Monday, April 5, 2010

Women's Writes- When the Past meets the Present

I was 13 or 14. It was summer and my best friend and I were walking down the street towards her house. One of our favorite things to do was walk to Chinatown, a 3 block radius in the suburbs with amazing food stores and restaurants. We would order egg drop soup and egg rolls; then paint ceramic bunnies at the pottery store around the corner. It was warm, and the laughter from children playing at the elementary pool as we passed it was infectious.

A car raced up the street towards us, slowing down just long enough for one of its passengers to throw a Slurpee out the window, hitting both of us. While they laughed and attempted a U-turn to get away, one of the men yelled out the car window:


We stood there in stunned silence watching the cold drink drip off our hair and hit the pavement, listening to children playing and laughing nearby. I looked at my friend and saw something I had never seen before in her eyes: apathy.

The two men turned the boulevard and ran their car into a fire hydrant on the corner. We just stood there. That was her street, we were on our way to her house to digest and play video games (remember the Sony channel?). I grabbed her arm and said, "Let's go". We walked the two blocks to my house and as I opened the front door, my father came out from the kitchen eager to hear about my day. Instead, what he saw were two sad, wet, children. I think I was crying when he grabbed a beach towel to dry me off and I told him what had happened. As soon as we were not sticky anymore, he loaded us into the car and drove to the scene of the incident.

The car was still there crashed into the hydrant except now it was joined by a police cruiser and several on-lookers. We pulled past the accident and parked, my father getting out of the car and telling us to "stay put". I watched him walk back towards the police officer. To this day, I have no idea what he said or what the outcome was. When he got back into the car, he said nothing; he just drove us two houses down to my friend's house.

I was old enough to understand what had happened that day, but young and naïve enough to be shocked by it. Sure, this is the south, but I live in a major metropolitan city! This doesn't happen here. My father said something that will haunt me forever. That no matter where I go or what I do, I will be seen a certain way- white, privileged, smart, attractive. My friend however, will struggle her whole life because she is black. It won't matter how smart she is, how pretty, how much money she makes; in some circles she will never be those things and there is nothing she can do about it. She will fight this fight all her life.

I was so angry when he told me this. He's a fool! The world is different! But, the truth is he was right and it made me angry.

My Utopia, my "1984", my "Brave New World", is a world without "-ism's": where little girls can walk down the street without being assaulted; where someone hates you not for the color of your skin, or gender, or sexual orientation; but because they don't like your personality. I've worked my whole life to break down stereotypes. I don't allow that kind of talk from friends nor do I condone the racist jokes I've heard. Around me, that is unacceptable behavior- Make it a habit and you're out.

The purpose of Women Write's was to talk about something that affects women and while I'm sure I've lived up to the spirit of the assignment, I may have taken some pretty big liberties. While speaking with shine yesterday this story is what kept popping into my mind. The end of "-ism's" means an end to all of them- from racism to feminism to capitalism to communism. It means an end to hate, an end to separatism (there's another –ism!). It means equality. Whether you are a woman, man, child, cow, monkey, whatever; you can benefit from the notions of equality. Perhaps you already feel and act that way, perhaps it's something you struggle with everyday, perhaps you have no idea what I'm saying. But, I hope now you will stop to think next time you make a joke, or put someone down, or judge a book by its cover and stop- how would I like it?


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  2. Awesome post, lady. It's so easy to sink into a malaise of acceptance when our day-to-day lives go by, seemingly innocous. But every so often, something like this happens to all of us that shakes us to our core and makes us cry out, "Why?! Has nothing changed?" Thank you for sharing this story with all the candor and honesty I've come to expect from you

  3. Ugh, people are so horrible sometimes.

    I would love a world without -isms, if it meant we didn't need them any more. But not to just no longer have them and continue with the 1940s status quo.

  4. Eh people are awful! I agree with you though... How great would it be if we could remove every bit of hatred and judgment and racism?

  5. Thanks! I know this post may not fit seamlessly with the other Women's Writes entries, but I just had to share it. It's not enough to campaign for yourself, we have to campaign for each other. This experience taught me a lot about being a woman and a person. Thanks for your great thoughts and words!

  6. I applaud you. Seriously. Your post relates completely. We, as a society, need to realize that one ism is just another version of another. That it shouldn't matter what sex, color, religion, etc. you are, but WHO you are that truly matters. Thank you.

  7. I am now crying. It's taken me forever to catch up, but I'm finally reading everything. I can't believe this happened. I know it did. I understand what it meant. And I thank your father with everything in me for standing up and saying something. No matter what it was. I can't explain the anger this makes me feel, but I'm thankful that I have friends that won't put up with it for a second.