Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?
Parents all over the world have probably read this book to young ones’ at some point in their lives. The book is by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle; it is colorful, creative, simple and easy. The book is inclusive, respectful and kind. However, in this election year, this seemingly nonsensical children’s book of colors and associations has particular resonance.
Why? Because, I am a tax-paying, law-abiding legal immigrant from a non-white country, and mother to an impressionable teenage daughter, an American citizen.
This election worries me greatly.
Regardless of public policy, I am baffled how this great country chose a candidate for its highest post – one who has no political experience, has repeatedly shown a total disregard for human decency, one who lacks a moral compass, has no family values and flaunts unscrupulous business practices. How do these attributes qualify said individual to even be in the running “To LEAD”?
Although no individual can be perfect and we are all flawed, the gut wrenching part is that a perfectly qualified female, a hardworking career politician and mother (and grandmother) is running against this individual. She is fighting against someone who has no experience in being ‘a kind human’, lacks public decorum, and clearly has no regard for equal rights for any of these aspects of their constituents: religion, gender, ethnicity, legal status or age and race, let alone respect for larger democratic processes.
Though this is a historic election, and my daughter is a history buff, I cannot let her engage in the process or even watch the debate. First, because the debate exposes misogynist filth being touted as acceptable behavior and condones it as a qualifier for one of the most important jobs in the world. Secondly, and most importantly, it undermines the massive contributions of a very well qualified, capable and suitable female candidate, the first in history.
The biggest and most unsettling emotion I have about the aftermath of this election - is fear.
The lack of regard for women's rights in general are likely to set women back, back to the dark ages! The same goes for the rights of people who don't look like the white men who seem to run the show everywhere!
If you think my experiences with discrimination are few and far between let me tell you of a few in the last 15 years:
2001: This was the first time I lost my job, it was the week of 9/11. After a year of interning at a large firm, I had just received my H-1 Visa, sponsored by the office. In the hours as 9/11 unfolded, that very day, a supervisor asked me if I was distracted because I was possibly pregnant. I told him he did not need to know that - but spoke to HR saying conversations like that made me uncomfortable. Two days after 9/11, my bosses decided they did not want a brown woman representing them in or around Detroit, the region with the second largest Arab American community outside of the Middle-East. They never admitted it, but their decision after 9/11, where they found no need for my services, was highly suspicious. I was too shell shocked to sue. It took me five years to find a part time low paying job.
2006: We had just moved into our first new home in suburban Roswell and had still not unpacked fully yet. An older white neighbor decided to trespass on our large lawn, several times a week, wanting to play golf because 'he always had'. After repeated requests asking him to leave - and at one point telling him that I would have call the cops, he mumbled - 'Are you supposed to be here? Go ahead, let me see what you can do.' I had no choice but to call 911. He got a 'restraining order'. A white neighbor who happened to be a DA, delivered the police report at my door me saying one evening: do you really want to have restraining orders against your neighbors?
2010: I lost a job the second time around, because my supervisor, a man with no children of his own, thought my responsibilities as a parent would interfere with my work responsibilities, because I was a woman! It was a very small Republican office. I could not sue, or I would have, and they knew it. They had found the loophole! It went on their DOL record, so it would never be repeated again but the damage was already done. I was sick of working for closeted racists and bigots, I plunged into being my own boss.
2010: I was one of two candidates of 100 to be interviewed for a high profile public-sector job in Virginia. Why I did not get the job? She said because they thought I would not be able to convince my family to move.
2010: Another neighbor stormed into our yard twice, the same yard, and threatened both my husband and me, trying to engage us in a fist fight. His words: "Do you know English? Are you educated? Are you legally allowed to be here? What business do you have living here? You are not welcome in this country. You should leave, go back to where you came from." He also was served a restraining order and eventually moved away.
2016: Last week we went out to eat, in a local area downtown. This recent election gave two white people space to point fingers at us, to the brown people in the room, at my husband , my underage daughter and me, doing everything they could to make us feel uncomfortable. I complained to the manager, but he could do nothing even though the servers had witnessed the behavior.
I ask plainly, is this fair?
Is America saying, "We want everything bleached, blond and blue-eyed??" I thought that "The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
Or, is the red-white-&-blue unspoken code for permissible races? In this country of immigrants...?
If you want to tell me that there is no racism, sexism, or bias in communities, schools, workplaces or more - I will tell you different truths.
If you want to tell me that you are voting one way or another because there is more to this election than race or gender, think again because I will tell you, again, that you are wrong. I fear that work places will not be safe, and discrimination will be blatant and rampant, and sexual harassment will be glossed over. If this election goes one direction, I fear that unfounded racism will continue to rise and phobia's, particularly against women and children of color will rise.
If you want to tell me that there is good in every neighborhood and community - I will ask you to show me, by example, by speaking up for equality.
So, what we are teaching our young people?
Are we teaching our young women that their skin color and the color of those they associate with will always undervalue their abilities?
Are we teaching our young women that their contributions to the welfare of society as a whole, will always remain subservient, second to a man’s contributions, even if they are to tabloids and his own bank accounts?
Are we teaching young adults that the question ‘Who are you’ will not reflect on their job, skill or talent, but is actually a qualifier against their gender, race or financial standing?
My daughter will be looking at colleges very soon. What kind of community culture are the laws of her country or her state promoting? Will she be safe? Can she remain safe? Will her workplaces be safe environments for her and others like her?
How can I knowingly subject her to a political system, which - if selected, is poised to fail its youngest citizens as well as its oldest?
The inclusion of a candidate that inspires fear in many people, for all the wrong reasons - begs to question the process of democracy: should citizens of the largest country in the free world, even consider a misogynist racist, a divisive, tax-evading, loop-hole seeking businessman who moonlights as a dictator to possibly LEAD them, represent them or speak for them and their children?
This presidential election brings to focus all things that are wrong with society – and sadly celebrates it, legitimizes it. How is this a good election for young adults or parents trying to raise conscientious young adults? If the citizens of the United States do not elect a female president on November 8, 2016, or choose an alternate, worthy opponent beforehand, I will be afraid for everyone who legally lives in this country: including myself and my daughter.
If you want to apologize for the crude and unkind behavior of your fellow countrymen, save it, because apologies don't create change. You can create any meaningful change - by cementing the outcome of this election, towards pro-equality, on all counts, without exclusion or apologies.
As a parent, and particularly as a brown woman, I hope we never have re-write this classic children’s book instead as a cautionary one-page brochure to read:
“Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?
I see a scary man looking at me.”