When you walk down the street, can you tell what nationality I am? Can you tell from the color of my skin that I’m American, besides being Asian? Or even more so, an Asian Jew?
These questions may not enter one’s mind in passing, but don’t we all have preconceived ideas about anyone we see on the street? This week’s shooting resulted in 8 deaths, six of whom were Asian women. A 21-year old white man in Atlanta, GA was the perpetrator. Racial issues have become much more pronounced and how could they not? Almost daily, we hear of shootings and other killings, whether here in the US or abroad. Terrorist-driven or not, the issue of race has been the common denominator for it.
I may not look American (what does it even mean?), but I came to this country as an immigrant and received my citizenship when I was 15 years old. My parents left a dictatorial regime to live in a country where freedom was embraced. Their bravery to escape the ideals they couldn’t accept and leave behind their families gave us the opportunity to dream and exert the freedom that wasn’t readily available to them.
Was it an easy transition? I naively thought it would be. Since I was educated in English, I didn’t think I would be noticed, and for a while I wasn’t. My high school and college years were pretty uneventful. I had friends and was socially active in an environment that was culturally diverse. My friends were Irish, African-American, Italian, Indian, White, and Filipino. While we all came from different races, we never considered ourselves as different; that was one of the reasons I never thought I would be singled out or stereotyped, but two incidents would change how I saw myself and how others saw me.
My first encounter was while I was searching for an apartment after moving out of my parents’ home. As a young adult who had just landed her first real job, I thought it was time to be on my own. Looking for an apartment was far from easy and I was willing to commute. My apartment search took me to New York City but the rent was not affordable for me at the time so I ventured to search in Brooklyn. It was while I was walking around my prospective neighborhood where I encountered my initial brush with racism.
As I was being shown around the neighborhood by my prospective housemate, I noticed two young women coming towards us. Not thinking anything of it, I kept walking on the sidewalk until I was almost face to face with these women, then it happened. As they were about to pass me, the one closest to me pushed me onto the street with oncoming traffic. Had I not caught myself from falling, I might have been hit by a car. I was shocked and taken aback because I had no clue why I was pushed, other than the fact that this young woman didn’t like the way I looked.
The second encounter happened as I was waiting for my husband to come out of a meeting. As I stood there, one of the men who had just come out of the same meeting started a conversation with me by asking what my nationality was. When he found out that I was Filipina, he asked if I was a mail-order bride because he was waiting for his bride to arrive in the US within a few weeks. After the initial shock of being classified as a mail-order bride without knowing who I was, I became angry. I informed him that I had been a New Yorker for most of my life as a US citizen and I was not a mail-order bride. My anger dissipated after a few minutes because I realized that this was just another stereotype that’s been projected via presumption of someone coming from a low income country. It’s an unfair assumption that Filipinas who come to the States are here to get a husband and become a citizen. In addition, the perception of Asian women to be fetishized by men like the murderer in Atlanta is demeaning and misogynistic.
While it’s true that there are women from the Philippines who come here to make a future for themselves or their family, making that a reality is through education and finding a job, not procuring a husband. Yes, there are women from the Philippines and other countries whose goal is to find a husband in order to provide for their families back home, but that’s not every woman. The women who were murdered in Atlanta were targeted by this man as a result of his own warped perceptions of Asian women.
Attacks on Asians have never been as visible or prevalent until the pandemic, and these recent attacks have become deadly. According to a New York Times article this past week, “In December, slurs about Asians and the term “Kung Flu” rose by 65 percent on websites and apps like Telegram, 4chan and The Donald, compared with the monthly average mentions from the previous 11 months on the same platforms, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute. The activity remained high in January and last month.” Pointing the fingers at Asians for the existence of COVID-19 combined with forced locked down for a year has made it convenient for so many to spew hatred on them. Even more disturbing is that according to NBC Asia America,”The research released by reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday revealed nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the course of roughly a year during the pandemic”, 68% of which were reported by women.
As a woman whose daughter is Filipina and White, I have encountered some other stereotypes that nowadays, just make me shake my head. Questions like “oh are you her Mom?” when at a cash register paying for something or the look from me to her, wondering whether I’m some relative, makes me want to scream, “can’t you just keep your thoughts to yourself?”, but alas, there is always someone who makes unsolicited comments.
