Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

All Are Created Equal

In a surprise move, the US Supreme Court ruled that those who are in the LGBTQ community, are protected from workplace discrimination by the Civil Rights Act.  It was a surprise, because the US Supreme Court is stacked with a majority of conservative judges who were to assume certain religious beliefs that would have figured otherwise.  But as two of those conservatives stated otherwise, the CRA definitely applies to the LGBTQ, while others who dissented only did so because they interpreted the act differently.

I have many friends and several family members in the gay community.  Some of them have children.  Some of my straight friends have children in the LGBTQ community.  My children have many friends in the LGBTQ community, and have for quite some time going back many years.  And like my children, I do not really give it much thought.  I support everyone’s right to be who they are are.  I will be honest, I do not spend a lot of conversations on gay rights with them, because conversations we have do not revolve around their sexual orientation.  To me, they are a human being, no different than me whether it be the color of skin, health, education, or gender.  We have wonderful conversations with each other, so unless it comes to issues that arise, we all just enjoy life and the joys it brings.

I understand how important this ruling is, regardless that it should not have had to happen in the first place, because as our Declaration of Independence clearly states, “all are created equal.”  That means, we do not have the right to discriminate against another.  We all have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It does not matter if you have a belief that disagrees with that.  The Declaration Of Independence is clear.  All are created equal.

While this is a major victory for the LGBTQ, that does not mean that their fight will be over.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as a major advocate of the American With Disabilities Act, I know first hand, there is a huge difference of having a law, and the loopholes that get created to get around them.  But that does not mean that today is not a huge day for my LGBTQ friends and family.  Their rights to work in a discriminatory-free environment are not only reaffirmed, but now clearly stated by the US Supreme Court.  You have had these rights since the Civil Rights Act was signed.  Now they are clear.

There will be other fights and challenges by bigots who will do what they can to disrupt the rights of our American citizens who have these unalienable rights under the Declaration Of Independence.  And that just means that the LGBTQ, knowing they have these rights, will just need to be aware of the efforts to get around them.  And if I had one bit advice I learned from fighting for the rights of the disabled?

Document.  Document.  Document.  Everything.  Save all of your work reviews that show your exemplary work record.  Keep a diary of interactions, both friendly and not.  And this is important, do not use your workplace as an advocacy tool because if you have an employer, or co-worker who is not supportive of the LGBTQ, you could be seen as disruptive, which is different than being discriminated against.  It gives the employer grounds.

I know the fight of the LGBTQ is not over.  But please know, you have the support of myself, and my children.  Because we know, that all of us are created equal.

When You Want To Help

Many years ago, I worked for a major corporation.  Inside this location, several “community outreach” activities took place several times a year.  One of those, was a blood drive.  Having several thousand employees, it was a major donation drive, made even more popular because donors were often given “gifts” for giving the gift of their blood.  I would see some of my co-workers come back with some major swag from windbreaker jackets to coolers, all kinds of things.

But that was all I got to do as far as blood drives went, look.  As a cancer survivor, I am ineligible to donate blood because of the my blood being compromised from my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, even though they were over thirty years ago.  I understood the rules for donating blood and why they were in place, but when I asked if there was any way that I could help, to make a difference, that I might be able to get some of that fine merchandise, I was told “no.”

As an advocate, I was kind of taken back by the short response.  I know, you have blood donors, you have the phlebotomists, and of course the other staff of blood banks.  But do you mean to tell me, you have no need for any other help with such a critical effort?

If you follow this blog, you know my role as an advocate.  You also know that I can be determined when I hit a stumbling block when I try to help one way and I cannot.  I find another.

With my health issues, my days of participating in actual protests are long over, though if it were not for Covid19, I would likely find it hard to not want to stand by, supporting efforts against police brutality and racism.  But unlike my efforts, there are ways that I can still make a difference in these intense times for racial equality.

Back in 2009, as my older daughter was about to begin elementary education, there was turmoil in our school district.  The school board at that time, filled with bullies, had taken their negotiations public, humiliating the teachers union.  Again, if you know me, I do not tolerate bullies, and there were nine of them sitting on that board.  I attended only one school board meeting to protest the way the school board representatives were conducting themselves, and faced accusations of being disingenuous and unscrupulous.  Such big words to be used against one solitary citizen making comments during the public commentary of the meeting.

