Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Racism



I have remained largely silent about the whole Phil Robertson deal.  In addition, really, while this post is related to some of what he said, I don’t want to rehash Duckgate 2013, but I do want to discuss the topic.  Recently, some people have been curious as to why I am the person I am.  To skip the nature versus nurture argument (I had enough of it in Psych class, and it is both), I have seen many things in my life, and many of them are not that pleasant.



I often mention that I hold the title Rabbi, but it is one that I do not use.  To be honest, I often do not feel worthy of the title, I am bitter,  I lie, I mess up, and otherwise fall prey to so many fallacies it is not even funny.  However, I am partly a product of my environment, caring parents and a cruel world.  Did you know there is no creature so cruel as a child, they can cut you open before you even know what has happened.  They do not understand empathy, nor do they understand why people are cruel.  Worse yet is when we teach our children homophobia, discrimination, or racism.  
Many people tend to believe that racism is dead in America, but the sad thing is, it is not dead it is just covered up better.  My Great Grandmother always believed Hitler lived, he had managed to escape to the US, and now he tormented people from behind hoods and robes, sadly it was a fear that she lived with until she passed away.  However, after many years, I feel that in a way she was right.  I have experienced racism for many decades of my life, sometimes it was blatant, other times it was very covert.  The likes of Limbaugh and Beck are the covert kinds of racists, the comments are racist, you can feel it in the fiber of your being, but when you are asked to put it out there, you really cannot.   It is like trying to grab steam, it is there one moment and gone just as you grasp it.  It is a sly comment, with a cough or a wink, and every time it happens the claws dig deeper into the soul of someone like myself that lived that hell.

I was asked once why I hold some of the views I do, and I was honest with the person.  Feelings were hurt, people we offended, and I think a few people even blocked me for it.  I can live with it, that side of me became damaged long ago, sad as it is.  I can point at a long history of events that happened to me, paraded in front of peers as a dirty animal, accused of things I hadn’t done, but there are two events that stand out to me today. 

The first was after a homosexual Filipino kid was drug off a school bus and beaten by several students, and the events directly after it.  We had all heard what happened, it had made the news within hours of it happening, but that is not the event I want to talk about.  I want to talk about what didn’t make the news, what followed.  As I entered class the next day, another student walked up to me, and whispered in my ear that I was next.  I had to sit with that kid sitting behind me for a 90 minute class, once class was finished I went to the pay phone, and called my Mom.  Pussy move that it was, I was scared, and based on everything that had happened to me to that point, trust was not high on my list.  Well I was next on the “list” but it took a few months to get there.  Just after New Year’s day, when we returned to school, I was in gym class playing a pickup game of basketball, and that is the last thing I remember for several weeks.  Apparently one of the students had gone over, put air into a basketball, waited for me to have my back turned, and threw it like you would pitching a baseball in a MLB All-star game.  From what I was told, I spent a week in PICU, and that on several occasions the Doctor had considered drilling holes into my head to relieve the pressure.  Of course, I also had a cracked orbital socket and it completely destroyed the cartilage in my nose.  The kid who did it said that he wanted the “dirty Jew” out of his high school.  His sole punishment was he had to write an apology letter.

Shortly after I returned to school, I rejoined the high school band, and things weren’t better, but people left me mostly alone.  That was until some kids decided that leaving me be wasn’t good enough.  They drug me into one of the bathrooms, and attempted to shove my head in a toilet full of human waste, while telling me that “I was a Jew, and I belonged in shit”.  I fought, what else was there to do, be the victim again, or fight back.  They never did manage to get my head in that toilet, and I got my shots in, but I also got a cheap shot.  Because I decided to fight, I was punished, go figure.  That was the last time anyone put their hands on me, but the verbal cheap shots continued until I managed to graduate with the help of a great teacher.  It was severe enough at that high school, that he as a Chinese American was shown the same treatment as other minority students and I was.

So, when someone asks why I am the way I am, I don’t blame a severe head trauma when I was in my teens for it.  I do not blame my parents; I blame myself.  I blame those who feel it is acceptable to throw around overt and covert racism as if it is nothing.  I blame the people who always say that bullying is not a problem, no matter the source.  Things like that damage a person.  They always say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me, but that is not true.  Sticks and stones can break bones, but words, words cut just as deeply as the best of surgical tools.  Wounds heal, but can and often do leave scars.  Scars eventually fade away for most people, but there are times those old wounds ache.  Just think about that when you see someone defend comments made.