I’ve been learning a lot about it lately and unfortunately, my eyes have been opened to the racism directly around me. But I’m trying to get better at not dwelling and instead, doing something.
On that note, I’ve decided to write more targeted blog posts. In fact, I’m beginning an experiment of documenting everything I learn each week about racism and sharing how it’s impacted me.
This week’s three biggest takeaways for me about racism:
- Hawaiian shirts –> white supremacy. There goes my family portrait circa 1997.
- My neighbor down the street is a white supremacist. I guess the “MERICA” in large block letters on his windshield was a pretty clear giveaway.
- My rabbi I grew up with volunteered to march in Selma in 1965, without permission. He would not let “no” stop him.
Yes, these shirts are painfully bright at times and make up about 95% of Tommy Bahama’s clothing line, but a representation of white supremacy? I don’t get it.
Turns out it has to do with the civil war, some break dancing movie, and Boogaloo, which sounds like “Big Luau”, hence Hawaiian shirt… If you want the details, check out the story here as well as photos of these white supremacists in action as they protest states to reopen, Hawaiian shirts and all.
What a great reminder of the privilege that exists but has not been discussed for too long.
These people are frustrated that they cannot go out to their favorite restaurant while Black Americans are fighting for their rights to walk down the street without facing police brutality. It’s overwhelming to think about all of the progress we need to make as a country but if enough people can focus on the priority of basic human rights, we will get somewhere.
Judging my Neighbor
^A version of this flag billows in the wind outside of a home about two short blocks down the street from our home in Northern San Diego County. It was recently hung by my neighbor and after walking by it a few times on walks with my dogs, I started wondering what this flag symbolized. I had never seen it before growing up in Northern California.
Coincidentally, I was chatting with a friend who lives outside of Washington D.C. and she was telling me a story about driving through the “Bible Belt”. It was the first time she saw a racist flag. In fact, she had to Google what it was that she was looking at and quickly realized she better tuck her Star of David pendant on her necklace under her shirt. At that moment I was almost certain my neighbor’s flag was racist and then it was confirmed when I saw this photo today. I have racist neighbors and have supported it by moving here. That was quite a bit to internalize.
Back when my husband and I moved down to Northern San Diego county in October 2018 from San Jose, we were so excited about the beaches, warm weather, and chill vibe that we overlooked the lack of diversity. Granted we did attend UCSD but we were in a college bubble outside of North County. The biggest challenge with North County is not even the lack of diversity but the fact that there’s almost no diversity.
Don’t get me wrong. We love living here and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to live in such a beautiful, calming place but we have felt the impact of such little diversity. It’s best if I share a story. My dad was visiting six months ago for my birthday so my husband and I took him to our favorite sushi spot. We’re seated at the sushi bar but it was busy so my husband gets up to ask another sushi chef at the other end of the bar, hoping to get a quick question answered. Out of nowhere a Marine begins yelling at my husband about his tour in Japan so that means he knows how to order in a Japanese restaurant and you don’t get up to talk to the chef. He continues to make a few more Japanese related racial slurs (my husband is Japanese American) until the wait staff finally asks him to stop. Meanwhile, my poor father just wanted to order a roll. And there goes our favorite sushi spot (ugh, my privilege just reared its ugly head. I’m trying to focus on at least spotting it).
As hard as this moment was for us, it was one of the first reminders that racism exists right in our own neighborhood. But before jumping onto a soap box about other people being racist, I did some internal reflection. Hands down the best facilitator I’ve ever worked with conducted a 1-1 activity with me called “Judge Your Neighbor“. At times, it was painful and in some areas did not apply, but regardless the activity taught me to look at the role I play in every situation. What could I do to make things better?
If I’m being honest, I had a bit of a break down this week. I became overwhelmed with the worry that I was not living my “why”. My “why” (my core principles) has always been focused on making a positive impact and doing everything I could to help others. I had been trying to focus on inclusivity, people, and culture at work but I kept doubting if I was moving fast enough or doing as much as I could to achieve that “why”?
In a bout of anxiety, I took a break from work and called my dad. There are only two people who can calm me once I’ve entered what my close friends call “freaker outer Rona”: my dad and husband. My husband was being a good therapist and in session. Good thing my dad is always on deck.
My dad shared with me a story about our Rabbi, who marched in Selma in 1965. He did this only weeks after three activists were murdered by Klan members. With other clergy, doctors, students, they risked their lives to fight for what they felt what was right, even though it went against what they were taught growing up.
After reflecting back on that story, I realize how insignificant my hectic work week is and appreciate that it’s in a safe environment with a team who also cares about my passion: to help people. Although I may not be leading a march, I can help lead change by working with my team to help improve the internal corporate systems to ensure everyone has equal access to the same opportunities, starting with hiring and promotions. I must remember that if I’m fighting a battle to help people, do not lose sight of my “why” and be patient with the process. There is no easy solution and as tired as I may feel at times, it’s nothing in comparison to how tired Black people are after fighting racism for hundreds of years.
This week’s lessons impact on me:
I believe in focusing on one area at a time and I feel it’s most important to be honest with myself about the racism I see. No longer will I ignore it or pretend the behavior doesn’t exist. Instead I will acknowledge it, empathize, and look for a path forward (okay so I’m also focusing on trying not to dwell too…).
And this blog is now going to be my dedicated way to document this learning process and share it with anyone who is interested.