[In May and June of 2020, a time of pandemic isolation, economic collapse, and intense partisan rivalry, videos of Minneapolis cops lynching George Floyd — a Black man with his hands cuffed behind his back — sparked nationwide mass protests against widespread police brutality and systemic racism in America.]
Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on human lives worldwide, and in this country, without discrimination, in rich American homes and in poor American ghetto housing apartments alike. But racism is a far longer and much deeper illness than Covid. So I see that taking a stand against racism is worth marching, protesting and dying for. The recipients of racism know of its ravages to themselves and to their families' physical, mental and emotional well-being. For generations its recipients have known fear and anxiety on an intimate basis. It is impossible not to be seen "only as a minority" in this country, if you are one of them.
Most of White America has been immune from this deep, systemic illness I call racism, until now. White America is suddenly being attacked by a virus that doesn't discriminate, that they cannot fight off and they are suddenly scared to death. They worry if their loved one(s) will still be alive, or if he/she will come home safe and healthy that night. America has been ravaged with the virus and Shelter-In-Place for over 100 days now. I wonder if these Americans realize how Black American families have been feeling and worrying and fearing this way for over 400 years nowevery day and nightwhether their father, or brother, or son or daughter would come home safe?
I look at my own upbringing in my Chinese American family of ten members growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown. I never recall having to worry or fear that my Dad would not come home from work every day, or whether he would be killed out in the streets. I remember worrying if I would go hungry some days, but I never starved and a bowl of rice with dried fish and tea was usually enough until the next day.
And like the spikes of Covid-19, Asian American-bashing has started up again. But this is nowhere close to Black American bashing, not yet.
Empathy is a precious word for me nowadays. I will never be or become Black [or Hispanic, Muslim, LGBTQ, other..] but I can empathize close enough as a racial minority, as a female, as an elderly person, and more importantly as another minority who witnessed first-hand what actually happened in the Deep South.
It is ironic that it takes both a virus and a video of a policeman killing of a Black man, George Floyd, to awaken us all to the frailty of human life; and to the cold demeanor flashed across our screens of another person letting him die on-camera. A person without freedom or liberty to live — like any one of us, without knowing whether we may live or die from a virus.
There seems a wave of new consciousness happening. People of all colors and walks of life — in the hundreds of thousands — have taken to the streets in unity as "One American" to fight this racism and to tell Blacks that they finally matter: Other-Americans empathize and are hopefully learning to listen better and to respect better.
Although I have not taken to the streets, my children have; at first I didn't want them to because of Covid, but finally realized that once upon a time in 1966 I, too, took to the highways in the James Meredith March Against Fear. I was ready to take on fear. Today and forward to the future, I see that young people of all colors and creeds in America can be "one together" as allies for Justice; they are proving that to me in their protesting for ten-days and counting.
This is very different from the protests of the Civil Rights Movement and of the Anti-Vietnam War. At those protests I was always the minority among other minorities and other whites. Today's protests include the real diversities of the Americans that make up this entire Nation and they have taken over the streets and the future of the Nation! At today's protests, I would never "stand out" in the crowd of whites or Blacks as an Asian American — there would be too many of "me" that you wouldn't be able to find me, actually. That brings me hope.
Meditation is another precious word for me. Thanks to Sheltering-in-Place I have begun to calm down as the world around me becomes more quiet and beckons my anxious body to relax, despite my mind trying to fight off depression on the state of the pandemic and the state of race equality in our society. It's got to be better. Doing what's right always matters. So we will overcome.
Copyright © Marion Kwan, 2020
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