Swear never to be silent

“I swore never to be silent whenever and where ever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Elie Wiesel

As a young person I put up with more than my share of crap. It ain’t no picnic to be a mixed race person in the 1960s/70s. The Japanese wouldn’t own me, despite my having 50 percent genetics on my side. There’s no word in Japanese for hapa. Adding insult to injury the majority races, both black and white, agree with my relatives. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, “I just don’t see the Japanese in you. . . “ I’d be a financially independent yogi. The Sinhalese relatives not only claim me, they scold me, demanding to know why I don’t speak my “mother” tongue.

English is my mother tongue. The sole language my mother taught me.

Immigrants from Russian, from France, from any country of Europe emigrate to American with the thickest of accents; in one generation their children are acknowledged as “Americans.” Why won’t that happen to me? Why do locals continue to ask me, despite my MidWestern accent, where I’m from? Where I’m really from? Why do they sit back with satisfied smiles having wrested my ancestral information – when no such interrogation greets my friends with a last name of “Wilson” (here from Canada) or “Laska” (here from Czechoslovakia) or “Portman” (here from Germany) ?

Like Spock the half-human/half-Vulcan I’m uncomfortable in two worlds. While Spock looks identical to his full bloodied Vulcan colleagues inside he knows he is different. He never denies his half-human blood, but the humans? They don’t accept him as one of them. People like us are keen observers by virtue of perspective. One must be outside in order to look in. Otherwise I’m just looking around. As long as I’m just looking around, pain and suffering is too easy to ignore, to justify, to dismiss. A person on the outside looking in knows exactly the difference between inside and out.

For example, a colleague of mine recently opined that mean people, bullies and the just plain rude may be suffering in ways I am not aware of, suggesting I cut them some slack. She’s dismissive of my irritation when I see a KKK banner, telling me it’s just a Confederate flag. Just a cultural decoration celebrating history, old ways, the pride of being Southern. She assumes race is real, but believes race doesn’t matter. The Civil War is over. She’s colorblind. 

I wager race is a fiction, a fable, make-believe. A fairy tale that unfortunately matters. I’m color sensitive. When I see a Confederate flag I can’t help but remember it celebrates the harshly unfair, strictly stratified antebellum South. Good old days for whom? Good old boys ? Race is fake because the categories are wildly inconsistent. The “races,” if true, would be consistent. I.e. either all color based (in which case Latinos would be white) or all language based (in which case black people would be white) or all geography based (in which case Native Americans would be white). How very dark Tamils end up being lumped in with very light Koreans as “Asian” is not intuitive to the outsider.

One must be a majority stakeholder to see the obvious structure to the many “races.” They all exist to explain how people differ from majority-whites. Latinos are different because they speak another language. Blacks are different because they are another color. Native Americans are different because their ancestors are pre-Columbian. Go ahead, try for yourself, name any “race.” Any race can be defined as how it is not the majority standard. The strange loop? Race exists only for the sake of racism. So we can’t erase racism without erasing race. We can’t, and we shouldn’t keep pretending race is real but it doesn’t matter.

We should and can erase racism by admitting race is made-up for a nefarious purpose. That would be standing up for the little guy.

Start where you are, and do what you can. Don’t let the most dysfunctional person in the room call the shots. This is harder than it sounds. Some practitioners point out that yogis should be open-minded! Dissing someone else is small-minded, impolite and other bad things. Therefore we must refrain from judgement. “Love the unloveable” is a popular meme. This strikes me as paradoxically impossible. I vote we take sides. Take the side of protecting the defenseless from the unloveable. Unloveable people are unloveable for a reason. They are hateful, spiteful, trolls. Unloveable people are often bigots. Unloveable people are most times exploiters and manipulators.

The yoga sutras of Patanjali advise a practice known as svaadyaha or “self study.” The yoga sutras mention Isvarapranidhana or “Living with Awareness.” Through diligent svaadyaha I come to realize that one of the reasons I voice my concerns for the voiceless is because I have no one to stick up for me. My mother died when I was 20. In my adult life I can have no memory of calling her for help. I was a single parent without a parent nor grandparent. The awareness of my precarious position only served to harden me.

I thought marriage would bring much needed financial stability, instead I had my foundation erased. When my first husband spread ugly, unfounded, unmerited rumors about me the happily married church ladies were only too eager to believe. I made myself impervious by deciding I wouldn’t speak to anyone unless she had the hutzpah to ask me herself. (No takers there, not surprisingly.) I weathered that storm – I had my son to protect. I chose to model the stoic mom. The leader. If I didn’t know where I was going or what would happen next I successfully pretended to, so he didn’t need to know fear. He was a child. I was not.

As for the second divorce? In my second divorce the rumors were unfortunately all too true. My second husband suffered his addiction in silence, keeping me in dark. Perhaps he thought he could win by will-power but addiction doesn’t go away like that. Hating himself made him progressively weaker, more beat down, wearier – not stronger. I say this as a person who still struggles with weight: addicts need a light to show the way through, a light lit by self-love. Howard needs to deem himself worthy of being saved before he can even begin to save himself.

Self-love creates the necessary restraint. It’s so obvious only when everything is out in the open: a single pill is too much, a continuous IV drip is never enough. Become impervious, invulnerable to drugs/drink/alcohol only in the winning order. The hero’s journey is composed of these steps:

  1. break the silence
  2. become self aware
  3. have a judgement
  4. act accordingly
  5. again, and again, and ever more – especially if others are depending on you
  6. then be the helper that you wished you had – the captain in command, i.e. the person who will not be silent

You’re the captain of this ship. You have no right to be vulnerable.” Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on the TV series Star Trek(196669)

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Now y’all play nice!

Sat Nam