Growing up, I have seen and felt oppression and injustice. It’s safe to say that I have also experienced it myself because of my racial background, my social standing and people’s judgment of my family dynamics.
I have Tingguian blood. I am an IP. I was raised in a town where almost everyone I know is Ilocano. Not everyone was accepting to Tingguians then. I remember scenes in my childhood where classmates and schoolmates I knew who are Itneg like me would be ashamed to admit that they have Tingguian blood. I silently hated them then. I wasn’t raised to be 100% aware of our culture and traditions but I am 100% proud I am Itneg. Then and now.
As if that wasn’t enough to be singled out then, I am also half Filipino. I am biracial. My father is a Saudi. Obviously, I know close to nothing about how it is to be a Saudi. While I saw most biracial kids my age in show business being treated extra special because of their good looks and fairer skin color, I was in the province getting raised eyebrows and murmurs because I was “anak ti Arabo”. It was kind of an automatic thing for most people to equate a child fathered by an Arab man to a poor bastard. I would say that even as a kid, I have skillfully mastered pretending not to hear their whispers or notice their nudges. But trust me, I saw and heard everything.
My brother and I were raised by a strong, wise and God-fearing single mother. People were not as nice to single mothers then as they are now. There was a very palpable stigma.
My mother used to work overseas as an ECG technician. However, when she came back home to the Philippines to get married to my father and then to start and take care of our little family, she let go of her job. When my father left, she started her own small business. She owned a sari-sari store. With that and the help of her sister, that was how she raised me and my brother.
I truly have the most complicated background. As a kid, I knew some people know who I was for all the wrong reasons. I grew up with judgment left and right. Few people from my past were sincerely kind and had no judgments, or at least were able to keep their judgments to themselves. I still remember all the adults in my childhood – from relatives to teachers to ‘friends’ to random strangers – who were downright rude and straight up asked me about my father, our finances and struggles as though it were their business.
So I guess that is why To Kill A Mockingbird easily became my favorite book and Harper Lee my favorite author.
I read this book in 2013. My husband – who was my boyfriend then – bought it for me. That’s seven years ago. And this book was published in 1960. Sixty years later and we are in the year 2020.
Privilege, however, has become more and more real a concept to me as I age. It is indeed out there. There were many moments in my young life that I would have done anything to trade lives with people with “privilege” just because they had the best lives. They are able to milk the good out of this life just because they are rich or are white or are the sons/daughters of this person. This was me as a grade school student. That was my thought process then. A very young girl knowing the great difference money or skin color can make. Imagine! A very young girl realizing that maybe hard work, eagerness to learn and talent are not good enough after all. What a sad world we live in. What a sad world we are to pass on to the next generation. It is a sad reality we have all lived in but it is a present reality I don’t want to pass down to my children. No one has to ever feel inadequate just because they don’t have the right amount of cash or know the right people.
I can’t believe that there are millions more of people who have gone through and are going through so much worse than my share of cruelty. It’s difficult to accept that there is a much wider scale of wrong and prejudice. I can’t believe there is still a need to have cries against selective injustice in the PH and movements like #BlackLivesMatter.
How are respect, compassion and equality still inconceivable in this day and age? Why are hatred and racism still unhampered?
It is never right to think and act that you’re superior to another human being because of your race, skin color, money, job or education. We were all born human beings. No one is above anyone.
Each one of us, no matter how young or old, deal with our own silent battles against oppression every single day. Bullying in school may be regarded by the bullies as harmless and nothing but a phase but to the ones being bullied, the torment on their ego and self-confidence is a battle they fight to win every waking day even in adulthood.
Each one of us contribute a ripple to the bigger wave of kindness or unkindness, whichever we choose. Whatever standing you think you have in this world, you have a much deeper impact than you think you have. You, through your words and actions, have an influence on another person. It could make or break another human being. You may have, deliberately or unknowingly, inflicted wounds in another person’s soul – wounds that may have not yet healed and they struggle to lick for the rest of their lives. You have a responsibility. The way we raise our kids to treat other people from different walks of life now will be the way they treat people in their adult life and long after we are all gone. May we all make an effort to choose kindness over ridicule. May we all, from this day forward, begin our own little ripples of good.
I have gone way too emotional in this blog post that originally started to just be a caption for an Instagram post I was going to make. So, let me just end this blog with two of my favorite quotes from my favorite book. And if you have the time, please read it too. It is a book that you would want your child to read too.
“The older you grow the more of it you’ll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.“
“First of all,” Atticus said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” #