I don’t normally write about this topic. Not my forte. But the pictures and videos in the George Floyd case have demanded my voice to be added to the thousands who have insisted on change. I offer my condolences to his family and friends, but we need to do more. And, I think change starts at home.
We know that we are not born with hate or racism (or any -isms). These things must be learned. Values must be taught and embraced. And for some, human respect is a value that seems to be lost. Human respect is not white, black, yellow, or brown. There is no color to it. It is respecting a human being, with the knowledge and understanding that they are uniquely different. And it is that difference that makes them special; and because we are all different, we should and can respect each other. But in time, some are taught to hate, or that somehow their differences are better or worse than those of their fellow human beings. I see two sources for those ideas: one, within the family and community, and two, institutionalized (intentional or unintentional) processes or laws.
In our community, we need families (parents) to have conversations about values like human respect, how differences can be valuable, and how to agree to disagree. We need to teach ourselves to be open to those differences. In Milpitas, I believe we have the foundations of those principles. Our police department continues to engage with the community every day to earn trust and practice that human respect. In our schools, community values are taught and practiced through programs like PRIDE. But for our adults, we need more opportunities to talk freely, teach each other, learn from each other, and practice human respect. We need to be able to recognize racism (or any other -isms) and be able to call it out, learn it and correct it, and then practice correcting it daily. As fellow Chicagoan, Michelle Obama points out, “It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”
So, let’s not squander this time, and wait for the next example to happen. We cannot wait for leaders who cannot lead, cannot show empathy, cannot bring us together to heal. Let us do the self-examination as individuals and as a community. We need to be able to ask and answer questions like “how many people fear the police and why?,” “can a group of diverse community members agree on what it would look like to have respect for everyone in the community?,” and “can we call out those who blame fellow Asian Americans for COVID-19?”
Next, we need to tackle institutionalized bias and racism (or any -isms). This is a harder nut to crack, as it is not always evident or obvious. We will need champions to educate us (or remind us) of those practices or laws that may be hurting people. It is here where peaceful demonstrations are useful. But don’t diminish that tool with violence, looting, and other crimes, as that only serves to fuel more hate, division, and injustice while making us lose focus. I’m inspired that we have started to have those conversations in our community through organizations like the African Ancestry Success Community and the Milpitas Inclusive PTA. We need to continue to grow those conversations in the community.
So let’s take all that dark energy (anger, despair, frustration, etc.) and breathe. Funnel that into daily small positive steps that each one of us needs to do.
- Learn and practice human respect every day.
- Appropriately call out those who fail to practice that respect.
If you are passionate about stamping out institutionalized bias, become a champion for that cause.
- Aspire to be an informed voter to create positive change.
This is the movement that has to happen. We can do it! We can be a model for others. We have many of the pieces of the foundation. This is how we can solve racism (or any -isms) at home, and perhaps, start to cure our nation.
(I refer to -isms in the article, and what I mean by that is the various intolerances to differences in people; that includes race and ethnicity, religion, ability, class, immigration, gender & sexual orientation, and biases)