I sometimes use a shared link to my blog to invite my “Facebook friends” to consider a point of view that may differ from theirs. Other times I just post directly to my blog, without notifying my Facebook folk. Facebook can be a dangerous place.
Writing for me is a hobby and more. I am a very verbal person. My close friends (those who actually do know me by face) will smile when reading this, as spending time with me can be an exhausting experience. So in an effort to somewhat spare my friends from my extreme verbosity, and as a therapeutic outlet, I blog. So here goes…
About 10 years ago, I went to a favorite restaurant for breakfast and noticed that the service was uncommonly slow. My server’s explanation? We have no cooks, no bus staff, and the restaurant’s three owners are in the kitchen.
Later I would understand that the Latino workers were participating in a protest against the county’s adoption of the 287-g program that would lead to deportations and racial profiling.
I wondered if all the participants would be fired and replaced. Just imagine – three men, ownership partners, cooking the food and even helping to bus the tables. But then the next day, the usual efficient service was back to normal, as were the Latino workers.
I never asked about it? Maybe, to ask is to answer. Why would three Greek owners welcome back employees who had refused to come to work? Greek men who spoke with Greek accents – first generation immigrants themselves – who on that day must have recalled the first time they worked in a restaurant kitchen in their newly adopted country.
As the older white clientele has largely died off or moved away, a new demographic has emerged. More African-American families now come, as well as more Hispanic families.
Now age 68, I shudder to think of how few of these my neighbors would have been admitted to a restaurant in my hometown Charlotte when I was young, or even a young adult in college.
God only knows what diversity of political views must be represented in a given day, but there we all are. Eating together, black, brown and white. There are also several bilingual Latina hostesses and servers. This is my America – my community – and I love it!
Perhaps this is not your America. So I share this to let you know who I am and the context from which I write.
Sometime around 2008, I began teaching English as Second Language classes in a program sponsored by my church — at first on the advanced level, then unexpectedly, the Basic English Class. Armed with nothing more that a verb chart of To Be, I began to teach a class of students who spoke only Spanish.
Then on my own, at age 60, using Spanish Courses which I purchased over the Internet, I began learning Spanish. My aim was simple – to show my students how to use their Spanish to learn English. Or as I now can say in Spanish, “Mi objetivo es enseñarles como utilizar el español para aprender más rápido el inglés.¨ So now my students and I are becoming bilingual. Imagine that! I now speak a second language! In addition, I teach a weekly bilingual class about Jesus and his multicultural gospel.
Just here, I must issue a warning. If you want keep all of your accumulated prejudices and your neat world view and settled politics intact, never do what I did!
Those “strange, other” people, like the almost invisible kitchen cooks, will become visible. No longer will you think of them as unfortunate inconveniences. They will become friends with families and hopes and dreams. When they know they can trust you, they will tell you their stories – and you will understand how important this country is to them.
If you are a person of faith, you might listen as they pray in Spanish about efforts to get asylum for a friend or family member, or some other immigration issue. You might hear them offer their prayer of thanks “por todas las bendiciónes” – for all the blessings.
You will learn to love them, regardless of their status. When you cannot shield them from the negative, toxic manipulation of fear and hate that has reemerged, you will be emotionally overcome. And if they sense your own sense of devastation, they will reach out and comfort you.
In addition, you will be reacquainted with your own immigrant roots, as you consider your ancestors who came to this country with little or nothing, except perhaps a limited English, and made your life possible, against the odds, even if a century or two later. And you will realize that you really don’t care how your forebear got here.
You may, if time allows, become a student of the American Civil Rights Movement, and how laws can be used to dismiss a people as worth-less, a people whose ancestors were kidnapped and brought to this land. You may choose to reflect on the various waves of anti-immigrant sentiment and white nationalism throughout our nation’s history.
You might be surprised to learn that for 162 years there were racial barriers to the naturalization of non-white residents.
You may discover that the advocation of white superiority has been a mainstay of our national experience, costing us dearly and leading to many historic low points.
You may even be willing to question the legitimacy of the Japanese internment camps, or the past legal efforts which forced the Native Americans off their lands.
You may be surprised that the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits a government from having a state-sponsored religion, Christian or otherwise, and that it also protects me from other religionists who wish to impose their articles of faith on me, even as it also protects them from me.
And you may wonder why many white Christians can get so exercised over immigration and protecting the unborn, but care little for the living, breathing families they seek to destroy.
As I have made this eight year journey beyond the secure shelter of my whiteness, I have learned much, and have tried to share it in this blog.
Should you react negatively to my journey and insights, that is certainly your right. I fully recognize that you didn’t ask what I thought.
But if you choose to join me, please do so at your own peril. It may just change your life.