Reporter Samantha Pak, from one of our sister papers, the Redmond Reporter, wrote the following piece. We thought it was too good not to share.
Last week, I was standing at the front of the line for the checkout counter at a local bookstore. There was one man standing behind me but a few moments later, an Asian woman stepped in line behind him. The woman began calling to her young daughter — probably in preschool or kindergarten — in what I thought was a Chinese language. The man standing between us started imitating her under his breath.
I’m not sure if the other woman heard him or what her reaction to the man was, but when I heard his gibberish, I just froze. I’d like to say I turned around and gave him a piece of my mind, but unfortunately I was reeling from the shock of hearing something so blatantly racist – something I hadn’t experienced since elementary school. I’m not usually so easily offended, but when the man bumped into my purse, I had this visceral reaction to pull my purse in front of me, away from the man. It wasn’t because I was worried about him snatching my purse or pickpocketing me; it was because the contact made me feel dirty. I just wanted to get as far away from this man as possible.
As disturbing as the incident was on its own, the fact that it occurred on Monday — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — made things that much worse. Here was this holiday, celebrated to honor one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who worked to end racism and dedicated his life to achieving equal rights for all, and here I was standing in close proximity of someone who had no qualms about mocking someone because they were different.
It was King’s dream for his children to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Sadly, recent events in this country and around the world, as well as my experience from this week, have proved that King’s dream is still just that: a dream. As much progress as we have made in this world, we have not made enough.
Our president may be black, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t faced discrimination and prejudice as a result of his race. What other president has had their birthplace and religion questioned as much as Barack Obama has – or has had them questioned at all? Newsflash: Island life on Hawaii may be a whole other world, but it is still part of the United States.
I cannot accept some people’s claim that we live in a post-racial society.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, people have been holding the entire Muslim community — all 1.6 billion of them worldwide — responsible for the actions of just a handful of individuals. But where was this call for accountability for the Catholic community to accept responsibility when story after story broke about priests and other members of the church molesting children?
You cannot tell me we are all equal when a black woman has to warn her children that their mistakes can have more serious (and sometimes lethal) consequences than their non-black peers’ mistakes and then tells me it’s not a matter of fairness — it just is.
A Mexican American high schooler once told me she has been met with surprise for enrolling in an advanced class — or for even just showing up to class. Do not tell me she is not being judged for being born brown.
And if I get annoyed when someone walks up to me and asks — without so much as saying “hello” – where I am from, do not tell me to get over it. How would you feel if someone just looks at you and basically tells you that you could not possibly belong here? Here, in the community in which you were born, went to school, grew up and now work?
Where in any of these scenarios are we being judged by our character?
The sad truth is we’re not.
And just as the saying about how long it took to build Rome goes, it’s apparently going to take more than 50 years for King’s dream to come true.