Terrified and powerless. Those are the word that come to mind to describe my childhood experience. For the first 18 years of my life, domestic violence held my family hostage. As the violence unfolded on those dark nights, I tried to console myself in the belief ― one day, I won’t have to live in a world of terror and violence. There is something worse than the actual violence, when you are a child ― it is the pervasive feeling of powerlessness.
Domestic violence is a punctuation of my story, but its not the essence of who I am. One of the greatest moments of my life was that instant that recognized my strength, and the inherent power to chose how I would live my life. Folks who have been through something - understand what it means to push through the veil of fear, and discover who we really are, and the depth of our power. Cayla Mills offers us powerful truth “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
Domestic violence is a punctuation of my story, but its not the essence of who I am.
So when Mr. Trump presided over the most bizarre press conference I have ever seen, on Thursday, February 16, I saw inflections of a kind violence, I’ve seen before. When asked if he intended to work with members of the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) by April Ryan, a distinguished African-American journalist, a powerful woman, Mr. Trump’s demeanor visibly changed, as he became viciously irate. In a near threatening tone - he asked Ms. Ryan if “she knew them” (because you know all black people know each other – pardon my sarcasm). He treated her as if she was a minion, asking if she would set up a meeting for him. Black women are accustom to these virulent moments - poised, she checked him with professionalism and declined his assignment.
As I was convincing myself to calm the hell down, telling myself throwing my iPad at the television probably wasn’t a good idea, Mr. Trump hurled another insult to someone else. This time it was Jake Turx, who happens to be a Hasidic Jew. Mr. Turx wanted to discuss policy, but 45 abruptly cut him off –- and tangentially launched into a defense of his loyalty to the Jewish community, as though he had been accused of anti-Semitic. Like I said, bizarre.
Still, this is not a rant about 45, Mr. Trump.
I am wondering what are we going to do as citizens of the USA, as people of every ethnic origin, folks of every gender expression, LGBTQ people, people of every faith tradition and many others; what are we going to do in this moment?
In the face of ballistic racism, rising anti-Semitism, xenophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, how are we going to respond in this moment? In the last two weeks, synagogues have received 48 bomb threats. Federal authorities are investigating. We also know incidences of hate crimes have surged since November 9, 2016.
When the safety of Jewish communities are in jeopardy, all of us are in jeopardy. When Islamophobia is the new badge for patriotism something has gone terribly wrong.
No, this moment is not necessarily about 45. This is about us, and the choices we need to make. What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we recoil, with the illusion ― since it’s not happening to us –- we will be okay. When an African-American woman is disrespected in the White House, all of us have been disrespected. When the safety of Jewish communities are in jeopardy, all of us are in jeopardy. When Islamophobia is the new badge for patriotism something has gone terribly wrong. Martin Neimöller’s is yelling at us ― with his poem First They Came….”
Believe me when I say, I am no longer the terrified little boy growing up South-Central Los Angeles whose only prayer was to escape violence -– feeling totally powerless. Like many others - who have come through something, I awoke to the reality - that the Creator of all things has endowed me with tremendous power to effect change in my life, my family, community, and beyond - if I choose to access my God-given strength.
We have a choice to make. Either we see our commonality, across every community, and take on the complicated and gut-wrenching work of racial justice, and stand against every form of injustice or, we remain silent, and by default, chose the tyranny of hatred. Do we have to wait until it is our daughter, son, partner or loved one that is victimized by hatred’s effect?
Protests, demonstrations happening around the world gives me hope. Still, I am convinced we have to do more. Standing against what we refuse to accept through resistance is essential. We also need to commit ourselves to build a new reality for the world we want. The choice is ours.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline .