“You can wash the crocodile with green slimy water,” explained a three-year-old girl sitting next to me on the bus this morning. She was curious about my iPhone and said that she knew how to enter the password to get into her mom’s iPad to access this game. Her care provider was nearby and made sure that things were okay with me. Somehow this morning I was more open to engaging with this talkative girl with checkerboard dreadlocks. I stopped my texting and we talked about where the bus was and where she would get off. We talked about how it would be good to have seat belts for kids on busses since she was sliding off her seat. (Whoa!) And I told her how she was smart for knowing how to properly put on her belt in her car seat.
At our recent Global Courage Gathering of our facilitators and staff, we had a pre-session on “Race: Conversations of the Heart.” I was momentarily stumped by the question of which group I wanted to join when we broke into small groups for discussion. Being Asian (and the only Asian), I could choose to join either the White or the People of Color caucus. I realized that for most of my immigrant life I have affiliated and identified with the Whites, as assimilation meant that I would have greater access to power and affluence. I probably didn’t think that through as an eight-year-old new to America, but I did think of it now when the question was posed.
For seemingly the first time in my life, I chose to go with the People of Color. I am so glad I did—somehow by opening that portal to how I have denied my own internalized racism, my world went from black and white to full-spectrum color like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I found amongst my caucus, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters. I was welcomed “home” by the people around me and by myself.
I marveled this morning at regarding this beautiful little girl anew, as perhaps I might have on another occasion declined to engage with her. I’d like to think that I would have engaged with her anyway, and yet I don’t know. I am well aware of how I am influenced by how our society and media disproportionately shine the light on the ugliness in the black community without delighting in all that is good. At the Gathering Pre-Session I had an opportunity to embrace more of who I am in the company of folks who felt like family though they didn’t look like me. And as a result I got to hear how you can wash crocodiles with green slimy water.