As I watch the news, I am deeply disturbed by what I see as a resurgence of racial intolerance in my country. My own life, the life my ancestors, the lives of many people I know have been improved by contact with people from other cultures and other races. As I look around, I see few families who do not have someone with different racial ancestry somewhere in the mix.
I am a very blessed woman. I have three intelligent, compassionate, hard-working children. They are not only my children; they are also the children of a war refugee. Their father fled, driving a small fishing boat across an ocean at the age of 19 to escape the Vietnamese war tearing his country apart. His mother, a spitfire of a woman, all of 4’8”, sold everything they owned and had it converted into gold, which she used to get her family – 35 members in all – out of the country and to safety.
This family, ultimately relocated to the United States, worked hard and has found success in their adopted country. Their children have done the same. They are all proud to be American and love their home as much as I do myself.
I had the privilege of working with mentally and physically challenged people for many years. In one facility, a number of my co-workers were Americans of African descent. I particularly recall Doris, Joy, Linda and Freddie, four amazing and giving people who worked hard and conscientiously and who just happened to be black.
My brother, who has beloved grandchildren of mixed-race heritage, recently had his DNA analyzed. The results – we too are mixed race. True, the percentage of African ancestry is slight, but it is there. You cannot tell by looking at me, blond and blue eyed as I am. People have been moving around and making families since the dawn of humanity. We all have the blood of another culture or race in us if we only look back far enough.
Why am I telling you this?
Because we all need to wake up to the fact that we are all the same save to what circumstances we are born into.
Had my children’s father had to flee now, would these wonderful people risked being turned away? Would our children have been locked up in cages?
Before you say that is far fetched, look at our history. One of my mother’s dear friends was a woman who spent years in a detention camp in California. She was not an immigrant or a criminal. She was Japanese American. She was one of the over 100,000 people who had everything taken away and was interred in a camp for simply having Japanese ancestry.
Atrocities can happen anywhere and at any time when the people of a nation choose intolerance or simply look the other way when others do.
What a waste it is when we turn away people because they have a different culture or a different skin tone. My family, expanded when I married a refugee, has produced teachers, lawyers, engineers, and even plain hard-working fishermen. But I have to worry about how they are treated now, as I have to worry about my children and grandchildren. I have to worry because there are people who feel free to openly treat others badly simply on the basis of having brown skin.
For the sake of my grandchildren and yours, I hope for a future where we choose equality and understanding over hate and intolerance. It is never too late.