began to advocate. Small conversations here and there. Big conversations elsewhere. Questioning Facebook posts that I attempted to instill with as much love and dignity as I could. I responded to ridicule and arguments with kindness. I opened my mind and used compassion to see what others were seeing. I paid more attention to the news, and learned how to debate intelligently.
As of tonight, I am no longer an idealist. And I am acutely aware of the color of my skin, and the troubled past my culture has had in America. In no way does this compare with the oppression and cruelty that the black culture has gone through in the last few hundred years, but I think I have managed to understand an inkling.
It is lonely.
It feels hopeless.
I cried – sadness and horror mingled. How can humans treat each other in this way? How can we ever heal?
It makes me angry. For myself, and on the behalf of vulnerable populations around the globe. I can understand why the rift between cultures is so large. We are broken people. Unable to accept differences because we feel threatened by them. Righteous anger is not the only type of anger. While I was trying to moderate the discussion, I could feel raw fury welling up from a deep part of myself. I could have said something hurtful, thrown insults, mocked beliefs. In a split second, I would have undone everything I have said up till this point about love. Sometimes people are pushed to the brink and cannot hold their pain any longer, and animosity between groups of people grows.
To heal this country and to “Make America Great Again”, we need to love. Have meals with each other. Understand why people feel pain. Acknowledge the horrible past America has. Learn more about other cultures. Appreciate our differences. Advocate for one another. Be a voice for the voiceless. Acknowledge those who are brave enough to take a stance, despite strong opposition. Lift others up. Support noble causes. The small actions we take will one day turn into a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t give up. I promise I won’t.