The shooting in Atlanta has made me realize how far we still have to go. Targeting races that are viewed as Other or Non-White is not new, given the history of slavery in this country. There are still inequalities in jobs and pay experienced by those who are not considered “white enough” or are a woman. Not everyone I meet will know my nationality right away, and it shouldn’t matter, but given the violence perpetrated by this past week, I’m not so sure.
My daughter has never experienced being stereotyped as a result of her race. I pray she never does, but in these uncertain times, who knows who will be targeted next? For people like my parents and so many others who came here looking for freedom and a chance to have a better life, the events this past week are a reminder that one’s race shouldn’t be the litmus test of who deserves to live in this country. Just like my parents and so many immigrants who defied all odds to come to this country, I will not be defined by my race because I am more than what you first see. I’m a human being…and Asian, shouldn’t that be enough?
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
My teenager has had a rough few months. She came to me with the information that she felt suicidal and had a plan to end her own life.
I brought her to our local emergency room, where my baby girl had her clothes taken away, an alarm strapped to her wrist, and a room right across from the nurses’ station where she could be constantly monitored. After a long day of evaluations, testing, and phone calls, my child was transferred to another hospital that had a juvenile psychiatric ward.
After her stay in the psychiatric ward, my daughter enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.
Her clinician there told me I needed to lock up all of our household medication and anything sharp. Knives in the kitchen, razors in the bathroom, and even child safety scissors that couldn’t cut hair all had to be locked up in a metal container, not plastic, as plastic could be broken fairly quickly. I asked the woman telling me all of this whether this level of action was necessary for a teenager who had only had thoughts of hurting herself without acting on any of those ideas.
My daughter’s clinician told me that nothing would really, truly keep my child safe if she was determined to hurt herself. The goal in locking up those medications and sharp objects was to make it more difficult for her to act impulsively if she felt the urge to self-harm. I have thought about those words frequently these past few days. We live in a society where weapons are easily obtainable. Somehow, our society has not yet realized that legally allowing such free access to semi-automatic weapons is allowing people like my daughter, whose mental states are not where they should be, to be able to make spontaneous decisions to harm themselves or others.
Let me be clear: I am not talking about criminals here. People who want to break the law will find ways to do so, and I will not waste my words bickering over why changing the laws won’t do anything to stop lawbreakers. I am talking about people who are mostly law-abiding but are struggling with serious mental health issues or going through extremely emotionally charged situations, such as a horrific divorce. I am also not talking about infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’m not arguing that US citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.
I am, however, stating that any random U.S. citizen should not be able to obtain whatever kind of weapon they desire whenever they want it. No one told me I couldn’t keep scissors in my house while my daughter struggles with depression and anxiety. Her doctors and therapists realized that scissors would be present, much like guns will always be present in our country. Instead, her doctors told me how to prevent my child from using those scissors to hurt herself on an impulse while she battles depression. When my daughter needs to use scissors for a project, I’m going to give her the child safety scissors instead of something sharp enough to cut or stab herself. Our country should likewise exercise caution.
The Second Amendment was written long before the invention of today’s weaponry. We should update our gun laws. Horrible impulses to hurt other people with semi-automatic weapons should not be able to be planned and performed as easily as they are today.
Knowing my daughter’s current battles with anxiety and depression, I am concerned about the day she is old enough to legally obtain a gun. She is medicated and receiving treatment at the moment, but I will not always be around to watch out for her mental state. God willing, my child will fully recover and live a long and healthy, happy life. Regardless, I want our country to come together and make it more difficult for my child to obtain a gun, so if she does ever again have that impulsive thought to end her own life, it will be harder for her to do so.
This is an original post submitted to World Moms Network. The author has been verified by our editing team, but has requested to remain anonymous.
