Was I always blind or did I willfully ignore everything? Including my race.
I’m a Latino man. I’m a Naturalized Citizen. I am as proud of my heritage as I am of my Country. For over 30 years I have served a nation, and I currently serve a community. I have many friends of different origins/nationalities, and I care about all of them. I pride myself in accepting people, ethnicity and communities for what they are. But did I really see everything and everyone around me, or did I just ignore what was actually there and live blissfully ignorant? Social media has created a platform (of which I take advantage and embrace) that allows all to speak their minds. It has also created the subtle unveiling of truth that either unites or divides.
On my own social media site, I posted a listing of tragedies similar to the tragedy of George Floyd. To me, it was a display of the disparity in “administration of justice” based on race. Little did I realize it would bring out some deep-seeded feelings and dare I say, biases in a few of my friends. And in one friend of over 30 years, racism. Which begged me to question myself because; “How could I not or never have seen it?” Or was I just an acceptable Latino because I didn’t “act Latino”?
I wrote earlier how I pride myself in my acceptance of people. I respect people of different origins and nationalities. If they act different from me, if they believe different from me, if they eat different from me… It’s who they are.
When I was working overseas, I learned a great deal about people and cultures different from me and how I grew up. I learned to respect and love a culture and understand differences. And by understanding those differences, I learned what I liked or did not like about it. But that didn’t make me hateful, it made me differentiate those things of which I could not accept. It made me look at the world and people through a more powerful social microscope. And then, when my overseas career ended, I took those lessons and applied them to my life back in this melting pot I call home. But I’m finding that to be easier said than done.
As if 2020 was not already giving our world/nation a healthy ration from Darwin’s: COVID-19 shit sandwich, we start experiencing another rise of unnecessary murders of black men. One for ‘jogging while black’, and the other for being ‘stopped and “questioned” while black.’ Both incidents resulted in deaths, nationwide protests and unwanted violence. (Note: I say unwanted because no one really wants violence. I stipulate violence already to be unnecessary.) But this missive is not about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery or Amy Cooper. The aforementioned three are a catalyst to my personal introspection and how I reflect on my life. This is about how I reflect my American life and on any of my accomplishments or failures.
I have tried to live my life without leaning on my race/ethnicity for any advantage. I have spoken out about how I am more than “Affirmative Action” and actively refused to take advantage from it. I did so because I literally embraced Martin Luther King’s statement that I would rather be judged on the “…content of my character” rather than the “…color of my skin.”
My earliest school memories growing up in America were during the height of Civil Rights legislation. And it wasn’t until now I realized how deeply ingrained that statement has been my social rudder. I now realize the subconscious effect words from a 1963 speech have had on my life. The fact is, I wasn’t born when Martin delivered that speech, but the power of those recorded words were enough to guide my life, whether I knew it or not. I accept my merits and failures equally. I have taken great lengths to rely on my abilities and NOT rely on race. Or at least I believed that, and recent personal events are now causing me to question my accomplishments.
I suppose the last true measure of equality & acceptance happened when I joined the US Navy. My enlistment was based on test scores, education, lack of criminal background and health. I was merely a specimen. But what about everything else? Were my accomplishments or accolades based on a demographic or my ability? Conversely, can I say that my failures were all me or were they because of me? Were some friendships true or were they because I wasn’t a “stereotype?” I know the ones that are very true. But what about the rest?
I had been a Centrist in politics and acquaintances. I guess because I wanted to please and be accepted. But what now? Do I forego my Independent views, or do I take a side and stick with it? Do I become a “True Latino” and stick to my roots? Do I furiously listen to only Latin music and watch Latin News and Entertainment? Do I forego the person I have become or hold more dearly my Heritage? Do I become more militant in my ethnic views or do I continue to view things based on empirical value and make the logical & correct decision? No. I am who & what I am and have become. I will continue to fight for what is right and protect what needs protection. That’s part of who I am. So if anyone does not agree with my views or opinions; you know the way out. You know that if I recognize I am wrong, I will tell you. But I will not berate anyone who’s opinion is different from mine.
Will Smith said; “..Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” And now I truly understand the depth of that statement. I blinded myself to believe things were getting better because I wasn’t being directly affected. I felt that way because of my Spouse and Bi-racial children. I felt that way because I taught my children to achieve based on ability, not skin-tone. But now, unfortunately, I shudder to believe if anything will get better for them or my grandchildren. I suppose I’ll just keep fighting for what is right and keeping my corner of the world as safe and free from racism as possible. I just hope and pray it doesn’t get worse.