It’s been two weeks since my best friend and I took a walk around the College Hill neighborhood to connect with each other and to connect with our community. We try to do this once a month to catch up on life and to experience a neighborhood we haven’t taken the time to explore. I always enjoy the time I spend with Idia and the time we spend talking and listening about our careers, families, struggles, triumphs, the world we live and the world we want to see for our families. I always feel re-energized after a walk with my sister.
But, for the last week, I’ve been hurting for Idia and her family. When I saw the horrendous video of George Floyd taking his last breaths while being pinned down for minutes by a police officer, I thought about Idia’s father. And, it gave me chills and a sense of helplessness. Idia’s dad has raised two upstanding women, is a pilot, is a friend who always greets me with a hug, and is an American living in Kansas. I was ecstatic to get to report on the naturalization ceremony in which he and Idia became citizens of the United States in 2018. If you haven’t been to one…I ask that you try to attend. It’s an uplifting ceremony, where you’ll see people from all ethnicities and creeds come together to swear allegiance to become Americans. My family and I swore the same oath nearly two decades ago. I tell you this because many parents, including mine, come to America to build a better future for their children in a country that values freedom, diversity, and justice.
I finally add this description about Idia’s dad. He is also a tall, dark skinned African-American. And, I fear that sometimes how he looks may be considered threatening or intimidating, and his safety might not be guaranteed. That is a problem.
When there is an injustice, there should be acknowledgement of that act of crime. It is simply not right and not just. One former officer is in custody but justice has yet to be served for George Floyd and his family.
I know some great men and women who serve as law enforcement officers of varying backgrounds in Wichita, but I’ve also reported in the past on some officers who didn’t uphold the oath to serve and protect. Mr. Floyd and all Americans should have had the same expectation from officers – to be treated equally and fairly.
We should see people as individuals.
When I see Idia, I see her beautiful shade of chocolate brown. Her skin is flawless and her pearly white teeth show off her infectious smile. Idia is a loving daughter, supportive sister, caring wife, and nurturing mother. She’s a hard working pharmacist, who is working through the pandemic to make sure neighbors have medicines to survive. She’s an intelligent and articulate college educated woman. She was also Miss Ghana USA. She’s thoughtful and challenges those around her, including me, to be better. I describe her to you because that’s how I want you to see Idia – as a unique individual.
Anyone who has been to a makeup counter knows that there are many shades of foundations and it’s difficult to find the perfect match. Our skin colors are a wide spectrum of vibrant shades of the human race. And, I love that! But, our colors shouldn’t define us.
I haven’t walked in Idia’s shoes, but I listen to understand. I hope more people will take walks with friends, and even with family members, to have real conversations of all topics. I can’t stress enough the importance of going beyond a meme, photo, or saying, but rather, taking the time to have one-on-one interactions.
It’s been a tough week because I know many people are hurting. My heart breaks for friends who are hurting. I don’t have the aliments to eradicate that pain. But, I am one person who can inspire my family and friends.
So, what can I do? As a board member of the Wichita Asian Association, the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and I decided to release a statement against racism this past weekend. On the last day of Asian Heritage Month, we released a statement in solidarity. We are encouraging our members to help in eliminating racial prejudice and to become contributing and respected members of our community. We can’t change minds and hearts without taking the time to understand and walk with each other. I believe these three are starters:
*CONTACT FRIENDS: Reach out to your friends impacted by an incident and affirm that you are there for them
*LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND: Listen to those from other communities of color to seek understanding and to uplift others
*SPEAK OUT: Use your voice, in your circles, to call out injustice/discrimination when you see it
I ask that my friends show respect and hope that respect is reciprocated. I ask my friends to walk with me and listen to understand.
We can be a better United States of America, together.