Honor and Dignity

Some people may not see this relation to loving and losing, but I hope it will become clear.

My career goal is to become a trauma and disaster counselor. I am deeply passionate about world cultures. I am deeply passionate about change. I am also really deeply passionate about stability and not changing systems that already work. For instance, changing culture.

I’ve been reading today on multiculturalism and psychotherapy. An assigned homework piece for my class was to read an article on this topic. While reading this article in the library, my instinct was to crunch my pencil lead against the page in anger. Outrage over what my people have done to minorities. And a deep longing to be different.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been really addressing my own racism. It hurts to even say that. It hurts to admit that I’m racist. But I recognize it in myself. And I see what the root is. Fear. I remember a moment in Paris when I felt so afraid because I was surrounded not by white Europeans, but by African immigrants. I was terrified and I wanted to hide forever. In that moment I think I did hate them. Of that I am truly ashamed.

Also, living in the South has brought to light the shocking and horrible atrocities here. Driving to Virginia last week, I passed several cotton fields. In passing them I was weighed down by grief. I almost felt I could see the ghosts of the slaves among the cotton stalks. It was so strong to me how inhumane and undignified and shameful it was to enslave a human being.

What shames me most is that I have to admit the same proclivities in myself. It is so easy to become delusional, to embody myself as the great white hope to the rest of the world. Just as easy as it was for slave owners to justify slavery, beatings, and raping of black people. They told themselves that these souls weren’t people. They deluded themselves into believing that their actions were not harming anything. What sickens me is that I see the tendency in myself. If I let my fear hold me back and torture me into the delusion that people who look differently from me must have certain personality traits and are boxed into one role, then I have perpetuated racism. I have enslaved human dignity just as surely as my ancestors before me. Thus I decide again, even more strongly, that it is imperative that I address my own fear and racism. Especially because of my desire to work internationally.

To work internationally, I have to be able to confront these fears when I have them. Otherwise I can become an instrument through which much harm can be done. One of my deepest, truest values is nonharm. In order to live that out, I am confronting my fears. And that is why I stand here now to say that I am racist.

But I want to change.

I am fighting against my own culturally ingrained mindset in order to change. I humbly ask that you will forgive me for my trespasses against human dignity.

How does this have to do with loving someone and losing them?

I think that each of us feel, after having loved someone deeply, then losing them to death, that the world is so much more precious. For instance I know that I feel that time is precious and life matters. What I do with it matters. I also hold in my heart the values that my sisters (the ones I have loved and lost) first began with. My twin is one of my greatest role models. I will never forget traveling with her to China and the ease with which she communicated with the Chinese. She had no fear, and seemingly no sense of a cultural prejudice. I envy her as I approach my own fear, but she also spurs me on and is my role model. I want to be like that. She asked questions fearlessly. I want to learn to ask questions fearlessly. She displayed deep interest and was rewarded with sincere relationship.

In an Eastern sort of way, I feel that to address racism in myself shows honor to my twin sister who has died. I honor my sister’s memory by attempting to perpetuate the goodness that she held within her.

Thank you, Stephanie, for showing me courage. May I carry that courage within myself too as I face the world not as a “rescuer” but as a friend.

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