My Mother said to me,”I honestly don’t know what your lens is like.”
My Mother and I were talking this evening about race. As a white woman, she never stood on the side of the tracks that we minorities stand. That is not to say she is an arrogant woman, but in her words she is “ignorant” to what the life of a minority is like.
Sure is not the worst life, not all the time.
That being said, the whole thing was brought up when I told her that I have experienced racism at La Crosse. I must stand up for myself when it happens and I do. Not always in the best manner, however, yet I do.
Being an Asian, and looking somewhat oriental, I believe that lots of people think I must look weak and vulnerable, otherwise they wouldn’t try to fuck with me. It doesn’t happen too often, but more than I expected that it would.
Like many students at my school, she grew up in a predominantly (if not completely) homogenous society. That of the majority, the ‘white world’. I, because I have been adopted by her and my Father, I gain privilege from ‘white privilege’ for in many aspects I have this privilege.
It is interesting to think that I have a different lens from her. I always saw myself as ‘white’ for I have always believed I’m the same as my parents. In all ways but skin, I would say that I am. Skin has influenced my experiences in life differently than that of my parents.
My mom told me about how she went to a racial justice class and there she was shown a film. The film had a group of women from all walks of life discussing their experiences. She said the Muslim women were especially upset, extremely upset, because of how hard it was for those women to live in the United States. Do not generalize from what they said, but take it into account. They described their culture as being somewhat oppressive, in that they are second to men and the men can dictate a lot of their lives. Also, after 9/11 their community in the United States started turning their backs to the Muslims and that for these women it was hard to rely on their male Muslim counterparts. These are individual stories, but my Mom said it hit her in the stomach. She was very unhappy that people experience this.
She apologized to me for not understanding that we have different lenses, and she said she was embarrassed. She ought not be if you ask me, nor should she apologize. She simply didn’t realize until now, and I am not sure that I have either.
It’s so bizarre to think about, that we see the world differently. She lived in an era of blatant segregation, I live in an era of less blatant racism.
It seemed to take a lot for her to open up about it, it seemed to her rather emotional. I felt emotional too, for I felt that we were seeing eye to eye on a topic we don’t discuss that often, yet was inevitable seeing as she and my Father brought two Asian boys into their home as their sons.
From the youth they tried educating us in social justice, racism, and the like. I am thus familiar with the ideas, but personally have a limited experience. This grows, as does the understanding of what my parents were trying to teach me.
Where am I going with this, I am not sure.
Whatever the point may be, I decided I want to make a film:
-I would like to find out who has been reporting incidents of racism/otherhateacts around campus and I would like to interview them about their experiences.
-I would like to interview faculty who are both of the majority and minority about their experiences.
-I would like to interview random people about what their opinions are as far as the hate report statistics go.
I don’t want to victimize myself or others, but there are lots of reported incidents, and surely many unreported incidents. Numbers only say so much though. Perhaps those were reports of rather benign comments, perhaps severe hate crimes which ought to be publicized. Either way, we won’t know if a.) those stories are imprisoned as numbers and b.) no one pays attention to it.
At the student senate meeting, there are maybe 5 minority representatives. Those 5 hardly gave input into the conversations. Granted, I was only there for one meeting. During the meeting, in the beginning, one woman stated that there has been an increase in reported hate incidents and that the use of the word ‘Nigger’ has been increasing around campus as well. What was discussed about this? Nothing during that meeting, no one seemed to have any comments on it. This is interesting, because as a student senate, they ought to take these sorts of issues on. The majority of the meeting was discussing a policy which would restrict smoking to the perimeters of the campus, and most of the statements were “I” statements, not exactly representative of the body who the senator is there to represent.
Now, that being said, I am not in a place to judge for I have not appreciated yet the work they have done for the campus, nor as individuals their own goals with student senate. However, I was not impressed with the level of articulation in the senate nor with the maturity levels. I did not see myself as a student being represented, so I will run for senate and hopefully represent my friends well.
I need to be more humble still.