Monday, September 1, 2014

Parenthood: Week 66 - Michael Brown & Ollie Tang

The tragic death of Michael Brown has reminded the nation that there are many people in this country who racist, insecure, hateful and in denial about the racial issues in our society. The people who donated money to support the police officer who shot Michael Brown, the pundits who attack the “liberal media,” and make themselves out to be victims and the Americans who refuse to see this tragedy for it is, is a depressing but important reminder that we have so much work to do as a country.

What’ shocking is how in many ways we aren’t calling these people out for being speaking in offensive ways and for being quite simply, wrong.

What does this all mean for Ollie? He’s half-Asian, and for many people Asians are the “preferred minority.” Often when people are talking about issues related to minorities they are talking about African-Americans and Hispanics. When we talk about illegal immigrants most people think about Mexicans crossing the border and when people mention minorities in education, they are mostly focusing on African-Americans.

Does this mean he’ll be fine and never have to face racism? No, of course not, but if Ollie somehow lived his life never dealing with racism directed towards him and Asian-Americans, racism would still effect him deeply.

I’ve probably only dealt with a handful of instances when someone made racially offensive comment to me.  And I’ve probably only came across a couple people in my life who were truly racist towards Asians. But every time, something happens like the death of Michael Brown, it resonates with me minorities of all races.

When people make racist remarks and actions, it makes other minorities second guess the value of their identity, their worth in society. If a white police officer can shoot and kill a unarmed black teen and is defended as a victim, what does this mean for the way that people can treat me, the way that people will treat my son? If the majority can get away with mistreating one minority, than it shakes the confidence in all minorities that we are protected and valued in our society.

If you really let this tragedy sink-in, it should rock the foundation of all our senses of freedom and justice regardless of race.

I have no idea how I’m going to explain racism to Ollie.  I want so much for him the believe in the good in the souls of people, but unfortunately there are people who just don’t let that good shine through. For them, Ollie simply because of the fact he’s half-Asian, a fact that he should be proud of, will be judged differently.

When I think about people doing mean things to me, it’s annoying. When I think of people doing mean things to my wife Diana, I get angry and when I think of people being mean to Ollie, it’s reaches a level of fury.

I get why Martin Luther King Jr. talked about his kids in his famous "I Have A Dream Speech."  It physically hurts to think of Ollie dealing with racism.  For King and many in his movement, I imagine that they felt the same way.

If you don't understand my feelings, because you don't have kids or because you're not a minority, then you have got to trust us that this is an issue and do what you can. Yes, there are those who have less honorable motives when they make speeches against racism, but those people are few.

Diana explained to me a couple nights ago that being exposed to racism has its benefits.  It teaches us about our fears, our insecurities and helps us understand our own feelings.  Diana's right, it's not all bad.  Many of our greatest heroes and many of the most inspiring moments in our history were made in response to racism.  We understand our capacity for compassion, strength and love better because of those who faced racism and fought against it.

These thoughts bring me comfort but most of me still wishes I can protect Ollie from all the darkness in the world.  I know that I can't and one day we will have to help him understand that not all people are nice.  Until then, we will surround him with love and goodness so that when he meets someone who is racist, he will feel sympathy and compassion instead of anger and hate.

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