It was the day before Christmas, 1990. My uncle and mother were hunting down the bike I'd asked Santa for. They couldn't find it in their local Toys R Us so they decided to drive a little further north and see if they'd have better luck.
Once at the store, they were able to find the bike and to their luck it was the last one. My uncle told my mom he be right back, while he went to go find a sales person. During this time a lady came over and was also wanting the bike. My mom told the lady that her brother was actually fetching the sales person because it seemed to be the last one. Maybe they have more in stock in the back.
This did not sit well with the customer and all of the sudden she started yelling at my mother and now Uncle who'd come back with the sales person. She stated that they needed to go back to their own country and that they were here taking jobs from Americans, I'm guessing their accents were not well received.
My uncle and mom politely ignored the lady, which only added to her rage. The sales guy realized the situation and escorted them to the checkout and assured them, that the bike was theirs and to excuse the customer who at this point was still walking behind them yelling racist rhetoric.
My uncle and mom left the store with my brand new bike and Christmas was saved.
The above story is a very common one, racial tensions in the United States are part of the US story. Every decade it's a new ethnic group that's targeted. The Bike Story is probably happening right now as you read this, and were in 2017. I originally wanted to share my own experience in Springfield, Missouri in 2010, but I decided that the Bike story served to better understand the consequences of what happens when people fear immigrants and decide to live in an isolated society. Even when we all know this country is founded on immigrants.
My uncle was just starting his Medical Residency in the United States. Even though my uncle was a legal resident and contributing member of society, the experience above tainted his will to be part of this country. Shortly after this experience, my uncle left and never came back. Today he is a successful surgeon with three beautiful kids and resides in his birth town in Panama.
People like my uncle are currently being turned away by our government. The rhetoric being spread in the underbelly of this country is one to be alarmed by. National Security is one thing, but the spread of xenophobia is unacceptable and yet here we are 2017, still dealing with the same issues that have always tainted the land of the Free.
My grandpa always said, "The heart of this country is ignorant, please forgive them."
Yesterday it was us, today it's Muslims. So how do we fix this? How do we keep talented, class act citizens in this country? You know the ones who save lives daily? I'm struggling with this question now because I myself wish to join my uncle. I feel like I stole that bike from that lady in 1990 and should pack my bags and go.
To the lady in that Toy's R Us in 1990. I'm sorry you weren't able to purchase the bike you wanted. However your words were powerful and eventually, you got a portion of what you wanted. Unfortunately, you never stopped to ask yourself who the bike was for? A young 8yr old, who would one day grow up and be faced with the tough decision if she too should follow your advice. Americans complain on why blacks in America still bring up slavery? As an adult I finally understand. The oppression your parents felt does not end with them, their stories are carried through you, their shackles become your shadow. You cannot hide from your shadow.
But I'm still here on the bike, against the path of least resistance. I've choose to stay. There is no room in my heart for hate, for walls, for discrimination. I'm raising my daughter to know that diversity is a luxury that actually makes america great, that the wrong doing of a few, does not accurately represent the heart of the majority.