Forgiveness

My daughter was doing research for a college class assignment and she interviewed me about my experiences regarding my ethnicity, race and identity. My mother was Caucasian/Native American (percentage unknown) and my father is Japanese American, second generation on his father’s side and third generation on his mother’s side.

Honestly, I mostly rambled a lot and she asked a few questions. We never talked much about it during her childhood, because it really never came up. Plus I didn’t want to burden her, didn’t want it to negatively impact her identity. A lot has changed since my childhood when segregation had just ended the year I was born.

Actually when my parents were married interracial marriage was illegal. My mother told me that people would frequently ask if I was adopted. And come to think of it, I had someone ask me if my daughter was adopted, but that was only once. It was unsettling to have a stranger ask me that? Because why ask that? What does it matter? Curiosity I guess? Or ignorance about the randomness of genetics?

I never gave race a thought until when I was about 6 years old when a classmate asked if I was black or white? I couldn’t answer, because I didn’t know?

When I was six, my best friend was African American. I remember my mother asking who I wanted to invite to my birthday party then and the only person I named was her, my mother paused before giving an evasive answer. Karla wasn’t at my party. The friends that were at my party lived in our neighborhood. We were still segregated to a large extent.

We were the only Asians until I was in Junior High. Then a Vietnamese family moved in down the street. My friend from across the street commented on how “greasy” their hair was and then said to me, “Oh, but your hair isn’t.” I began fully realizing that I was viewed differently because of my appearance, my race.

I’d often be shocked when I looked at my reflection in the mirror, because I felt like I was the same as everyone around me inside, expecting to see a white girl with light brown hair and freckles.

I always identified with the Native American cartoon female characters in the old Disney stuff. I don’t recall many Asian ones back then. The King Tut exhibit was touring when I was 12 or 13 and I felt an affinity because I thought I looked more like him than people around me. I got to see the exhibit when it toured to New Orleans in 1977.

In Junior High there was more diversity in my school and I didn’t feel as alone. Phoebe Cates appeared on the scene, Seventeen magazine and I saw some representation of a mixed Asian person in the mainstream, so that was nice too.

I remember kids saying to me, “Me Chinese, me play joke, me put pee-pee in your coke,” and “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these,” while doing hand motions, slanting their eyes up and down with their fingers, bucking their teeth out, touching their knees and pulling their shirts out to make fake boobs at the ending part. Kids asked me if I knew karate, or would do karate chop hands while making that “Hiyah” noise and kicking. I’d get asked if I knew how to cook egg rolls or if I could speak Chinese.

They’d ask if I was good at math or assume that I was (I definitely wasn’t, lol). People would forget my name and call me “Kim” instead, because it seemed that most Asian female characters in pop culture had that name, so they had that association in their brains.

Some kids were more sinister and called me “yellow, chink, gook or jap.” And also we weren’t Asians back then, we were Oriental.

I’ve had people ask me “Where are you from?” to this very day. I always answer honestly, “I was born in Virginia, but I spent most of my life in Louisiana.”

I am American. I am human. I am spirit. I am love.

The Japanese culture was not prevalent in my upbringing, except I can use chopsticks and we used soy sauce and ate more rice and veggies than most.

My grandmother would send us Japanese things like really cool candy (Botan Rice candy and gum shaped like a lifesaver that you could hold in your mouth, blow through the center, it whistled) kimonos, fans, zoris, and dolls. And we learned a few Japanese words (we mostly wanted to learn the swear ones). We spent some summers with our grandparents in California and they’d speak Japanese to each other when they didn’t want us to know what they were saying. My grandfather had an accent and we’d ask him to say rubber-band because it tickled us that it sounded like lubber-band and we’d all giggle.

My father would make jokes about women being inferior and riding in the backseat or walking behind the man like the Japanese. We also had a vinyl record with traditional Japanese songs I’d listen to. I learned to sing Sakura.

Later when we were teens our dad for some unknown reason decided to start the Japanese tradition of eating Mochi at New Year’s. The Asian mart sold it frozen and he’d pan fry it in some soy sauce, it came out chewy and disgusting, we’d complain and he’d chuckle and say it’s for good luck, eat it! Omg! We’d laugh about it too, making sarcastic comments, wondering why suddenly we were following this new tradition?

What caused the most vulnerability, trauma and a long lasting intergenerational impact was internment of my grandparents, my father and his siblings during WWII. Because even though it didn’t happen to us directly as their grandchildren and children, it impacted them as grandparents and parents.

And my father told us stories about it, like how they went back to Japan after the war with nothing left, feeling unwelcome in the USA and were starving. They even ate sea urchins and a whole family they knew died after using what they thought was a container of lard that had washed up on the beach, consumed it, but it was lye.

Plus, that’s quite a sad, painful weight knowing that your family had everything taken away from them and were imprisoned in camps based on their physical appearance.

Of course atrocities have been happening to all since the beginning, so this is not unique to us. What got to me though is that this wounding impacts us all and it is the inability to heal that continues to perpetuate all that ails us.