And with that, I made a decision to campaign for school board.  I never even ran for any position in student government.  But I soon found out, that unlike my fear of the anonymity I had in school would prevent my likely election, my skills as an advocate, and accompanied by four other strong candidates, soon found ourselves in a position to finally break a stronghold in our school district for decades.

I had no experience.  But I had a desire to make a difference.  I am all about treating people with respect.  Regardless of my feelings for or against the teachers at the original time, I did not like the way they were being treated, especially publicly.  And soon, not only did I receive recognition from my well educated and experienced running mates for my ideas, our adversaries soon found out, not only how resourceful we were, able to discover “behind closed door” activities, but with our lack of being politicians, we did not make decisions as politicians and they did not know how to prepare for us, or deal with us.

We lost that first attempt, barely.  Four of us lost by less than 300 votes, two less than 200 votes, and one actually lost by a few dozen.  The end of the night, of course none of us were sitting on the school board, but we did “win” the battle.  We made a difference because we got recognized.  A simple concept, people not getting out to vote, even just 300 more in a district of 60,000 voters, was all it would have taken.

So, we kept trying.  Two of our slate got elected that next election, and a third finally not only got elected the following election, but was voted as school board president.  Today, the entire board from 2009 has been replaced.

My last thirty years, and as many as I have left, I have always been, and always will be an advocate for as many causes as I can:  cancer, adoption, long term cancer survivorship, discrimination, parental rights and the list goes on.  I do what I can, when I can, as my energy allows.  I have my physical limits but I find ways to help in other ways.

Looking back, perhaps my motivation may have been wrong with the blood bank.  Because I have been able to make more of a difference when appreciation, gratitude, and success are enough of a motivation.

My daughters have witnessed my many forms of advocacy.  And they both have great hearts filled with compassion and empathy.  In recent years, I have seen their actions to help others whether in school or in public.

A couple of weeks ago, on Tuesday, my older daughter made a post of a black “jpeg,” in support of “Black Out Tuesday,” in memory and support of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.  She knew what she was doing.  And what made it even better, she did it on her own.

Over the last sixteen years, I have done my best as their father, to set examples for them in regard to advocacy, money, relationships, education, and so on.  It is when I see something that has been done, unprompted by me, that I can see the impact that I have indeed had on my daughters.  And I am proud, as always.

When One Word Is Not Enough

Without giving it much thought, the phrase “I am not a racist” used to seem reasonable to sum up my position when it comes to those of different color.  But recent events have taught me an important lesson, it is not enough to claim you are not a racist.

Let us get the easy part of the equation out of the way.  There is no mistaking a racist.  If you exhibit a behavior that discriminates, intimidates, humiliates, demeans, or worse, commits an act or participates in an act against someone of a different color, based solely on that reason, you are a racist.

So there you have one side, you either “are a racist,” and the inclination is to want to say “or you are not a racist.”  To simply state you are not a racist, is just not enough.  There is a complicity about taking the position of “not being a racist.”  There is no effort in that statement.  “I said it.  I can move on.  There is no more racism in my life.”

The example I am going to give is going to prove just how wrong that thinking is, and actually makes the problem worse.

Remember the days back in school, and acts of bullying on the playground, how the big, bad kid, picked on the little squirt, just because he could?  Do you remember how the crowd of other students would gather around, and chant “FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHT!”?  Did you ever take a look around the crowd, even behind the crowd, some of the faces of horrified kids, knowing how bad the situation was, but either felt powerless or had no interest to get involved?  Why?  Because it was not them.  They were not the bully.  Nor were they the victim.  But their complicity made them more a part of the incident than their denial otherwise.  Any one of them could have chosen to do something.  Instead, “I was not the bully.”  “I was not the victim.”

Whether or not you related the example as being comparable, I do.  It is not enough to state, “I am not a racist.”  Sure, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a racist, especially given my own ethnicity having a Native American background, and daughters who are Asian.  It is not enough to believe that I am not a racist.

