Thankful Thursday: Fighting Racism and Misogyny Requires Gratitude and Forgiveness, Not Hate

So, this happened.

It’s hard for me to figure out what’s more disgusting about this video.

The slurs? The fact that this woman spewed out the foulest language imaginable in front of her two young kids? The ease with which she jumped to racist talk when angry?

As the man in the video says, racism is alive and well.

We hear about it everyday. The recent Don Sterling episode was just one example in a very long history of discrimination and utter disregard for an entire race. As appalled as we all are when the story hits the front page, how often do we encounter this in our own backyards and do nothing?

I hear it at work in the stories my coworkers tell and the words they choose to describe people of other races:

Chinky eyes.

Dirty Mexican.

Speak English, you’re in America.

And it’s not just racism but misogyny as well. The way women are talked about, laughed at, criticized, or just plain condemned by those who work with me or near me is downright nauseating.

It shames me that I don’t stand up to it more. I could be like this guy and pull out my camera, record, and upload on YouTube. That’s what people do these days. And bravo to them for putting it out there. We need more people pushing this conversation into the mainstream.

Because as he said, racism is alive and well.

But is this really helping? We watch these videos, or read the rants on social media and people argue back and forth on message boards. People are outraged and express that anger through all kinds of outlets online or in person. Given how pervasive racism and misogyny are though, how much is any of it actually contributing towards tangible change?

I’m no saint. I judge and stereotype too. It’s easier for me to shut it out and just ignore it when I hear it from others, but I’m also quick to jump to conclusions. My experiences growing up led me to reject anything that pegged me (or anyone) into a racial profile and I stayed away from many aspects of my own cultural background as a result. I’ll admit that stems from my own insecurities which leads to a lack of understanding and unfair bias. Guilty as charged.

I spent most of my life defending the fact that I was Latino because I didn’t follow the preconceived notions of what a Latino looks like or acts like. It got to a point where I was so sick of having the conversation that I learned to tune out the racist talk. I am who I am, an amalgamation of the immigrant experience, New York urban upbringing, with a propensity for nerdy discourse and overthinking things. Take it or leave it.

But I’m beginning to question my ignorance. Not only have I lost out on embracing the beauty of my heritage, I’ve also become afraid to challenge others when I’m offended. By turning off my response to racism, I’ve become an uncomfortable bystander in moments when I really just want to turn to the person and ask them, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I hate confrontations. I’ve gotten by, by staying out of the fray, observing but not commenting, judging but not acting, feeling guilty but not forgiving; and I realize how horrible that makes me feel.

I don’t know what the right answer is. Battling every single person who says something racist or misogynistic seems impossible. And besides, responding in kind with your own verbal onslaught doesn’t solve anything.

You judge, I judge, we all judge, but no one wins.

Nor am I a naive idealist who believes that one day we’ll live in a world without racism. It’s always been there because it’s bred out of fear. And fear is never going anywhere.

That said, we’ve come a long way this past century in so many incredible ways. We have freedoms in this country that others in the world fight and die for every day, without ever realizing those dreams.

I can send my future daughter to school and not have to worry that masked gunmen will pluck her out of her class and sell her to the highest bidder. #BringBackOurGirls

I can marry and divorce a man without having my family stone me to death. #YesAllWomen

I can go to school or take a job in any industry I want regardless of my gender. #YesAllWomen

Immigrants like my parents can came to this country without speaking the language, and raise five children with the resources and benefits provided by our government. They are then able to gain citizenship and continue to fight for their rights without censorship or reprisal. A huge win for two Latinos who came out of brutal poverty and dictatorship. #Latism

For all of that I am thankful.

It will take more experience and conversation for me to understand my place in the daily battles of us versus them.

I do know that the goal for myself and my loved ones is to change that to we, to embrace everyone without prejudice along any lines; race, gender, physical disability, mental health, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, job title…or any choices made that I just don’t understand because I can’t relate.

My hope is that I can pass this along to my children. That the day they see me angry in a parking lot, that I handle it constructively and mindful that my children are learning how to deal with difficult situations from my example. Nothing like this woman who chose to teach her children the worst, as they too started cursing at the man in the car.

Violence perpetuates violence. Racism perpetuates racism. It’s a cycle.

I’ve made a conscious effort to stay away from some of the stickier subjects on this blog for different reasons. I didn’t even have the intention of posting something today, until I saw this video in my news feed. I’m sure I’ll come back to this post thinking I forgot an important point or wishing that I’d said something more eloquent or profound.

But I realize that all of that is besides the point. You can’t force people to change, but you do have a choice in how you react and treat those around you.

