Monday, January 18, 2010

A dream.

When Phil and I started dating, it was well after we became friends. I never really thought about his skin color much, except for the fact that it was the absolute perfect color.  I know my parents worried, not about him or whether or not his skin was in fact the perfect color, but over the difficulties that would pose for me. Difficulties that would be brought about by narrow minded fools who litter our world. Yet such fools pose great difficulty for mankind in general, no sense in letting them ruin my pretty little love story. It really wasn't an issue for us. I knew there were a few girls in High school who liked to sing Jungle Fever at me as we walked by, but again that is an example of faulty logic. I wasn't drawing the lines, they were. Lines that were set up many many years ago. You can't just cross the line and look over- you must no longer see the lines.

I realized this past year how far we had not come in erasing the lines of discrimination when President Obama was elected. First Black president this, first black president that. It is monumental- but quite frankly I am embarrassed that it took until 2009.   There are plenty of qualified Americans who could be President, and quite frankly not all of them are white men. I do find it quite ironic also that President Obama is "from" Hawaii- my current homestead.  I was relatively unhindered by his "visit" over Christmas- Operation No Christmas Vacation some of the wives in other military branches also tasked with his security detail called it. My husband on the other hand earned a medal- woot woot(sarcasm intended) for his meritorious yada yada- while the President was here. I do appreciate my husband and I know he has a great work ethic. I am not devaluing his work- I am scoffing the reason he, the Air Force, Army, Navy, Guard and Honolulu Police had so much more work over Christmas vacation. $250 million in overtime for the HPD alone. Unfortunately active duty military don't get overtime, but some government employees did to help protect the president. If you ask, most of them will dutifully reply that it was an honor to serve the President. I respect that. He is an American icon, whether or not you agree with the politics.  I severely hope though- that the President saw, while on vacation here that Hawaii has a lot of work to do. I am slightly embittered by $250 million being shelled out for 1 family's vacation while thousands of families live in tents on the beach. Yes I understand there is this nubulous generation of income by the president coming here. I wonder if any of this income might be applied towards the education of Hawaii's children?  I love the laid back, slow pace of the island. When I go back to the mainland, everything moves I do not believe slow needs to be synonomous with stupid,uneducated, illiterate, or backwards though.

One of the main reasons the president's visit didn't affect me is because he stayed on the "affluent" side of the aina.  Which is ironic to me on a lot of levels that I won't elaborate on here. I live by the tracks. There are literal tracks. Physical lines that come to represent the figurative.  We were warned about this part of town when we moved. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking. People are people.  After being half of an inter-racial couple in the Florabama area- you learn that not all people subscribe to that theory and you do your best to navigate around their ignorance.  I used to get chided by little old women that I needed to put more sunscreen on my children, they were far too pretty to be too brown.  Didn't get those warnings, when Phil was with us! The looks said something a little different. I was surprised by some of the racism I have experienced here. It's covert, a look, a gesture. But it's still there. I know it's not the same everywhere on the island, but it does disappoint me.  I just don't understand it.  You can be proud of your heritage without alienating others. You can take pride in your beliefs without devaluing others. That is what I try to teach my children when they are called names based on their skin being a different color.

So I figured today was a good day to reflect. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. I think we as society have come a long way in the years since he first uttered those words to the tired, poor, huddled masses. But there is a long way to go. Skin color is a descriptor, but it does not define a person. Children see that. They are taught different. I remember after a preschool field trip, Phillip got to ride on a bus for the first time. He was so excited. They sat in seats without seatbelts. Who drove the bus? I asked . I don't know, but he had brown cheeks, like daddy.  That was the first time I realized, he knew there was a difference in skin color but it didn't matter- it was a descriptor- it wasn't a commentary on class or social status or education. I have hope. I hope there are others like me who try to see people for who they are and in turn teach this to their children. On that note- I will leave you with one of my favorite lines of Martin Luther King's famous speech- because when all else fails we can still dream.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.


Amy said...

Beautifully expressed.

Ami said...

You've memorialized my thoughts and feelings in such a simple post. Well said Jen....