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Another school shooting in America. It hardly seems newsworthy anymore sometimes because it’s becoming so common in my country. This time Parkland, Florida is the city added to the list of other communities where a gun was fired in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, killing 17 people. That’s a list no one wants to be on. But the national conversation around this shooting is turning out to be very different. Is it because the shooter was more imaginative that those before him? No. Is it because it was more students died? It’s true that this was the most deadly massacre since Sandyhook Elementary in Newtown, CT, but no. There is something else distinctly different happening in the media and it has everything to do with the response of the victims themselves.
An Unusual Response
Generally, we have a gruesome routine of reactions to an American mass shooting. People express shock that such a tragedy could happen. Politicians send out statements of “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims. Some citizens and a few politicians start to call for stricter gun safety laws. Then, critics accuse gun safety advocates or trying to politicize the conversation and being insensitive to the feelings of victims by wanting to talk about gun policy “too soon” while families still grieve. This loop gets played out over and over again with each deadly shooting. It’s so cliche that we have late night comedy show sketches and parody news articles about it.
But this time, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have a completely different reaction in 2018 than those from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 or any other school shooting. They immediately took to social media – some during the actual event – and took the story into their own hands. What we are seeing from these young leaders is extraordinary.
Seventeen-year-old senior David Hogg thought to record footage on his phone during the shooting and spoke passionately to MSNBC within hours. During the shooting, he didn’t know he would survive, so he thought his recorded last minutes might show the world what happened in a way that would actually change things and prevent future tragedies. He told reporters, “We don’t need ideas. We need action. We need action from our elected officials and we need action from the civic public. Because without that, this is going to happen again.” Most people are not so eloquent or composed at any time, much less immediately after an emotional trauma.
Students Use Twitter as a Platform
As the hours passed, more students mobilized. Florida senator Marco Rubio made a very typical statement cautioning against jumping to conclusions before the facts are in. He asserted that it was not appropriate to use the incident as an opportunity to call for increased gun control. When his comments went out via Twitter, several Parkland students used that as an opportunity to directly communicate with their senator. One of them, identified as @sarahchad_, on Twitter sent him this message: “As a student who was inside the school while an active shooter was wreaking terror and havoc on my teachers and classmates with an AR-15, I would just like to say, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
Fox News celebrity Tomi Lahren found herself the target of Parkland students when she tweeted the argument that “the Left” should give time to let families grieve and asserted that the shooting was not a “gun issue.”
“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”
“A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu tomi”
Mobilizing for the Future
By Saturday, the students were officially coordinated and mobilized. They held a Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation that hit its peak with a fiery speech from Emma Gonzalez that quickly went viral. Speaking forcefully through her tears – voice never wavering – she made it clear that Parkland students were determined to be the last school shooting and the ones we would read about in future textbooks for changing the conversation about gun control.
The rally and social media activity created massive momentum that continues to build. On Sunday, high school junior Cameron Casey and his classmates announced the nationwide “March for Our Lives” to take place on March 24. It will happen in Washington D.C. and around the country in collaboration with Everytown for Gun Safety. So many students contacted gun safety organization Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America (started after the school shooting in Newtown, CT and affiliated with Everytown) for collaboration that there is now discussion about the advocacy group forming a special student branch. I hope that these savvy teens continue to make giant waves and be an important part of gun policy discussion moving forward. They have already grabbed the narrative and I hope they don’t let go. I think this last tweet sums up their resolve nicely.
let it be known that cruz messed with the wrong school. We as students are using social media as a platform to have our voices heard. Let it be known that we are and will be in contact with our legislators and politicians.
Change is now and it is starting with the survivors.
Cynthia Changyit Levin took her first advocacy action in 2001 with a hunger event at her church. Years later, after resigning from her position as an automotive engineer to raise her newborn daughter, she searched for a way she could better the world from home while caring for infants. She returned to advocacy and is now a dedicated volunteer activist with RESULTS, Shot@Life, ONE, and Bread for the World.
Levin involves her young children in her advocacy activities, including face-to-face lobby meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing, and classroom advocacy projects. She shares what she has learned about advocacy through her Anti-Poverty Mom blog and training other activists with RESULTS. Her op-eds and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Chicago area newspapers as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, the New York Times and the international Financial Times.
Levin has served on the Board of Directors for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and on staff with RESULTS Educational Fund as a fundraising coach for grassroots volunteers.
