There will be more posts on guns and bigots soon, as this shooting (in Olathe, Kansas) has set off a fire storm in my brain. It’s been building for a long time, but for now I must vent. When some of this anger and frustration has waned, and when I have organized some thoughts, I will go into the rest.
It’s time to let go of this stupid nationality stuff. I’m not saying forget your culture, but I am saying that where we originally came from or where our grandparents came from or whatever is not who we are right now. I’m not a French American or a German American (or Czech or Welsh, etc.). I’m just an American; I happen to have been born here, and I happen to have pasty white skin, female sex (and matching gender), and no interest in any religion or deity at this time. Religion is a choice, and it can change. The color of my skin won’t change. All it is is genes. I’m an American just like all the others around me whether they were born here or not.
We’re awfully lazy in this country these days, and 45 and his Numpties are encouraging that. Way too many of our numbers have decided, for some reason, that the color of our skin (and our gender, etc.) determines who we are and how we behave. And when we think others aren’t living up to our perception of the ideal or when we decide we are owed something based on our skin color or gender or whatever, our easy access to guns means we get to “fix” the problem individual(s). This doesn’t work for other sexes or skin colors, but if we’re white and male and think someone else is taking from us somehow, the current administration has given us their blessing in eliminating individuals we perceive to be the problem. According to 45 and the Numpties, “problem” groups include women, any non-white person, any non-Christian person, especially Muslims who have relatives from Middle Eastern countries, LGBTQ, and poor people. They have nothing whatsoever to say when it comes to terrorism inside this country (and Canada) against these groups. Have at it.
Something has confused me for many years. Okay, many things have confused me for a long time, but here’s a specific one. For some reason, we are supposed to refer to black people who live here as African Americans. It doesn’t matter what shade of black or brown a person’s skin is, they are “African” Americans. What if they’re more recently from the Caribbean? Why aren’t people with black skin just Americans like everyone else? Who gives a fuck what color their skin is? I mean, we live in our skin, and it’s beautiful, all the colors and shades, but it’s not who we are. We’re not Mexican Americans, either. Or Chinese Americans. Or Cuban Americans. Or Korean Americans. Or Indian Americans. We’re just Americans with our beautiful colors and cultures and hopes and ideas. We are everyone who is born here and who comes here and shares and dreams and creates.
Religion and color have been given too much importance in this country. Am I an American? or am I a pasty American or white American or French/German/Czech/Welsh American? BTW, I keep listing Welsh last because I’m honestly not sure which part of the British Isles that part of my genes comes from. It’s nothing but a guess. My maiden name has Welsh origins so I assume some genes came from someone in that vicinity who also passed on his name; he might have had a mother from Timbuktu for all I know. The point is it is not important. I am a product of my upbringing, the people I actually knew – parents and grandparents mostly – the opportunities offered to me, and my choices. For me all of these opportunities happened while I grew up in the United States. I am technically an American because I was born here to the descendants of immigrants, but what if I was raised elsewhere? I am an American now because I am still here, because this is what I know and who I am. None of that has anything to do with what color my skin is.
Hell, “my people,” as far as I can tell, have only been in the United States for a little more than 100 years. How come I get to be just an “American” but people who likely had ancestors here one hundred years or more before mine identify with skin color? not even which country they came from? They might not even know any better than I know where my people came from. Africa is a huge continent, and each country inside that continent is different with different skin colors and religions and languages and cultures. A lot of black people come from ancestors who have been on the North American continent a lot longer than my ancestors. I suppose that would make them “more American” than me, right? Why are these ignorant, white bigots telling black people to go home? The families of these black people have probably been here longer than his. And where would they go? How many of us in this country really know where we came from? Every (non-native descendant) one of us needs to ask ourselves and seriously consider the answer to this question, “if I was to be deported where would they send me?” When it comes right down to it, we are ALL African Americans if we live in the United States. And everyone in Europe? They’re African Europeans. People from the continent of Asia? They’re also African. We’re all African.
The point is we have all different skin colors and physical traits and shapes and sizes, and we’re Americans. We’ve variety in color and culture and religion. We all have things to teach each other and to learn from each other. We all have our own struggles (and we need to do a better job of dealing with them and not blaming them on other people/groups). Maybe all of this is partly my white privilege showing. My struggles have been against being a woman all my life and against the things I was taught as a female child, the limits put on me by society and reinforced by my parents and teachers and employers. I have so much more to learn. I am afraid when I walk outside lately, but I am painfully aware (though I’ll never truly understand) of what a woman in a hijab feels, or a transgender person, or a brown-skinned man, a black woman, or a Sikh. . .
There are some lessons about division that are being pushed by the government and parts of society that don’t serve us. It sure didn’t serve those three men in the bar in Olathe shot by a man who told two of them to “get out of my country.” These three men are Srinivas Kuchibhotla, Alok Madasani, and Ian Grillot. Apparently, they didn’t leave fast enough for him so he shot three men who had every right to be here. I don’t care at this point what the shooter’s excuse was (no, I will not use his name to give him fame for this heinous act). The government is sending a clear message to do whatever you want, hateful armed white men, and they’re acting on that directive: that is not terrorism since you have white skin; you’re doing us a favor while we’re busy trying to shove a Muslim ban down America’s throat.
I keep hearing people talking in terms of “us” and “them,” and I want to think there is no such division. They talk about the “them,” the terrorists, the brown or black people, the Muslims, the Jewish people, the LGBTQ, etc. They have an “us” and a “them” (which actually translates to “anyone not us”). As a member of their “them” on about four counts, I have a particular reason to worry, but then, I expect most of us fit into at least one of their “them” categories. After all, how many of us are white, Christian, straight, wealthy, born-in-America males? I try to convince myself that there are no divisions, and that it is wrong to see the world and the country that way. I don’t just mean to say that I think it’s wrong to see the divisions down the same lines they do; I mean that it’s wrong to see divisions at all. I try to convince myself that I don’t see the world that way. What is it about human nature? I can pretend I don’t see it that way, but I do no matter what I tell myself. We pretend we don’t make judgments about individuals, try to classify them, but we do no matter how hard we try not to.
So if I do this, how? Why? To me, “us” is people who look all different ways, worship (or not) all different ways, and we live all over the world. “Us” work, keep homes, we share, we love, we have families and friends or we hope to. We have good and loving intentions even when we screw up. We do the best we can, we care about each other, we help each other, and we try to leave things better than we found them. That is the “us” in my mind no matter how I try to put everyone in the same classification and forget the division completely. So then, there is still a “them” no matter how I try. “They” tend to hate without a reason; they don’t understand that our Constitution, our freedoms, are for us and not the government; they not only believe in some scary stereotypes, but some of them act out based on these imagined differences, imagined sleights; and they are willing to hurt us or to help burn it all based on information that they either know to be lies or were simply too lazy to learn about before they signed on the dotted line.
I expect I’m not the only person who can admit that, try as I might, I still have an “us” and a “them.” My goals in that regard, then, must be to do what I can to unlearn this tendency to classify (do we all do it?) and to make sure that as I make these personal judgments about individuals I take my time. I need get to know people and give them a fair shot, the same shot that I deserve. Not shots, a shot.
Link to story: “First-degree murder charge filed in possible hate crime shooting at Olathe’s Austins bar” – The Kansas City Star