Naperville, IL.— When I first came to Guam back in 1984, I distinctly remember my first time going to mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Toto. I sat in the back, and it dawned on me, watching the sea of dark-haired, brown-skinned people that filled the pews, that for the first time in my life, I was a minority. I think there may have been one other person in the church with light hair and light skin. It was a new perspective for me – not frightening, but new and different.
Since then, whenever I head back to my birthplace just outside of Chicago, I am surprised at how many white people there are, because I’m not used to seeing so much light skin. Frankly, the homogeny now makes me uncomfortable. I long for my Chamorro family and melting-pot home.
I am actually back in the land of Lincoln right now, visiting my father. And I am a bit apprehensive. On the heels of what has happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am wondering what the mood will be in the Midwest. I am hoping – praying – that what happened in Charlottesville was an anomaly. That more people around the mainland realize that unless you are a descendant of a Native American, we all came from somewhere else.
I want to ask these white supremacists and Neo-Nazis: at what point do you distinguish who is what? From whom do you want to “take America back”— as they were heard chanting? Where is the cutoff to being “American?” What about people born here, whose parents are from Mexico, or China, Korea, France, Kenya, Iran, or anywhere else in the world? And what about mixed race children like my own? This white-bred attitude that has bubbled up from some poisonous well inside America’s soul is so dangerous. What is the point? Why do you only want to look at one color of skin? How boring is that? How un-Christian? How un-American.
One of the things I treasure most about having lived more of my life on Guam than in my birthplace is the global perspective it has given me. I have met people and made friends from all over the globe, all from the vantage point of a tiny island in the western Pacific Ocean.
When I first started dating my husband, his mother, sisters, and his nana took me to Korea with them to go shopping. We went to a Korean village, and I learned there how 19th century Koreans heated their homes in the winter by having a heating system under the floor of the house whereby they had a stove, and the heat from the stove was channeled through wooden tunnels under the floor. I thought that was ingenious – way better than the American pioneers’ system of just having a giant fireplace in the home. For those of you who don’t know, Korea and Illinois have similar climates, and I’ve experienced many an icy winter floor, so this heated floor concept was pretty amazing to me.
Recently in San Diego, my daughter and I went to a Vietnamese restaurant. I was cognizant of the rainbow of customers enjoying the delicious pho and other Vietnamese delicacies – from Vietnamese diners (you know the food is good when homies eat there!) to haoles, Mexicans, a Middle Eastern couple and others. I thought about Charlottesville, and about the array of foods, cultures, different ideas and ways of doing things our country would be missing out on if access was limited to only certain races or ethnicities.
Yes, I understand that immigration controls are needed, but Charlottesville wasn’t about immigration control. It was about hate. It may have started out as a protest of the removal of a Confederate statue, but what it was really about was hate for people who don’t think like, or look like, those protestors.
That attitude is destructive, and there is no room for it in America or frankly, anywhere else on the planet.
Jayne Flores is a long-time journalist. She currently works at Guam Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org