Sunday, May 26, 2019

Politics at the Playground

Recently, as my girls played on a slide at our neighborhood playground, a very arrogant man approached me and rudely said in such an inappropriate way these exact words:

"Your kid is blocking the slide.  Do you want me to tell her to move, or are you going to do it?'

*Time stopped for me*
"Breathe, Mama, breathe," I told myself.

"I'll do it," I said with a sharp glare in my eyes and a sarcastic tight smirk on my face. He had to feel me looking straight through him.  

For about 10 seconds I sat there on my sarong under a shady tree and thought of 5 different ways I could question this man in a not so pleasant  manner about his audacity to even open his mouth to me in such a way. Everyone of the ways started with m*thaf*cker and included m*thaf*ckin.  But...the innocent babies played nearby. 

"Well go ahead then," he said as he made a sweeping motion with his hand prompting me to proceed with the order he'd just issued.

  "Breeeeaaaathe," I coached myself.

History flashed before me.  Every word that I have read on paper, every story I have heard , and every memory that I have pertaining to the assault on and mistreatment of black people--particularly women--by white men of authority or not became present in a second.  Mainly, I pictured the sister Mona from the film Sankofa taking a machete to an inhumane imbecile who thought he had dominion over her body and control of her actions.

Still, I kept my composure.  

But he didn't understand or take seriously enough the implications of the moment, the situational context.  He didn't realize that the healing, the repair, is not completeand has not really even been initiated.

A bit of backstory:  My 4-year-old has this thing of sitting at the top of the slide under its dome covering, pretending as though it were her castle.  Typically when we're at the playground I have to remind her to not do this, because other children may want to get in that spot in order to slide.  I had reminded her of this twice already that day, even when no other kids were attempting to slide.  It's something I always work to make her cognizant of, because she can be obsessive about her desires.  At this particular moment that it was occurring again, my head was partly in a book, so I wasn't privy to what was going on.

I went over and corrected her once more, and said not an unkind word to the man. Although in my speech, I did make it known to her--and him--that no person without the decency or know how of appropriately addressing a concern pertaining to children playing on a playground needs to even consider opening his mouth to her or any other child who is not their own offspring to say a-ny-thing

Now, this--what always feels like an attack on my humanity--has happened three times during the nearly six years that I have been in Hawai'i.  Each time the constant source of the initiating remark of disrespect came from the tongue of 50+ European-American male.  They've come here from some place in the states and--as they have done historically--asserted themselves as the dominant force in the area despite the native inhabitants and mores of the land. It's almost as though they lack the capacity to  implant themselves in a humble way in a place where the underlying theme is Aloha, literally meaning "the presence of breath" (ha) or "the breath of life." Interestingly, such people here are referred to as "haole" literally meaning "no breath."

Of course, all of this is relative.  My former next door neighbor and father of my one of my girls' playmates also falls into the 50+ European-American male category, and he is one of the most kind, respectful, giving, and relatable people I know.  So, this isn't to paint the picture with a broad brush, since there are obviously exceptions to the fools.
(Hopefully the above doesn't sound too much like a reversed version of, "I got black friends.")

In my experience out here, only a very few of them will still try the predictable mess that they so comfortably pull with people--namely people of color--in the states. Most have learned out of necessity and a will to stay alive to come humbly in these islands. 

I saw this on Instagram recently, and OH! how it speaks directly to my soul in moments like this.  I laughed out loud at it for a good three minutes.  

But I typically try to keep the Khalid and Malcolm part of me in check while letting an updated version of Martin play the main role. It is not always easy when it comes to my babies, but I do put forth effort--as long as things don't get out of hand. I see myself as mellow, but that revengeful scorpio thing is real in my experience.

(Although, it didn't end too well for one of these characters who verbally assaulted me a couple of years ago as I--with sleeping child in arms--approached the door of the building in which we lived. You can't always just get away with telling people to "go back to where you came from."   We pretty much ignored the man going off on us up to that point.   I can not say with certainty that this man would not have shot me and my family if he'd had a gun, all because my husband had stopped  the car in front of the door in the rain to allow me and my child to run in and avoid getting too soaked in the downpour. Read here for the kind of madness that people like this are capable of.)

There's usually a right way and a wrong way to address situations with which you disagree. Some people lack understanding of the former. 

Although I mostly bit my tongue and held back words with the foolish man at the playground, there were countless mean things I could have said, wanted to say, and maybe should have said to set him straight at least in that moment.  I just hope, though, that for the sake of his cute little girls who will navigate this world as part him and part their Japanese mother, that his undeniable illness and lack of respect he clearly holds for people with whom he does not or can not identify does not become an overarching force in their lives.   

Lil Miss "Troublemaker" striking poses with her new ball shortly after the incident, unfazed.

I admit that I stared this man down for the remainder of the time he was out there and in my view, smiling intermittently.  His voice was shaky and nervous as they passed me by leaving the park.  He said, "Bye, now."  I replied --with that tight smirk on my face, "Have a great day!" One of his daughter's waved at me, to which I replied, "By, Sweetie," giving her no indication of the 257 ways I had cussed out her daddy in my mind.  


When I saw this man approach the playground with his family, I envisioned exactly what would ultimately go down, and it did exactly as I saw it--everything from my daughter seating herself at the top of that slide to that man coming at me wrong because of it.  His energy was just off.  As such, I actually moved myself and the girls away from the playground for a while, and we went and sat down under the tree to drink water and eat fruit.  Eventually, though, lured by the excitement of more children having fun in the sun, she made her way back over there.    The increase in instinct that I have experienced since becoming a mother is amazing, and I need to tap into it more consistently!

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