[COLUMN] How many more words before we can all breathe?

Photo taken along New York City’s 6th Avenue by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz.

LAST summer around this time, America’s psyche was traumatized when Derek Chauvin, a white policeman in uniform, knelt on the neck of an African American man named George Floyd, for what we thought was 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

It was not. Based on the testimony a year later of brave 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, it was 9 and ½ minutes on Floyd’s neck. The neck, by the way, houses two vascular components. A doctor later testified that the amount of force cut off oxygen to Floyd’s brain, and ultimately, his death.

His chief of police and training officer all testified that what Chauvin did, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was not a standard police tactic and that they are taught actually to give relief and rescue tactics to save a life, before effectuating an arrest.

We now know that the federal grand jury indicted all four police officers including Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck.

That incident sparked millions to go out in the streets, demonstrating not just in America’s 2,000 cities but also, 60 countries abroad.

Humanity stood up to evil and we all got tattooed by what happened to Floyd’s heart, stopped by hatred prematurely by a man in blue uniform, who violated his public oath of office and breached the public’s trust.

Last year, our Asian American community witnessed the rise of hate incidents. This month, it has risen to over 6,000 incidents, according to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Recall how a white man killed eight in an Atlanta spa, six of whom were Asian females? He has now been charged with eight counts of murder, and his Baptist church issued a lengthy statement condemning his actions as contrary to the Gospel, even as experts warned of more hate crimes from male supremacy, according to the New York Times.

Thankfully, our government acted.

In Congress, the House voted 364-62, votes and the Senate voted 94-1 in favor of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

To the credit of Congress’ bipartisanship and Pres. Joe Biden who signed the hate crimes bill into law, our country experienced a united front at the federal level.

“We need to unite as one people, one nation, one America…Hate can be given no safe harbor in America. [We must stand] together against hate, against racism — the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” he said.

Though we must also remember, that 63 legislators, 1 senator and 62 representatives voted against this bill.

Still, we can say that our federal government stood up to the evil of hatred and we now have a more precise definition, reporting mechanism, oversight, including education and training of law enforcement officials to prevent substandard and unprofessional policing with hate bias prevention training and education.

Our police are now tattooed to consciously prevent hatred, and we hope, nationally, they all do to honor their uniforms and public oaths.

Let me end with two short story vignettes.

Hands up, see me!

Racism has been this warped mental concept passed on from generation to generation in America. It has lived on since our economy was dependent on tobacco and cotton plantations several centuries ago.

We are now mostly a gig and soon, an electric and solar-powered and wind sourced economy in the 21st century, six centuries later.

Shouldn’t our conscious hearts stop racism as a virus from spreading? Should we not evolve into conscious Americans, deconstructing and dismantling our explicit and implicit biases?

At the Beverly Hills Farmers Market, one morning, I saw a Latino American record producer shooed away and told not to sit next to a white elderly man. The white guy said, “This is my chair,” when he was sitting on one already.

I saw the hurt in this Latino man’s eyes. I waved at him and loudly, “Here, please sit next to me.” I wanted to neutralize the bigotry and it resulted in me getting the most profound spiritual lesson of all times: “That when you are born and survived the first year even without your parents nurturing you, the Universe’s angels were taking care of you.”

At the same market, I saw a white volunteer stop an African American man from gathering recyclables in a trash container. The white guy said, “This is my trash can. Stay away from here. Go back to your neighborhood.”

I was sitting next to the trash can. I stood up and said, “Listen, this trash can belongs to the City of Beverly Hills. It is for all of us to use. You both can gather recyclables from this trash can. You do not have to dehumanize him.”

The man was perturbed with a red face, but the rest of the folks sitting at the tables clapped. They said, “Thank you for standing up for that poor fellow.”

Just as all who are working through their pain, we too emerge into the light, as other folks do.

At a Catholic elementary and middle school in East Hollywood, I taught writing for 8th graders. I had a handful of brave students. Every Friday, I picked fruits from our backyard tree or baked banana bread for them. We wrote for 45 minutes and read aloud to each other.

I asked them to interview their father about their love story. Another week, it was to interview their mothers about her dreams. I reversed the stereotype that only fathers have dreams.

I was struck by how this beautiful Latina girl named Cinnamon kept saying she hated her father. So when she came back to class, quite eager to read her story to us that she persisted to get her dad to share, over many nights. It turns out that her father escaped the war in El Salvador, where he grew up looking for food in the trash cans. He was not abandoned as his parents were killed by stray bullets. He grew up ready to run and hide.

He got here by some miracle to America, got a job, but did not know how to love his wife and this precious 8th grader.

When she got done reading, we all cried.

I told her, “From now on, daily, call your dad to tell him you love him when you are at your mom’s house.” Why? I told her that he grew up with his heart emptied of love, “You must now fill it up.” She nodded her head.

She recently wrote a personal statement and got a scholarship at her dream Catholic high school. She said, “Ms. Delacruz, you know that cash gift you gave me for Christmas, I used it to apply at several high schools. I was accepted at the high school I dreamt of going to.”

Her heart’s four chambers, once filled with hatred for her father, have now been filled up with understanding, love for her dad, and the realization that she is God’s precious beloved. I saw her mom in church one time and together they had the broadest smiles, I suppose with peace in their hearts, secure now in knowing Cinnamon got admitted with her own personal skills in writing what she felt, her experience of feeling unloved by her dad and now, loving him, instead. She interrupted the chain of hatred.

That experience got tattooed in my heart. Not all of us are racists, not all white men are racists, and people who identify as Black, Asian, Latino or Jewish are not are born racists, but we all can have conscious hearts so we would not spread hatred as a virus.

“It is compassion that removes the heavy bar, opens the door to freedom, makes the narrow heart as wide as the world. Compassion takes away from the heart the inert weight, the paralyzing heaviness; it gives wings to those who cling to the lowlands of the self.” -Nyanaponika Thera.

“Courage is the essence of faith. Only the brave can have faith. A wise person is willing to fight his battles within himself. He eventually becomes established in a higher state of mind.“ -Swami Ashokananda

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.“ -Pablo Neruda

In America and the rest of the world, live with the currency of love and God’s boundless love as only love can bring us a full measure of peace.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 13 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

Prosy Abarquez Dela Cruz, J.D.

Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 13 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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