When I first came to Canada just over seventeen years ago, I was struck by the fact that every murder in Toronto made front page news. Every single one. When I heard that 2000, the year of my arrival, had seen 81 homicides in the Greater Toronto Area, I was slightly stunned.
81 homicides in Canada’s biggest metropolitan area, and less than 600 in the whole of Canada? What, in just one year? It just didn’t seem real.
To put things into perspective, I came to Canada from South Africa, which at the time was experiencing roughly fifty reported murders every day. Only the most sensational murders, such as the violent demise of South Africa’s former first lady Marike de Klerk, made national news. The rest got a three-line mention on the inside pages of the local community newspaper.
The realization that I had become desensitized to tragedy was one of the most sobering moments of my life. I felt that in losing my ability to mourn the loss of human life, I was losing a key part of my humanity.
I fear that this kind of desensitization is happening en masse in North America, specifically in the United States. We are becoming so accustomed to hearing about mass shootings that we are no longer surprised by them. What’s worse is that we actually expect them to happen. They have become an inevitable part of life in the United States.
American children are growing up in a world in which gun violence is “normal”. Their parents are becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that since gun laws are unlikely to change in any meaningful way, this is just going to keep happening.
In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 and wounded hundreds more, I am seeing some depressingly world-weary sentiments on my social media feeds.
“If nothing changed after Sandy Hook, why would we expect it to change now?”
“The right to guns is more important to lawmakers than the right to life.”
“It’s going to happen again before long.”
And the one that really breaks my heart:
“We just have to accept it.”
It seems that Americans fall into two very general camps. There are those who are spending their time trying to convince everyone else that, in spite of overwhelming evidence and common sense, guns are not really a problem. And there are those who desperately want things to change for the better, but are losing hope that this will ever happen.
The danger is that once that resignation sets in, desensitization is likely to follow. If you don’t think anything is going to change, you start to accept the status quo, and you lose the ability to be shocked by mass shootings.
My American friends, I say this to you with love. Keep the faith. Don’t lose hope, and do whatever you can to bring about the change that is so desperately needed. Educate yourself about the gun laws in your state and lobby your government representatives to change what isn’t working. Above all, use the power of your vote at every possible opportunity.
Don’t allow yourselves to get used to tragedy. Nothing will change unless we continue to feel the shock, the outrage, the sadness. We can avoid desensitization by thinking of the lost lives, the parents who have lost children, and the children who have lost parents, brothers, sisters and friends.
Shed some tears, feel the sadness, mourn for the victims of mass shootings. And for them and their loved ones, keep fighting for change, and keep believing that change is possible.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
A thought-provoking tweet has been making the rounds on social media since the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. The tweet reads, “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” How can this be? How can this really be?
But something is happening. Since Orlando, there has been a swell of support for real change in gun control measures in the United States. Senator Chris Murphy held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster to demand a vote on gun safety laws. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy brought two powerful amendments to the floor for a vote: one requiring background checks for all gun sales, and another blocking gun sales to suspects on the terrorist watch list (both, sadly, were voted down).
On Wednesday, Rep. John Lewis lead his colleagues in a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on common-sense gun control measures. Those representatives are held their ground for more than 24 hours, and plan to take up where they left off when Congress is back in session. In addition, City Council members in Charlottesville, VA passed a resolution this week asking the state to allow localities to create their own gun control laws. Since the Federal government hasn’t stepped up, the city of Charlottesville wants to take the safety of its citizens into its own hands.
Furthermore, scores of articles have appeared in the media championing everything from repealing the second amendment, to background checks for gun sales, from preventing dangerous people from purchasing guns, to banning assault weapons. And, perhaps most importantly, Americans are contacting their representatives in record numbers, insisting on gun control. Constituents across the United States tweeted, texted, called and wrote to their representatives demanding change.
Personally, I will no longer be a passive bystander. I will no longer do nothing shake my head every time there is a mass shooting, yet does nothing. I will stand up for my right and the rights of all to live a life free from the risk of being killed by a bullet. I will not rest until there is a sea change in the way we approach gun politics.