The unhealed wounds hold the fear that drives us into insanity. And I see people I love just stuck, because they’re the only ones that can allow healing to transform them, so that fear can no longer rule them. We have to be willing to open to a different way of being.

This requires forgiveness.

But often the things that keep us stuck are hidden deep inside us and we are unconscious of them so can’t see what needs healing. We keep repeating the same defensive patterns of thinking and being, believing they’ll keep us safe. On autopilot.

So although it is painful, the bad things that happen to us create openings for us to be able to excavate and get at that deep-seated unresolved fear. When we can see it, we can make it better, change and heal it, by forgiving. By being vulnerable and willing to admit that we have issues that we need to try and fix.

But during that process all we want to do is run away and avoid it because it hurts. We revert back to whatever coping mechanisms have gotten us through it in the past, dulling the pain temporarily avoiding, denying.

Maybe it goes back under the surface only to be triggered again, or maybe we sit through it long enough to try something different. To actually feel the pain and realize that it doesn’t consume us and that resisting only prolongs the suffering.

We can finally get to the truth when we hold space for ourselves and allow ourselves to grieve fully and then learn new ways to see. Ways that heal us.

People are human and make mistakes. Some more forgivable than others.

What I see at the root of these mistakes is unhealed trauma, feeling guilty, unworthy and separate. Fear. Feeling vulnerable. Shame.

In high school I was in a singing/dancing group and was partnered with my friend who was African American. I was happy about it, he was my friend, we even were doing a special duet together for something else musical.

Well, my father had different ideas about it regarding racism and spoke to the choir director. I was mortified and horrified. But I couldn’t stop it. I had a different, white partner after that. I was always puzzled, because wasn’t my father being racist?

So we get stuck in our defensiveness and react when triggered. We react, become fearful and behave in ways that are exactly what we are afraid of, defending against or get triggered about. It gets really weird. We become blind, or temporarily insane. It keeps us imprisoned.

What helps me is to see things from a more energetic, spiritual, bigger picture. So I don’t stay quagmired in victim-hood, taking it personally, resisting, ruminating on how it shouldn’t be this way, blaming and grieving.

It does help to rise above it, yet that can also lead to inaction. If we just accept that these things happen and do nothing to prevent them from happening again? Then history keeps repeating itself.

Because healing depends on correction of mistakes. We can’t just forgive and forget, we must forgive and heal ourselves while correcting the situations that keep wounding us. This means everyone has to be awakened and willing to do the work to heal our common fear and woundedness.

How do we correct the mistakes? First we must become conscious and aware that we’re still making them. We have to stay open, curious and educate ourselves. Or we will continue to keep our blind spots allowing the kyriarchy to prevail.

When someone says they’re hurt, being mistreated, oppressed, abused, discriminated against… if we remain defenseless and actively listen and empathize, seeing everyone as human and equals, innately worthy no matter their physical appearance, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social status, nationality, age, etc. set aside our ingrained judgements, then maybe we can begin to understand from the depths of our humanity that we’re all the same.

What hurts another also hurts everyone else. Fear can not remain if we are to have the universal healing that we desperately need.

The kyriarchy is based in fear.

Each and every one of us has to be willing to question what we think we know. We must become 100 percent responsible for what we are being. Especially those who are privileged within the kyriarchy. It’s much more difficult to work on your personal development, healing and social justice when you’re focused on survival, on getting your basic needs met.

I overheard one of my coworkers, a single mother describing how she works 24 hours several days a week while also taking online classes towards a nursing degree and I know so many who work up to 80 hours a week to barely get by.

The world is getting more imbalanced in many ways and I wonder when it’s gonna come crashing down?

Some people say that it’s not necessary to forgive. I say that unforgiveness is what’s keeping the fear in power.

Unforgiveness allows a seed of fear to remain, the wound can’t fully heal.

We can forgive yet still use our common sense and discernment.

We do not have to be martyrs or doormats.

Forgiveness lets us see that in spirit we are all the same, that a person’s behaviors are separate from the actual true, eternal self, the soul. If I were born into the same circumstances I may’ve been the same as the someone I can’t forgive. I can not judge because I have not lived that person’s life. That does not mean that we should not be held accountable for harmful behavior, but we can be forgiven.

Forgiveness does not mean you keep allowing or stay in toxic situations. Forgiveness allows you let go of the anger and resentment. Forgiveness is not linear and it’s a continual process, it’s something we have to practice as a habit here on earth. Either that or keep perpetuating the fear and irrational, hurtful behavior.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid. We are biologically hardwired to be afraid of threats for our physical survival. And if you’ve been abused, there is a measure of fear that remains. The fear I’m talking about is the irrational fear, that we make up in our heads or replay habitually. The ways we’ve been socialized and brainwashed to fear.

What we fear the most is that this is all there is. That we are briefly alive as these bodies and then poof! That’s why there’s the kyriarchy.

No one has been able to prove that our energies/souls live on, don’t know if they ever will. But we as humans can choose what we think. We can at least try to choose more loving thoughts, words and actions. We can be open and willing to learn something different. We can choose to be responsible and accountable for our roles we play in creating the greater good. We can all work on practicing forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Miyagi
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