Diane Chayra: I’m not going to ‘get over it’
I have to respond to Shanti Emerson’s recent comment she posted regarding Alexander Teu’s piece, “An Awkward Encounter” (April 2). Mr. Teu’s commentary on why he felt singled out was so well written that I read it aloud to my husband.
I related to his writing because of my ethnicity, which is Mexican. “An Awkward Encounter” is worth reading, and Mr. Teu’s gentle nature shows through.
I don’t know what is going on with Ms. Emerson. Maybe she was having a bad day when she added her comment, but her comments carry weight because she is on the The Union’s editorial board and her recent “Hits and Misses“ (April 22) comments about cancel culture and hypocrisy are indicative of where her mind is.
She begins the comment by writing: “Alex, you have every right to express yourself” and ends with, “I’m pretty sick of hearing all the complaints.” In between these two sentences are her concern about whites being vilified, how welcoming this country has been to immigrants for a “couple hundred years,” and that the Asian countries do not welcome immigrants.
How is Mr. Teu responsible for Asian countries? Alexander Teu is an American! This comment is exactly what racism is. It is really saying, “If you don’t like it here, go back.”
I am Mexican American. I was born in California, and my parents were born in California. My grandparents and great grandparents (maternal and paternal) are from Arizona. You may know that Arizona was Mexico until 1848.
I have been asked my nationality enough times to buy a cheap seat to Europe. And like Mr. Teu points out in his piece, this is not because people are being unkind. They are often being friendly. They are asking about my ethnicity, not my nationality.
Here is the subtle part: Why isn’t my white husband asked his nationality? He is assumed to be an American. He is what an American looks like. My husband’s grandmother was Pennsylvania Deutsch, and spoke German and English. My husband is not expected to speak German fluently, and yet Mexican ethnics are assumed to speak Spanish.
When do I and Mr. Teu get to be just American?
Ms. Emerson writes, “We whites are being vilified right and left to the point of making me nauseous.”
I think about growing up in Southern California in the 1960s. The word Mexican was synonymous with dirty, lazy, dumb. We knew many Mexican Americans who called themselves Spanish to avoid this hurt.
I remember my face burning in shame when the word Mexican was said with a sneer and hoping the conversation would change. I guess I developed a thicker skin than Ms. Emerson, because I don’t feel nauseated anymore or shame, although my heart sank when our last president opened his campaign by stating that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. I thought we were beyond such blatant racism.
This is what Ms. Emerson writes in the “Miss” column: “All the writers who say they want unity in our county/country but who are not willing to make compromise or even learn what the other side is about.” She then goes on to define hypocrisy.
My frustration with Ms. Emerson is that as gently as Mr. Teu tried to write about racism, he was told by her to stop complaining. I have thought for a long time that if you are going to tell people like me to “get over it,” at least you should know what you are asking me to get over.
Ms. Emerson’s reaction is one I have experienced a few times when I try and explain about racism. It is a reaction of defensiveness, and that defensiveness ends the conversation.
I love my country. I am not a second-class citizen. I am a privileged American who holds a valuable passport. I am a voter, I live well, l love my family, my culture and my many white friends.
Nevada County has been my home for 31 years, I raised two beautiful sons here, this is a wonderful community!
Peace, Shanti (pun intended). I hope you think about this a little bit, and if you ever want to take a walk, I would be happy to visit with you. I am sure it would be interesting.
Diane Chayra lives in Grass Valley.
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Postmodernism has won the day, and its pernicious effects on our nation may very well mean our demise.