Anyhoo, recently an incident which occurred to me as a very small child came roaring back to me, for some reason. And it makes me sad, and it makes me mad. Because it has to do with some pretty heinous behavior directed at a child for her race.
I won't even pretend to know what it's like to be a different race. I only know what it's like to be mine, and it's not ALWAYS a picnic, though I will fully acknowledge that I believe it is a lot easier than being, say, black in America.
But when I was a little kid, I believe I was all of seven, a few things happened with a neighbor of mine. This man was father to two of my friends from across the street, and he always seemed pretty gruff and not especially friendly. But he was an adult. And adults always know what they are doing (that's what my seven-year-old self thought, anyway).
One day I was talking to this man for whatever reason, somehow the subject turned to presidents. I was probably telling him we were learning about presidents in school. He said to me, "Do you want to know who the greatest president in the history of America is?"
I surely did. I had a thirst for knowledge back then that kind of blows my mind right now.
He told me Harry Truman.
I tucked that piece of knowledge into my brain.
In school, I think the question was raised of who the greatest president was. Lots of people raised their hands, including me. I wasn't called on, but I was appalled to hear that no one said Harry Truman. After all, an adult had told me so. I didn't know what he had done and I had never heard of him before, but an adult had told me so. Therefore, everyone else had to be missing something, he must be greater than Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt...even though I had heard of those guys.
A few weeks later, his overstimulated son beat me up. He was a boy, and he wanted to fight, not because he was mad at me, but because he wanted to. He explained that he and his friend fight all the time and it was fun. I didn't want to fight. I had never been in a physical fight with anyone. He fought me anyway. My new pants got grass-stained. My head slammed into the wooden fence. I cried.
I ran across the street with two other neighbor friends (who were white boys) to "tell." I told him that his son had beat me up, my pants were ruined, and that he hit my head against the fence.
This man looked down at my little tearful self and said, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?"
I was shocked, I didn't know what to say. I explained again that his son had beat me up, had hurt me. He repeated, "So....WHAT do you want me to do about it??"
After a little while, it was clear he was not planning to mete out one iota of punishment, nor was he remotely sympathetic. Writing this is bringing tears to my eyes from the recollection. That this man could be such a jackass to a tiny little seven-year-old is beyond me. Even my other friends were surprised. I remember clearly, one of them said to console me, "He's not a very good father." The injustice was apparent to them, as well. They, like me, didn't know why he acted that way.
These are all just memories. I don't have a whole lot of memories from when I was this age, but these are very, very clear.
When I got older, I suddenly thought back to these events, and it struck me that this guy was probably anti-Asian. Probably, more specifically he was probably anti-Japanese but had never bothered to realize which Asian nationality I was, because I'm not that one. Not that how he acted would be ok if I were. After I got older and got a more complete vision of what all the Presidents were known for, I realized this: Harry Truman is known for his "The Buck Stops Here" sign, his excessive swearing, and dropping the Bomb. You know the Bomb I am talking about. Can you think of anything else you could possibly know about Harry Truman that would stand out?
Who knows. Maybe the guy hated little kids, except his own. Maybe he wouldn't have punished his son if he had beaten up anyone, whether they were Asian or not. Maybe he was just in a bad mood. But a large part of me, when you put it together with a lot of things I vaguely recall from childhood, feels sure that he just didn't like Asian people.
It still amazes me though, that he would treat a child the way he treated me. Well, suck it Mr. X. I rock.
To think that these days, this shit is probably happening to little Arab girls around the country breaks my heart.