Last week an anonymous person wrote that if I was so interested in the immigration issue I should open my home to refugees. I have to say that anonymous person does not know the Harris O'Brien household very well. For years our home has been open to people needing refuge from all walks of life. We have always felt that our humanitarian responsibility is to share our abundance. We are not wealthy people, we are privileged white people who have more than enough to make our lives comfortable and that calls us to share with others.
This brings up another issue that I have been pondering that is closely associated with immigration, race. As residents of Cass County our daily lives are spent with people very much like us. Although we have People of Color living in our community and hopefully most feel welcome, our lives are not affected daily by racial disparity as others who live in urban areas or other parts of our country. What we witness on television, on our phones or on the radio is the worst of things, the newsmakers. Some days it seems as if the whole world is exploding when in fact, news coverage is mostly about bad things that happen.
When I was in high school I had the privilege of living in Japan for one year. As a senior in high school I was the first Atlantic student to participate in a Rotary Club program for study abroad. For one year I lived in a country where no one else looked like me and I was a head taller than everyone. People would come up to me and say "Oki desne!" "You are big!" Not in a mean way, they were just astounded that I was so much taller than them. There was also a language barrier - I studied Japanese while I lived there but did not master the language enough to understand deeply the Japanese culture and race. I had wonderful friends who were patient and persistent in teaching me the language and the culture but it was up to me to make the best of the opportunity presented to me.
Not everyone can participate in a study abroad program to experience living as a minority. With the internet, with exchange students to our community, and those who have chosen our town as their home, there is so much we can learn if we chose to. We can begin to understand people who are different than we are and gain an appreciation of what others can contribute to our white homogenous lives.
Our country is at a dangerous precipice when it comes to race. Black Lives Matter has entered our lives on a daily basis. I think about how privileged I am to be white and have a son that I do not have to worry about when he leaves the house. I wonder how it feels to have to teach your children to look at the ground, say "yes, sir and no sir", to not look someone in the eyes, to keep your hands on the steering wheel or out of your pockets and to take a submissive stance even though you may be right. I cannot imagine being a mother of color worrying about whether my children will come home safely or end up in the morgue.
We live in a democracy, the definition being "rule by the people". Our democracy is young compared to others in the world. Making sure that democracy functions for all of us and not for a few is hard work, work that ensures all people are represented in and fair and equal manner.
Not all of us need to open our homes to people of different races or color - that is a personal choice. We do need to look at the issues of race and culture and decide how life in our country, our democracy can be good for all who chose to be good citizens.