You are either for, or against.  You are either a racist, or you are anti-racist.  Being “anti” implies an effort is taking place.  Without that word, there is no effort.  You are just standing there, watching or cheering another fight.  And that is not good enough.

I will be the first to admit, I do not grasp every detail of what it will take to not only address racism, how to deal with racism, and how to get rid of racism.  But between my childhood, and now my adulthood, I am at least trying to do my part.

“A picture tells a thousand words.”  You are not born a racist.  You are taught to be a racist.  Our children are the only proof we need.  It is unnatural to “hate” someone just because they look different.  Have you ever heard the concept “nature versus nurture?”  This is where that applies.  Racism has been around for hundreds of years, but only because some of our parents may have taught us, because more of their parents taught them, and the numbers increase the further generations that you go back, one thing is clear to at least start the process of dealing with racism.  Stop teaching our children to hate.

Growing up, I literally lived in a small town that was not only predominantly white, it was all white.  Without me mentioning that I was Native American, no one noticed as my skin color did not signal any awareness.  Unfortunately, I did have one characteristic that falsely labeled me as “Asian,” my almond-shaped eyes, often resulting in me being hit with all kinds of Chinese slurs.  But I was not Chinese.  This was my first exposure to racism back in the 1970’s.

Around the time of third grade, a new boy had arrived in my class.  He was Hindu.  I do not recall his name (apologies but my age does have its limits).  But I definitely do remember, I did not notice his skin color was not the same as mine.  The only thing I did notice, was that he did not seem very popular, or at least have many friends around him.  He was friendly, actually living within minutes of my house, though he was never invited to my house (an issue I will get into later, but it had nothing to do with his ethnicity, at least to a point), I did visit his home on occasion and meet his family.  They were all nice.

We remained friends through elementary school until he and his family moved.  I never did know why.  I also would move, and switch school districts, this time to a “city” or urban school district.  And guess what I found out, there were a lot of people of different color.  But just like my Hindu friend, everyone was friendly with me regardless of the color of our skins.

I want to back track now.  I mentioned that my Hindu friend had not been to my house.  To be clear, I had two close friends across the street from my house, as well as a couple of kids that lived next door, and none of them were ever in my house.  The house was owned by my grandmother, and occupied by she and her sister, my mother and my sister.  It was kind of an unspoken rule, we only had family in our house.  I would ask a couple of times for friends to be allowed, but not having the stamina to hear “no” more than a couple of times, I gave up asking.

Only recently, and I do mean recently, I have discovered why.  I have had multiple discussions with my mother over the years, about my admiration for my grandmother, and the high regard I have held her, my moral compass in my life.  But as the expression goes, “nobody’s perfect.”  The conversation lasted less than fifteen seconds, because I wanted to hear nothing more once I heard “your grandmother had a bit of ‘racism’ in her.”

No way!  Not my grandmother.  She was perfect.  She loved everyone, and anyone who knew her, loved her.

I decided to open this can of worms following the recent events of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.  So I phoned up my mother to continue the discussion that we had years earlier.  I had a hard time believing, since I was “not a racist,” my mother was not a “racist,” there was no way that my grandmother could be one.  I needed an explanation.  I lived with my grandmother for nearly fifteen years, and never heard her mention color let alone use any slurs.

Intentional or not, I am hoping that the fact that I had not heard anything from my grandmother’s lips, it was because she wanted me to be better than what she was taught.  What was she taught?

First, I want to be clear, my grandmother was not a textbook definition of a racist, belief that her race or ethnicity was superior to anyone else.  But there is an issue that she did grow up with, and it technically applies when it comes to dealing with racism.  Because, had I learned this from her, this might actually be a different post than what I am writing.

I realize many around the country/world may not know the culture I am going to mention, but my grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch.  Actually German immigrants, they came to Pennsylvania.  Their make up is religious in nature and foundation, often associated with the Amish, Mennonites, Moravian, Reformed, and Lutherans.  And though my knowledge of the PA Dutch culture is limited, the whole behavior revolves around isolation, keeping outsiders just that, outside.  Sure it seemed like an odd thing in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but other than bringing a significant other into the house, that is pretty much all I ever saw.  Which brings me to my next point.

