BY CHONA SANTANDER O’GALVIN
VIRGINIA BEACH — There are a few things that are obvious to people when they meet me: I’m short. I’m not white. I am unabashedly Filipino-American – and I wear that hyphenation with pride.
My skin is brown, and America is where I was born and raised. It’s the only home I’ve ever known.
Even within the diverse community of Hampton Roads, it is not uncommon for me to run into subtle occurrences of racism. It’s something any person of color deals with on a regular basis.
When it happens on social media, it can get ugly. Especially when it involves my children.
I work for local government, in the marketing division of Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation. We are an organization that embraces diversity, inclusion, and community.
This is well represented in our social media, particularly on a post last month that featured a photo taken at my daughter’s birthday party at one of our recreation centers.
The post’s main intent was to promote our centers’ birthday party offerings. The photo showed my birthday girl, my son and some of our party guests who are non-white.
And then someone posted a brazen question.
“Do those kids have documentation?”
I did a double take. Was this guy serious? Did he really write this completely racist comment on a photo about a birthday party?
I felt my face get hot, and a deluge of emotions flooded in. Anger. Outrage. Fury. Fear. All spilled out in tears.
This cutting buckshot of discrimination wasn’t about me. It was aimed directly at my children and my friends’ children.
Well, now ya done woke up Mama Bear.
This guy might “defend” himself saying, “Jeez, it was a joke.” That I’m oversensitive, too politically correct. You know what? This is not a joke, and it’s not okay. When someone directs ignorant comments toward children – my children – I must speak up. We all must speak up.
It shouldn’t be a pipe dream for a parent in the 21st Century to think my children could get through life without someone questioning their legitimacy as American citizens because of their skin color.
We were moving forward. Our country saw its first black president, marriage equality became the law of the land, and we stood on the cusp of that proverbial glass ceiling finally shattering for all womankind. Now we’re going horribly backwards facing an unfortunate new reality. Ignorant and contemptuous bigots feel empowered to spew hate and spread fear.
These keyboard warriors hide behind their computer monitors on social media to propagate superiority as if they have sole ownership of this country.
As much as we try to shield our tech savvy kids from this ugly pomposity, we are now having conversations with them that we never thought we would have to – or should have to – so they are able to cope and stand up for themselves, as well as others marginalized for their gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation. We are trying to raise kind and respectful human beings among people who do not share these traits.
Parenting in the 21st Century is crazy, next-level challenging, and I know I’m far from doing everything right.
I know this much: I can do right by my kids and my friends’ kids to protect them with ferocity. I can speak up against blatant discrimination, ignorance and intimidation directed straight at them.
My children are American citizens born to American parents, whose grandparents immigrated to the United States and proudly served this country in all branches of the U.S. military.
This can easily be the story of any fellow Generation Xer or Millennial in America, give or take a couple of generations. Our skin happens to be a different shade of American. Because of that, we confront instances of injustice that some of my dearest non-ethnic friends never realized still exist.
And, oh, do they still exist. Now more than ever, it’s time to let your voice be heard against inequality and discrimination. Speak up and speak out – for ourselves, for our neighbors and, most importantly, for our children.
Santander O’Galvin is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College in media communcations and works as the creative brand manager at Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two children, Cooper and Zoe. As a working mom, her hobbies include feeble attempts at yoga, running errands and drinking lots of coffee.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing, Co., LLC