How one racist comment changed me for the better, and hopefully this election will, too.
When I was about 10, I was playing a game at a neighbor’s house across the street. My friend Maria named her character Xiang Xiang, after a few rounds, she asked me why I wasn’t including her character in the game. I said I didn’t like her because her name made her seem like a “ching-chong-chang”. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. I ran after, trying to explain that I wasn’t talking about HER, just her character. (I didn’t know this was a racially offensive statement. I learned it from a friend’s house who would say it every time our local reporter, Connie Chung came on the news channel and the family would laugh.) Despite my pleas of innocence, I was sent home devastated, guilty and have never been the same.
Making my friend Maria cry was the worst and best thing that ever happened to me. To see the extent of pain I could cause another human being by repeating such a casual remark opened my eyes and helped me become a more compassionate and loving person. If she had been in middle school, she probably would have held her emotions in and acted un-phased. She might have gotten angry and lashed out, or retaliated in some passive aggressive way. Instead I had the privilege to see the real, authentic grief that my comment had caused, teaching me to never make a racial slur again, and also, to stand up to others who do.
Having our country elect a racist, misogynistic bully has shaken me to the core. As I watch him assemble his cabinet, I feel anger, fear, grief and I know that these emotions are not the place to take action from. Fear and anger is how Trump, Pence and Fox News became so popular in the first place. I want to prevent the suffering I inflicted on Maria that day, and prevent the suffering I caused myself for the following 15 years, beating myself up for hurting someone so deeply. For now, I am taking time, allowing myself to feel my feelings and getting coaching on my negative thoughts. I’m trying to use this pain to connect to other racist, misogynistic Trump supporters who feel they are better than others. I get it, I think my way is better, too! I imagine there are many white, Christian Americans who feel their patriarchy and status are threatened in our changing world. Perhaps they are feeling the same way I am now are relieved to have others sharing their pain. As I do my work to heal this part of me, I like to think I am helping them heal their fear and anger as well.
What I know for sure is that if Hilary had been elected, I would have remained complacent. I know that emerging from this election, I will be a stronger, more outspoken pusher of peace. I will continue to practice loving all God’s creatures and creating a peaceful world, but I need to step up my game when it comes to creating the change I want to see in the world.
When my summer camp girls tell me they can’t stand up for themselves because no one else is doing it and they are afraid of backlash, I will teach them how to change themselves so they can change the culture. (and hope I am also empowering women who vote the way their husbands, churches, and social media channels tell them to, without doing any of their own research).
When I see Moms at the playground afraid to discipline another person’s child, I will show them how to do it with kind authority. (and hope I am also empowering Moms to stand up to any mistreatment they encounter so kids learn that there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable by everyone in our culture.)
When my daughter wants to pretend like “everything is fine” instead of dealing with friendship conflicts or school injustices, I will role play with her until she knows how to advocate for herself.
When my son encounters racism, sexism, and white superiority (as he does everyday at his privileged high school) I will teach him that it’s his civic responsibility to protect and be a voice for those who are vulnerable. (and hope that people of color, our LGBTQ community and women of all ages can trust a caucasian man to use his privilege to protect the rights of others.)
I will join and participate actively in groups who stand for the things I believe in. I will donate to organizations that support the causes I believe in.
I will not take action from fear because I know no good will come from it. I will not take action from sadness because this is not the time to be weak. I will not take action from anger, but I will use anger to fuel my passion to make the world we live in a kinder, more loving place.
The moment I made my friend Maria cry with my racial slur, I became determined to never cause or create suffering for another human being. My intention for this election is to be grateful to it for creating the most powerful and loving generation of men, women and children our country has ever seen.