Pre “me”, my mother has told me of a certain section of this town that I grew up in.  I had heard the “nickname” of it before, but like everything else that was mean-spirited, I had not paid attention to it at the time.  Recent chatter on a FB page stirred up that nickname a memory, but clearly it affected many who grew up during that time.

Nicknamed “Hunktown,” and I want to be careful because I know very little of its history other than, it was a section of my town where many Hungarians and other Europeans lived that were not considered “PA Dutch” or other form of immigrant that was clearly “American.”  Again, I want to remind you, my town was all caucasian.  And clearly those living in this section would blend in at school and work.  How could you tell?  By their accents?  Nope.  They spoke perfect English.  But just as the PA Dutch were able to speak German at will (I heard a lot of this growing up, but only remember the bad words), the other Europeans were also able to speak their native languages.

So, how did my mother, her two brothers know who not to bring home?  Their last name.  Their name would give their nationality away just as it “assumes” today.  My last name, I am often told I am Jewish, just by my last name, which is incorrect for one, my name is not spelled correctly to be Jewish, and second, I was named after the living, a “Jr.” of my father.  But if someone had any other name than a German name, they were basically “shunned”, yes, like you have probably heard done by the Amish.  Remember, they come from the same mold.

Okay, so my grandmother never demonstrated a blatant “color” racism if for no opportunity because of where we lived.  But I never saw or heard any hateful words from her lips either.  But looking back, clearly, the only way to make sure, since I was not being taught to not like others different than me, was to keep our doors closed to those outside of our family.  It was the only way to not appear “racist” in nature.

Yes, the way my grandmother raised me, not blatantly teaching me to be racist by accepting the PA Dutch way, she actually broke the cycle of racist beliefs and tendencies.  And though I am shocked to have learned this history of my family, it is the foundation to learn that it is not enough to just be “not a racist.”

And that is why, my daughters are taught to be “anti” racist.  That it takes a pro-active role against one of the most evil and hurtful ways that we treat our fellow friends and neighbors.  It is the whole reason that there has been no progress made in race relations in hundreds of years.  Even as we have all the technology to see racism at its worst with our own eyes, too many still stand back like the bystanders and cheerleaders of a playground bully incident, complicitly.

I was too young for the rioting of 1967 and 1968 associated with the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Watts riots of 1965.  But I was alive and watched in horror, the riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of 5 police officers , accused of severely and brutally beating Rodney King.  The beating was caught on video camera (we did not have cell phones or social media), but the incident was seen on all three major network news.  News of the acquittal sparked of rioting like I had never seen before to the injustice.  Until now.

And now, my daughters old enough to see what is playing out for the whole world to see, that in the 21st century, we still do not have equality for all, regardless of it being written in our Declaration of Independence.  Part of their adoption process, includes racism education and how to deal with the issues that may come up being from a bi-racial family like ours.  And then again, the issue of racism against them being of Asian heritage itself.

Which is why I take such a strong stance, anti-racism, when I hear a president not use his words carefully, and even when warned that it could incite those who are racist, speaks those hurtful ideas and words regardless, intentionally.  He does not get a pass for doing it accidentally, because he is warned about his words, and uses them anyway.  I am tired of hearing “he talks like us and that is why we like him.”  Well guess what, when the president uses those words so carelessly, and you approve them just because he talks like you, then that makes you racist.  No, not the cross-burning lynching level, but racist by complicity.

I will admit to not knowing what all I can do to be anti-racist, and there are physical limitations that I have as well (especially as we deal with Covid19 and me being vulnerable, protesting in crowds is not an option for me).  But I will at least do my part, to make sure my children know that I will always protect them and who they are, and respect each and every person that comes into their life regardless of color or ethnicity.  And that example gets set, by respecting everyone that way.

It is up to us to teach the simple concept.  You are either racist, or anti-racist.  You either participate in the evilness, or you stand up to it.  There is no complicity.  That is not an option.

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