I am a second generation Mexican-American on my father’s side, and a third generation Polish-American on my mother’s. I never considered my ethnicity when I was growing up. I never gave much thought to having a Spanish surname. It never dawned on me that I didn’t get my ass kicked in middle school during a week of tension and unrest due to busing, most likely because I wasn’t totally white.

My best friend in seventh grade was a sprightly black girl named Courtney. We used to joke around. She called me “Kizzy” and I called her “Massa”. The mini series Roots was airing at the time and we thought this role reversal was hilarious. Mrs. Thomas, our African-American home economics teacher, however, did not find our antics amusing in the least. I swear, this is probably why I got a “D” in that class.

Our middle school was quite ethnically diverse. From the staff to the students, every major ethnicity seemed to be represented. The only group I ever feared were the cholas, Hispanic girls sporting pencil thin brows and war paint-esque make-up; girls who’d glare at you and say, “What are you looking at, bitch?” Believe me, I kept my head down whenever I had to walk by the cholas. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen cholas fight, but I can tell you first hand, having witnessed many throw downs, they didn’t fight fair and it didn’t take much beyond eye contact to set them off.

I’m ashamed to admit I come from a long line of racists on my mother’s side. Their racism was largely borne out of ignorance and fear. I grew up in a house where my ultra conservative, Catholic mother oft dropped the “N” word and violently ranted about “those dirty Mexicans” (by the way, all Hispanics are Mexicans, it doesn’t matter, “they” are all the same to her). Just so we’re clear, though, my mom is an equal opportunity racist, misogynist, xenophobe, and homophobe. Nobody is safe from her judgmental, hateful rage. Not even white Hillary Clinton, to whom my mother referred as that “bulgy eyed bitch who should be locked up.”

Despite growing up in this vitriolic household, I never bought into it. Nobody had to tell me the rhetoric my mother spewed was wrong. I felt it in my body, the wrongness. As a teenager, I’d sometimes take courage and push back and call her out, only to be verbally eviscerated. I eventually learned to keep my opinions to myself if I wanted to survive unscathed. All I can say is thank God for my youth group, the place where I learned about love, developed empathy, compassion, acceptance, and an open heart and mind. Collectively, we held each other together, served the needy in our community, visited the imprisoned, and fought injustice.

You know, it’s funny. My mom believes my college education is what poisoned my mind, made me eschew Catholicism, and turned me into the “God damn bleeding heart liberal” I am today. Ironically, what “poisoned” my mind were the Gospels, taught to me by my youth minister. That commandment Jesus gave us in John 13:34, you know, the one where he commands us, not suggests, we love one another? To this day I strive to live by that. It was the teachings of Jesus, along with the intense discussions we had every Wednesday night about dignity, morality, integrity, and humanity, not my college education, that inspired me to believe that people of all races, colors, creeds, religions, sexual orientations, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds are all equally loved by God, and I believe in our first amendment rights as equally as I believe in the commandment that we love one another.

That racism and bigotry continue to thrive profoundly hurts my heart. How is it, some sixty years later, we’re still fighting for justice and equality for people of color, immigrants, women, the poor and suffering? It’s beyond disgusting how some of our representatives appearing on TV are twisting and grossly manipulating the reasons our football players, among others, are taking the knee. Calling them ungrateful millennial millionaires, saying they’re protesting the anthem when they are not, or disrespecting the flag, when they are not.

Meanwhile, millions of self-identified American patriots have been breaking the United States Flag Code (Title 4, Chapter 1, §8), by wearing it, eating out of it, and displaying and using the flag it in all manner of flag code offending ways for the sake of fun and entertainment. But God forbid some brown people kneel in non-violent protest during our anthem. The hypocrisy is beyond the pale.

(Originally posted on Facebook Sept. 26, 2018)



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