I was raised in an extended family of racists/bigots or whatever other word you would like to use. I just call them closed-minded haters. I remember thinking as a kid some of the things I heard them say just didn't seem right. As I grew older and went off to college, I came into my own thinking and KNEW the things I heard as a child WERE NOT RIGHT. And though I KNEW it, I often wondered, do I really believe they are wrong or am I rebelling against my ignorant family who I don't want to be like? I felt confident my opinions were my own and I KNEW their beliefs and attitudes were wrong.
As my husband and I started having children, we agreed that if we were ever around my family, or anywhere else, where people started using racial slurs or other hurtful, judemental comments regarding religion, gender orientation, ethnicity, etc. we would pack up our things and leave. And we would be sure to let the offender know we were leaving because of them. Again, was I just rebelling or really sticking to my beliefs?
I had a client come into the massage therapy clinic recently. I immediatlely liked her and I think the feeling was mutual. We hit it off right away. She told me first thing that she is expecting her second child, which requires some modifications to the massage on my part. As I told her to "disrobe to your comfort level" it was only then I realized she was wearing a hijab - a head covering, for her, just covering her hair. I truly had not noticed. If I did, it hit so low on my "thought" radar that it went, well, unnoticed. It triggered no thoughts, no nothing.
We had a delightful conversation during the massage. She really wanted to talk and so did I. She asked me about how I felt about the new president. She told me about her family here in the US, where she was raised (in Ohio) and about her extended family in Syria. She told me about her husband (also from Ohio) and their son and their baby they are expecting. We talked about how when she goes to Syria her family wants to know if Americans are treating her OK. She said she loves it here and she tells her family being American is wonderful and most of the people are truly accepting of everyone. That what THEY see on the news is not exactly the way it is. And that what we see on the news in regards to Islam is not the true Islam, not the one she knows and loves. We also talked about what I have said in this blog many times over. We are more alike than we are different. And through education and understanding of others, we would see those commonalities and I believe many of the walls would go down and the fears would dissipate.
We talked about the fact that she is aware that people automatically view her and her husband as terrorists, or at least potential terrorists and that scares her. During this part of the conversation, I shared with her something I told a family member of mine recently. That was: "assuming Muslims are terrorists is like assuming Christians are KKK members . Terrorism and white supremecy is a distorted and twisted view of using religion as a weapon and shield for hate. That true God loving people do not subscribe to these distortions and I find these distortions to be highly offensive - to Christians and to Muslims." She opened her eyes, tilted her head back to look at me and smiled. She then said, "Thank you, Jo, for saying that. I am going to remember that in the future."
Thank you, RB, for showing me my soul. For showing me the core of my being. For confirming what I already knew. My family was and is SO WRONG in their beliefs. And I have always KNOWN that.