I stand with my fellow Americans, finally demanding an end to the unacceptable loss of life that has become completely routine in the United States. We will keep writing to our representatives until there is a real change in the way we approach gun control in America. We have lost thousands of innocent lives to gun violence. How many more deaths must we endure before we stand up and DEMAND gun control laws? We will endure no more. Enough is enough. We will NOT let Sandy Hook mark the end of the gun control debate in our country.
#ENOUGH #DisarmHate #NoBillNoBreak
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu.
Tara Wambugu is a wife, a mother of two, and a Kenya-based lifestyle blogger covering parenting, family life, travel, and more. A former aid worker, Tara has worked in various countries in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Central America. She is now a stay-at-home mom living in Nairobi with her husband and their two sassy little girls. You can follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni.
“Will we be safe there?” My 11 year old son asked me that question as we were discussing our winter holiday travel plans, and I suppose, given that we live in the UAE, his question might make sense. In the last few years, we’ve traveled to Jordan, India, Kenya – all places that have been in the news lately as sites of violence.
Where are we going for the winter holidays, you might wonder, that would elicit such a question?
The United States.
I’ll let you think about that for a minute.
Okay, true, his question was a bit of a joke – the question of travel safety has become a running gag in our household, in part because that question is always the first thing my mother (in Illinois) always asks us.
But this time, when he asked the question, none of us laughed. He’d asked us just after the last mass shooting, the one in San Bernandino. And think about that for a minute: I have to specify for you which shooting I’m talking about. Was it the one in Colorado Springs outside Planned Parenthood, or the one in Oregon, or the one…
In other countries, when you say “mass shooting,” there simply aren’t that many to choose from because in the aftermath of the tragedy, governments have changed the laws to make such events less possible. But not in the good ol’ US of A.
When I tell people in the States where I live, there are two questions I am always asked: do I have to “cover” and “do I feel safe?” The answers are “no,” and “yes.” People who didn’t worry about me strolling home after midnight in New York’s East Village in the late 1980s now seem dreadfully concerned about my safety here, in this part of the world, as I drive off to the mall.
Part of why we chose to live abroad with our children had to do with wanting to give them a cosmopolitan perspective on the world: we wanted them to experience other cultures and learn to be open to, rather than threatened by, difference. I know that in the US it is possible to live in cosmopolitan cities—we used to live in Manhattan, where children from many nations crowded into my kids’ classrooms—but it is a different experience to live in a place where “your” culture is not the dominant.
A little while back, for instance, my older son had some friends over so that we could all go to a water park in the afternoon. When I told them it was time to get ready to go, my son said “well, we have to wait a little bit because T. is in the other room doing his prayers.” T. comes from a devout Muslim family and his mother would have been pleased to know that T. didn’t miss a prayer time just because the water park called. And for my son and his other friends, T. doing his prayers was as matter-of-fact as if he’d been changing into his swimsuit, or drinking a glass of water. Ordinary.
Like many of us, at home and abroad, I wrestle with how to explain to my children why the United States can’t simply change its gun laws and why so many people in the country seem afraid of anyone who worships at a mosque rather than a church or a temple. The explanation in both instances seems to boil down to fear: fear of change, fear of difference, fear of that-which-is-not-me.
It’s not much of an explanation, but it’s the only framework I have to explain why Donald Trump, for instance, can still be considered a candidate for the Presidency.
I know that the demagogues like Trump do not speak for all the people in the United States, and that many, many people are outraged by gun violence, but alas, the picture of the country that travels outward to the rest of the world is one of violent, gun-toting Islamophobia – and it’s scary. For me the fear rests not in the thought that Trump will ever be President because I refuse to believe that his bilious self is actually electable. I hang on to that fact as ardently as I once hung on to my belief in Santa Claus. No, my fear rests in the fact that, according to a recent poll, Trump leads the group of Republican Party presidential hopefuls, with 35.8% of the vote.
THIRTY-FIVE POINT EIGHT?
Maybe there really isn’t a Santa Claus.
How do you explain what’s happening in the United States to your children?
This is an original post by World Mom, Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates.
After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.