There are signs from the universe (I really do believe the universe talks to us — but you do have to listen) that I need to work on this. The anger, I mean. But here’s my problem:
A dear friend sent me a short piece he’s working on, the day after the Trayvon Martin. verdict. It was about an incident from his recent past, where a director he was working with told him ‘not to bring black to it.’ How can an African American NOT bring his or her racial identity to the table? What are black Americans supposed to do with a comment like that??
And what does that comment even mean?? What kind of idiot would say that to someone??
I keep fighting this tired fight because it’s important. To me. To my friends. To members of my family. And — I humbly insist, over & over — to America. To the world.
But it takes a huge toll. And yes, sometimes I worry it’s my identity. I don’t want that to be true, but I know at least one of my own sisters has muted me on FB. She gets tired of politics.
I don’t blame her, really. I’m tired of the idiocy that masquerades as American politics as well. And I’m struggling (a very different kind of struggle) to remember that even unkind people are sons, & daughters, & wives, & husbands. And fathers & mothers. And people I know…So it behooves me not to swear (which I do far too frequently! and just got chewed out for, professionally!). To remember I make others crazy, too.
There is more to who I am, of course, than my ongoing fight for social justice. Still, I remember even at the tender age of 9, not long after my youngest sister was born, standing on one side of iron gates. A very young Việtamese woman — certainly not twice my age at the time — held her baby out to me, pleading w/ me to take it. To feed it. And I knew even then that life was not fair. My sister was upstairs in our villa, well-fed, clean, destined to be educated & protected. This woman’s baby had nothing. And probably never would.
Some piece of me responded then — and continues to respond — to that inequity. Later, I would stand up to bullies (sometimes w/ a broom, but you use what you have!), sometimes w/ words, sometimes w/my own two fists. I refuse to be one of those silent onlookers to life’s injustices. So maybe this ongoing battle is my identity. It certainly is what led me to engaged Buddhism.
But I want to believe it’s not the struggle that defines me so much as it is the people behind each statistic, each act of racism and moral cowardice. It’s the idiot who doesn’t understand that Ben can’t peel his race away like a wet shirt. That my niece can’t choose the way she loves, anymore than I can choose the size of my heart. It’s the unnamed men & women & children who stand mute, locked within safely distanced numbers. Each of these has a part in my struggles.
My struggle has identity, but it isn’t really mine. It’s all of ours. I hope you think so, too.