The way “things are”

I feel like I was hit by a bus. This is a serious 4th of July hangover, I know it. I didn’t drink, but I did travel 500 miles to see my in-laws, and then 500 miles back.

It’s a trip we often take, but haven’t since the pandemic. I missed it. Love being on the road. We decided to avoid Illinois since they have an insane number of rules and restrictions for coronavirus. Iowa was a better route this time. It’s more scenic, but also slower. (So much corn!)

4th of July trips always excite me. Before the SJW tirade of “patriotism is racist” it was just a fun holiday for anyone in the country who wanted to have a good time. Sure America has its problems. We always will. Every country does. There is no perfect system. But I’m damn glad I was born in a country where I can talk shit about my own government without being jailed or executed (because they do that in some other places), and I’m super stoked that we can run around blowing up fireworks topless on our own property if we so choose.

I really wish the extremists had a sense of humor. They might enjoy life for a minute. The illusion that “white people ruin everything” and “white people are all racist or evil” is just immature pandering.

Yes, I am part Native American and I’ve always held that dear to my heart, but that doesn’t keep me from celebrating life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that has developed here. We can dwell on the past OR we can move forward to create a better future. You can’t get very far if you’re always looking behind you, and all that.

Take for instance, this weekend. In Wisconsin there is a large Hmong population. These are the Asians that people don’t really talk much about. They are very close, but also extremely racist against anyone who is not Hmong.

I’d never heard of this. I grew up in a diverse area with immigrants from every corner of the globe. Every summer one of the Chinese men in my neighborhood would catch a giant fish and hang it from his porch and stink up the whole neighborhood, but I loved it. That smell is nostalgic to me. My Hindi neighbors filled our building with the scent of spices that make my throat burn and my eyes water, but the taste was sensational. The black families came out to swim with everyone at the pool and we splashed each other and became friends like within minutes.

Sure I’ve met my fair share of racists. Black, white, Puerto Rican, and Asian, racists come in all shapes and sizes from all over. Thankfully they’re usually just sad lonely people who need a damn hug, and maybe some curry. But the Hmong are still a new experience for me. Never have I met an entire community who refuses to talk, smile, or even wave at others just because of the way they look. Not ever.

The first encounter, where my husband had to pull me aside and explain how “things are,” was last summer when we took the children to swim at a cute little quarry beach. My youngest daughter is a ray of sunshine for everyone. She goes up to every kid and wants to play. If she sees someone who looks sad or alone, she gives them a reason to smile and sits with them. It’s what I do and have always done. She’s my mini me. It’s just our nature.

Rejections do happen. Not everyone wants to play. Some kids like being alone, just like some adults, but for the most part friends are easy to come by.

She found a couple of cute little girls to play with at the beach and shared her shovel and pail. But within minutes these cute little Asian girls were called to their mother and Lexi was informed that they weren’t allowed to play with her.

My daughter  didn’t cry or throw a fit. She shrugged it off and found someone else to share her time. My husband and I let it be, but on the way home he explained to her how things were and she was a little sad. Not for herself; for those people who don’t understand what they’re missing out on. She expressed how she “loves meeting different people” and “how fun it is to play with everyone.”

She took it like a pro.

I know that things are rough out there sometimes, but if someone shuns you for being who you are, I really hope you can ignore them and find the people who are so much better than that. Who understand the commonalities that all people share.

This weekend at our hotel we were enjoying some pool time and a large group of Hmong came in with some kids. I told my daughters not to let anyone stop them from being nice. Go say hi, wave, smile and if the other kids aren’t allowed to reciprocate or they don’t want to, then move on. I don’t care how “things are” I will never encourage anyone to give up on caring for everyone. The children in that group didn’t shun my kids like before. They did keep their distance, but at least their parents smiled at us. That matters to me.

I understand that some cultures are protective of their heritage. I also understand that we live in a free country and an unfortunate part of that freedom is that people are free to keep their prejudices so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. That’s life. It’s not always fair.

Even so I am proud to raise children who don’t give up, kids who don’t resort to pettiness just because their feelings get hurt. No matter how others treat them, they know that they are answerable for themselves and only themselves. Instead of worrying over whether other Hmong children would hate them for being white, they played, laughed, and had a great 4th of July.

This issue isn’t going away. These are not the only encounters we’ve had, but they are the most memorable and they probably won’t be the last. When it is clear that someone wants to keep separate, we deal with it as best we can and work to make sure that we do not punish everyone for the actions of the few.

To me, that is worth keeping in practice and celebrating.  

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