Two days ago, my husband posted something that was painfully honest, and beautiful. I read and re-read his post and each time became more emotional over it. I am brought to tears by the pain that he has experienced, yet I’m so impressed with his resilience. That Jason desires not to shield our daughter, but to raise her to see injustice and to fight against apathy puts an appreciation in my heart that I cannot describe.
It also shames me.
Just five days ago, ESPN came under fire for a seemingly-racist headline on its mobile site. The outcry against them was swift, and it was strong. When I woke up on Saturday morning and came down to join Jason and Eden in the kitchen, he caught me up on what had happened and I viewed it for myself.
“Maybe he didn’t mean it that way.”
“Well, it seems like a pretty commonly used expression. It does have a literal meaning. Maybe he wasn’t actually referring to Jeremy Lin as the ‘chink’… maybe it just describes the Knicks.”
There’s a picture of Jeremy Lin right above the headline.
“Yeah, but who knows if the same person even chooses that. I mean, the author of the article could’ve written about the Knicks having a chink in their armor, meaning they lost, and then someone else could’ve chosen the picture without realizing it.”
*long pause*… Why are you so determined to defend this?
I wish I could say that I stopped there, but I was actually pretty annoyed. It seemed like maybe he was jumping to conclusions, and that maybe there was nothing to it after all. I tried to soothe my husband by insisting that I believed it was horrible either way, and that even if it was two different people who wrote the article and chose the picture, the editor certainly should have caught it. I wasn’t saying it shouldn’t mean anything, but I wasn’t sure it should mean everything.
I’m so embarrassed by my response.
I didn’t get it.
It took me a few hours, actually, until Jason’s words lodged themselves firmly in my conscience: why are you so determined to defend this?
For my personal life, the intentions of the people at ESPN are completely irrelevant. Rather, the incident served to show me what is true about me, and this is what I saw:
I wanted it to be unintentional.
I assumed it to be unintentional.
I am quick to defend other Caucasians, and to explain away their seemingly-racist actions as innocuous.
And now that I see it, I am horrified by this.
Yes, I believe that we should, as a general rule, assume the best in people. But we should also take a close, hard look at why and when and especially who we are most inclined to believe the best about.
Why was I more determined to defend a stranger than I was willing to put myself in my husband’s shoes and try to see the situation through his lens? More importantly, how does my “default” setting to defend perpetuate the marginalization and silencing of ethnic minority voices, despite what my intentions are?
I am slow to interpret things as “racist” because, as a white person, I can be. This is sobering realization. Once again, I see how easy it is for myself, as a Caucasian person, to remain oblivious to the bias of my perceptions. Without the mirror of Jason and other friends, I would never have to call into question my motives or assumptions, and I most likely would never be able to see the prejudices therein.
This showed me that, while I have made much progress in my own journey of understanding cultural identity (most because of my involvement with Epic Movement), I still have much further to go. I am only beginning to understand the story of my Asian-American brothers and sisters, and to be able to enter it in a way that brings understanding and healing, instead of further damage.
I am so saddened when I think of how my assumptions and reactions have caused further pain to my husband. (The above incident, sadly, is not the first time something like this has happened.) Yet, Jason is a gracious person, as are all my ethnic minority friends, and they are patient with me and show me undeserved grace and compassion even when I blow it. As I reflect upon it, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness toward the people in my life who have invited me into their stories, even when I haven’t made a very good visitor there.
Eden is beyond blessed to be surrounded by people who will be able to mentor and guide her in her “unique opportunity in bridging two worlds together bringing forth healing, reconciliation and understanding.”
Maybe she can teach her mother, too.