Disbelief. Confusion. Helpless. Scared. Worried. Anger. Despair. All emotions I felt last Tuesday evening. My body ached in a way I had not felt since the height of my depression. Feeling helpless, I went to bed to hide, to pretend a little bit longer. But I tossed and turned all night, continually waking Max to talk and weep. The poor cat just wanted to sleep. As did I, but that simple comfort alluded me that night.
As a minority and woman, I was never foolish enough to believe that racism and sexism didn’t exist, but I never imagined how strong its hold was on America. And how vulnerable it would make me feel when it was exposed so blatantly and embraced by so many, including those that I love and respect. It stings and robs me of my breath.
And yet, I refuse to kneel to hate. To be silent. To lose four years and let hate further seed and grow roots in this country that I love. I am not perfect. My own prejudices have colored my thoughts, which led to sometimes ugly, misguided choices, so I understand how fear can make hate seem right. But I also grew, expanded my views, listened and became a better person from doing so. I only ask that you do the same.
3 Simple Truths about Hate
For some, this will merely be a reminder. Even better it may galvanize you to stand tall and become a vocal supporter. For others, I hope it makes you think.
People Are Just People
Whether your skin is white as milk or dark as night or someplace in-between, we are just people. If you remove our skin, you’ll find flesh, bones, organs and blood, regardless of skin color or gender. We all have hopes and dreams, hurts and pain, kindness and cruelty inside of us. People are just people, PERIOD. Skin color does not make us better or worse. It is something that we, in fact, have ZERO CONTROL over. I did not choose to be Korean. You do not choose to be Caucasian or Mexican or Lebanese or Polish or Greek or Puerto Rican or African or Italian and so on. You are the product of your parents who are the product of their parents who are the product of their parents until the beginning of time.
#1 Truth: Skin Color Means NOTHING
Judge a person by their actions and behavior, which they control, not by their skin color or gender, which they do not.
Minorities and Immigrants Are Not Scapegoats
Solving the very real ills that face America will take more than a catchphrase and there is no magic potion to fix our problems. It will take hard work, focus and some sacrifice to get us back on track. But do not make minorities, immigrants and women the scapegoats to our problems or believe them incapable of solving them.
The Great Recession was caused by greed left unchecked from sub-prime mortgages to Wall Street. It made a potent brew that eventually imploded. And guess what? The largest mortgage servicers — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup — led by white men (except for Citi, which was led by Vikram Pandit in 2008). Wall Street — Bears Stearns, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, Lehman Brothers — led by white men. Minorities, immigrants and women are not to blame and are the very people who can help us recover.
#2 Truth: Minorities and Immigrants Are Not to Blame for Every Ill America Faces. Sometimes, White Men Are Responsible.
Here’s the weird thing: I blame those responsible for their actions, but I don’t fault ALL white men or ALL white people for the actions of a small group or even an individual. Yet, we do that with minorities, immigrants and women all the time. This must stop. I’m tired of taking the blame for Eve eating the apple and refuse to do so any longer. And dear people, of every race and creed, sometimes you have to look at yourself and hold yourself accountable too. Because people (of every color, gender and religion) will prey on your naivety, your hopes, your fears, which is why you must always do your due diligence versus just blindly following someone who says “believe me, believe me” whether applying for a home loan or filling out a presidential ballot.
America is Great Because It is a Melting Pot
Unless you are a full-blooded Native American then you are the son or daughter of an immigrant or are an immigrant yourself. We are so quick to shed our past but that is part of our story and one we should never forget. Our ancestors came here to make their lives and the lives of their children better, just as immigrants continue to do to this day. America is seen as a beacon of hope, the place where dreams come true and the land of the free. And it is made great by immigrants.
Immigrants Who Made Our Lives Better
Immigrants who come to America often have little money but big dreams. These are a few who made it big and changed our lives.
- Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, he moved with the rest of his family to San Jose, California when he was eight years old. He knew only knew one word of English: “shoe” when he arrived. Today he’s worth an estimated $1.15 billion.
- Vinod Dham, the “Father of Pentium”. Born in Pune, India, Dham came to America with $8 in his pocket. At Intel, he helped invent the first flash memory chip. He became the CEO of Silicon Spice, which he sold for $1.2 billion in 2002.
- Irving Berlin, Songwriter.Born in Russia, his family fled after rising anti-Jewish sentiment. He is famous for songs like White Christmas and God Bless America, which he wrote during WW1 but set it aside until Hitler rose to power. After 9/11, Congressman sang it on the capital steps after the terrorist attacks.
- Do Won Chang, co-founder and CEO of Forever 21. Born in Korea, Chang worked as a janitor and gas station attendant after arriving in America. Today, Forever 21 is a 480-store empire with $3 billion in sales a year.
- Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. Born in Moscow, Russia, Brin and his family emigrated when he was just 6 years old. At Stanford University, Brin met Larry Page and they started Google together. Today, he owns 16% of the company with an estimated net worth of $24.4 billion.
#3 Truth: Our Diversity Makes America a Leader
Let’s get real here: America is diverse and always will be. In fact, it is our very differences and unique stories and perspectives that make America truly great and revolutionary.
Hate is Never the Answer to Our Problems
Hate is toxic. It kills growth, prosperity and freedom. It tears us down and makes us weaker, not stronger. I know how easy it is to hate because I have hate in my heart too. I am not immune to its power or seduction. It exists in every single one of us. And it’s easy, so terribly easy, to let loose. But in the end, the person you harm the most is yourself. So I understand if you’re scared, afraid and struggling but please, please don’t respond with hate. Minorities, immigrants and women are not your enemies. It is all of us working together that truly makes America great.
The True Answer is …
Talk to one another. For the love of — apple pie, collard greens, hummus, egg rolls, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, samosas, caterpillar rolls, ropa vieja, paella, zizil tibs, gyros, kimchee, falafel, borscht, lutefisk, jerk chicken, Guinness beer, goulash — let’s talk to one another respectfully. We must stop only engaging with people who look exactly like ourselves and talk to others who look different, sound different and are different. Let’s take a chance and get to know one another. You may be surprised by the similarities you uncover. Let’s rise up and be above hate.