For as long as I can remember I have been genuinely confused by how any one person can think another is worth less then they themselves are. As I child I wanted to know what it was the grown ups had that I didn’t, that gave them power over me. I think I see it now and it has to do with all the people who held power over them when they were younger. And I did try it out when I reached that imaginary age that gave me power to use against those younger than me but it never felt right in my heart of hearts. I could recognize in them that same feeling I felt of being powerless.
I am a white girl so I never experienced having the color of my skin held against. Except for the brief moments in Japan when locals would point at me and exclaim “gaijin” which some believed to mean foreigner with some negativity. Also there were the humbling moments of standing in the street as the only one with white skin who couldn’t understand a lick of the langue around me. It gave me a much deeper understanding of the line some folks like to toss to those struggling with a new language “if you’re gonna live her learn the language.” Trust me, it’s not that easy to learn a language even when you are living immersed in it. Sometimes you find yourself moved somewhere quickly just trying to find a way to get a loaf of bread without the language skills to communicate that.
Growing up my dad would always say, “I’m not a racist, expect when it comes to those damn Indians.” Which confused me. I didn’t know what they had done wrong. My dad did come around in his later years to the error of his thinking with new found wisdom, an opening of his heart. He understand one uncomfortable feeling can not be used to explain or judge or treat differently an entire race of people. That his uncomfortable feelings were his to figure out and not something to be used against another human being.
I am also heterosexual so haven’t ever had to explain or combat my right to love who I wanted to because it tucked nicely into the mainstream idea of who I as a woman “should” love. Growing up I had an Uncle who’s lack of wife was explained away by a story of being left at the alter. Though there were quiet whispers and hushed conversations about his potential relationship with a man. I never understood why I we couldn’t just ask him and talk about it all out in the open.
My dad stood up in his newly adopted church against marriage equality. His argument was taken out at the knees. And I will never forget that Sunday when he called tears in his throat and said “Shan, it’s about love. How could I have ever been against something that was about love. He gave me hope, at 60 years old, for a world where closed minds could be cracked open when infused with the reality of loves power.
I am also a woman. And have carried some scars from being a gender that in our history has been seen both less than and weaker. I have had to speak louder. I’ve been propositioned at work by a person of power. Encouraged to where mini skirts even though shorts were not allowed. Been touched against my will. Hooted and hollered at. All because I was born with a vagina. I still don’t understand how that makes me less than.
None of what I have written here is evidence of anything horrific to overcome. Yet, still there were these moment when fear could have turned a piece of my heart cold. I think of the people, in my community, who have faced, on a daily basis, hatred for being who they are that still wake up every morning and choose love. Who have all the reasons in the world to walk around hurting others for the pain that has been their’s to carry for a lifetime, but still choose love. And I see how easy my work is.
Because now I am a mother. In a position of power, some could say, over two young minds and the only thing I can think to do is to keep them as wide open, curious and accepting as they were the day they arrived in my arms, knowing nothing but unconditional love. It’s that raw beauty, pure freshness that I am in charge of protecting against fear and the confused messages that a hurting world might want them to believe. To carry forward their grandfather’s words “It’s about the love.” This whole entire business of living is about love. Choosing love. Letting love win. Showing up with love even when hate and fear threatens to beat you down. Rising up again on the strength of love when you would rather curl up in despair. Giving love to the wounded souls around you who need it the most. Being the helpers on the sidelines that rush in with love when the rest of the bystanders can’t find the courage to do so. Because I’ve promised to do better by these precious souls and handing them a world broken by fear and hatred breaks that promise.