Natividad: Thank you, Nevada County, from my family to yours
Many Nevada County natives refer to the Yuba River as a sacred place. The first time I took my family to the South Fork, I understood why.
It is such a peaceful, calming and fun place to be, which is why it was very troubling to hear from my in-laws about a hateful incident they recently experienced at the river, while visiting from San Francisco.
According to my father in-law, a couple of weeks ago he took my 2-year-old son, his wife, cousin and two nieces to Edwards Crossing to enjoy the river. As my family began to cross over some rocks to get to the shaded side of the river, they encountered a couple sunbathing.
The couple began to yell obscenities at my family, trying to discourage them from crossing. They threatened to sick their dog on my family if they didn’t leave, yelling a racial slur, then demanding them to go to another part of the river. To avoid conflict, my family walked away, but were so disturbed by the altercation that they left the river and drove back to my house.
My father-in-law, who is of Chinese and Korean descent, said that it was the first time he had ever encountered racism in his more than 30 years of living in this country. I, myself, have had a different experience.
As a military brat I moved around a lot. My father served more than 25 years in the U.S. Navy, and we lived in different parts of the country, from Hawaii to Washington D.C. I have Filipino, Spanish and Indian ethnic roots in my family lineage, and needless to say, I have personally encountered racism in some form or another, everywhere I have lived.
Experiencing an act of racism, like other hateful acts, can be a very traumatizing thing. It brings about a myriad of different reactions, from anger, disbelief, rage or even a feeling of injustice.
But most of all it makes you feel alone, as if you are not part of the world with everybody else. Marginalized.
After hearing what happened to my family that day, I felt a mixture of all of these things. And although the couple my family encountered did not yell that ignorant mess of a rant specifically at me, they might as well have.
That night I could not sleep.
All I could think of was my son, who went through his first experience of bigotry without me there to protect him. To stand up for him. To hold him and explain to him that some people hate, not because they are bad people, but because they have been taught to hate people who are different from them.
As someone new to the area, I was also discouraged. Does this happen to people of color in this county a lot?
So out of frustration and curiosity, I posed that question on a couple of our local Facebook group pages, while also describing what my family experienced. It gave me some kind of solace to sleep.
I woke up the next morning to more than 100 responses from people in the area, apologizing for what happened to my family. They were encouraging words of support from people I had never even met, and some folks were even brave enough to share similar experiences of racism they have experienced in the area as well. I also continue to get phone calls and emails from local business owners, educators and community members giving us words of support, welcoming us to the community.
When I told my in-laws about the outpouring of support for them and what they had experienced, it made them feel much more comfortable visiting us again.
Recently, my son and I crashed a kids birthday party at Condon Park, and a woman who recognized me came up to us and shared her and her daughter’s experiences as a multi-racial family in the area. She explained that she had experienced similar things with her family, but assured me that it came from a very small minority of people in the area. She then encouraged my son to stay at the party for some cake.
As I watched my son play with the other kids at the birthday party, I couldn’t help but smile.
They were kids from all different ethnic backgrounds, running, screaming and hugging each other the way only kids their age can. Not a care in the world. And I could only think that, if it were up to them, the river, and this world would always be a peaceful place.
And I no longer felt so alone.
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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