I chose to start this day with a reflection on my part in the dialogue around me. It’s a daily struggle for me to internalize all of the misguided ignorance I hear, but I also know that there are many people out there who don’t share those thoughts. I’m relying on my faith that soon I’ll be out of this environment and around like-minded company who can at least participate in a constructive conversation about the topic. For now, I have this blog and all of you.

This was a stream of consciousness meant to unburden some of these pent up feelings, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

What did you think about the video?

How do you choose to deal with hurtful comments that are racist or misogynistic in nature?

Why do we have such a hard time accepting people of other cultures or the opposite sex?

What are you thankful for this week?

Thankful Thursday 6-5-14

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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Thankful Thursday: Is This What I Truly Want?

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

“We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay — and rise!”

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

-Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s poetry always moved me, but I didn’t quite appreciate the beauty and simplicity of her words until recently.

My journey- sometimes impossible but always worthwhile- continually forces me to confront my past, my fears, my choices and my vision of a life that I am working so hard to shape each second of every day.

It’s not easy. Nothing worth having, ever is.

But Angelou’s words always seem to appear when I needed them most, as a reminder to strip down the obstacle to it’s barest core and walk away from it with a lesson instead of a burden.

I’ve worked myself into the ground, trying so hard to do everything I can to move past this point in my journey and get to the next level towards my higher purpose. It’s as if I’m trying to make up for eight years of stagnant growth in a few months.

I ignored my body’s urgent messages, namely exhaustion and lack of focus, to slow down and committed myself to a grueling schedule.

I made excuses for skipping the things that actually make me feel good, like exercise and healthy eating, and told myself that it would have to take a backseat to what was necessary in the moment.

I forgot that experiencing the journey moment by moment was the whole point here, and the destination is only a byproduct.

We work ourselves into the ground or up against a wall and grind ourselves down even further until there’s nothing left. It’s become a silent disease that cripples us and stifles our passions. But we sacrifice it all for a vague dream or a status quo, never taking the time to stop and ask ourselves:

Is this what I truly want?

Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman in so many ways. She left a permanent mark in the world with her brilliance and her dedication to teaching us the most important lessons in life: self-acceptance, equality, kindness, dedication, love.

I’ve given up so many times in the past at exactly the point that I find myself now. I get so tired and the vision that appeared so sharp and bright when I began, suddenly gets blurry and confusing.

But if there’s anything I’m grateful for this week, it’s that I’m hitting that turning point and choosing to ask myself the important questions so that I can continue moving forward, not backward.

Get a workout in. Skip the piece of cake and reach for fruit instead. Go to bed earlier to get quality sleep for the day ahead. Saying no when I possibly can’t get it done. Saying yes when fear tells me not to. These are the little steps I’m taking to get there, bit by bit.

Thankful Thursday 529

Do you take the time to take care of yourself?

What are you thankful for this week?

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Thankful Thursday: Holding On For Tonight

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist

There are times when nothing helps.

I had the kind of week where I lost sight of the big picture. Autopilot kicked in and each day bled into the next, with little change in my mood or outlook on some major life changes that are looming on the horizon.

Meditation, exercise, writing in my journal, affirmations; none of it worked.

What frustrated me was that I felt more on track and confident in the last month then I had in a long time. Why the sudden turn around?

Then, I saw this:

I fell in love with “Chandelier” as soon as I heard it a month ago. Sia makes great music and I’ve adored her for awhile now.

But watching this video was a different experience.

Do you remember what it was like when you sat on a swing and pushed yourself as high as you could go? That exhilaration? The glee and wonder of it all?

I spend so much time analyzing, contemplating, second-guessing; just plain thinking myself into circles. All the while, I’m standing still, locked in a perpetual state of worry.

Sometimes, don’t you want to just get up and spin around in circles or jump up and down on your bed, like you did when you were a kid?

The pure reckless abandon of spins, jumps, and playing endless games that you invented, is what makes being a kid so damn incredible.

Watching this video brought me back to those days, but it also pushed me forward. Maybe I won’t run around my apartment leaping from furniture or throwing myself on the ground. I definitely won’t try doing splits anytime soon.

What I can do is learn to let go of all that tension I carry around, and to live in the moment. For no other reason then to embrace the idea that the we’re only guaranteed today and we should truly live in the time we have.

We have ups and downs and sometimes our circumstances make it hard to shake off the bad energy. I’m a realist and oftentimes a pessimist (there, I said it). There’s no harm in cutting yourself some slack to do something, anything that makes you feel like that kid on a swing trying to get higher off the ground.

Thankful Thursday; Holding on for Tonight

When was the last time you felt free and joyful like the young girl in the video?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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