Now My Country Feels Like My Hometown
This isn’t about individual people, it’s about an environment.
This is feeling like an outsider and being ostracized because I wasn’t at church on Sunday, because I didn’t play football, because I’m not another cousin from one of the three local families, because I don’t hunt or fish, because I like math and reading and computers.
This is about squatting down between the seats on the back of the shuttle bus to the junior high because my main bus was always the last to arrive and three big older kids think it’s funny to threaten me and tell me their otherwise empty seat is taken. This is knowing that if the driver notices me then I’ll get yelled at for not taking a seat and the driver will believe the bullies’ feigned ignorance.
This is making friends with nasty, vicious outcasts because their violence toward me is manageable and limited to games as long as I volunteer and prove my toughness. This is the selfishness that came with those friendships because they meant that bullies wouldn’t bother me for fear of over the top retribution from this crew.
This is about always wondering if authority figures will help you or believe the other person because of their biases toward the in-group. This is being proven more than once that your word is less valuable.
This is about never being able to tell who the next betrayal will come from.
This is about knowing that I still had it much much easier than other folks because of my gender, the color of my skin, who I’ve fallen in love with, and where my family came from.
Now this is about a Filipino friend finding himself physically barred from Starbucks in one of the most open minded parts of the country by a man insisting, “Your kind doesn’t get served here, thugs need to leave.” (Not that it should matter, but he was on his way to his professional job and dressed in a button down shirt and slacks.)
Now this is about reading account after account of folks facing similar actions and receiving the same, “Well there’s not much we can do” from responding police officers and, in some cases, following up with the department only to find that no report was even filed.
This is knowing that most of the people out there are probably good people, but not knowing which people aren’t.
This is knowing that many good people endorsed a man who tacitly encourages the most vile.
This is about never feeling entirely safe in the outside world.