We Becketts went to our very first Albuquerque Isotopes game this weekend. Connor’s T-Ball team was one of the teams of the game. It was a beautiful day for baseball. We enjoyed a pre-game all-you-can-eat lunch. Connor and his fellow Phillies were able to follow the mascot, Orbit, down onto the field to get introduced on the loud speaker with their faces projected on the big screen. They were able to stand by the dugout and get autographs from the players. Then they got to stand on the field beside the players for the national anthem. We had great seats and there was constant entertainment between innings. Albuquerque may not have a major professional sports team, but experiences like these would most likely never happen with the Cubs or White Sox unless lottery winnings paid for them.
We enjoyed overpriced lemonade, the excitement of foul balls flying our way, and the home team winning 6-2. The seats were not all filled which was nice for Connor who climbed and roamed a little when the game could not fully captivate him. Blessed with the gift of eavesdropping, I overheard a particular person two rows behind us. Besides being unable to complete a sentence without an expletive, he also had said something that sounded racist to me. I honestly cannot remember what it was, but it was enough to make me consider saying something to him.
Then at one point of boredom, Connor was turned around and looking the guy’s way probably because he had done or said something strange. His girlfriend noticed and giggled at Connor looking at him. His response was one of those strange noises that people demeaningly throw at Asians. It was not ching-chong but something to that effect, maybe ning-neong? Regardless, I heard it. I turned around to look. They were not engaged at all in looking my way and as was the case for most of the game just focused on themselves. It was the guy, his buddy on one side, his girlfriend on the other and her daughter who was about Ethan’s age.
I turned back around and let my mind race. What to do or say? Connor either did not hear or did not understand and was already moving on to climbing over seats. I don’t know if anyone else even heard; Mike two seats down from me did not. I listened to the guy tell his girlfriend how badly she sucked at softball while I contemplated my options.
Option 1: My first thought was to stand up and make a scene with the same expletives he had been spewing all afternoon. There were words like “racist” and “ignorant” and insults to his intelligence. It was also fueled by the ferocity of a Mama Bear protecting her cub. My claws were extended. –> What would this accomplish besides me blowing off steam? On one hand, I could think that I was confronting his racism and not letting it pass. Maybe the crowd would be sympathetic and he would be humiliated. On the other hand, a reaction like that from me would most likely only feed his already poor opinion of Asians. Any microscopic iota of shame he might feel would convert to growing hatred for my peeps to make him better able to live with himself. And if he went off, who knows what other horrible things he could say to me in the presence of my children and the many families also with young children around us? Is this the example I want to give impressionable young minds?
Option 2: After thinking through the possible outcomes of my first reaction, I thought maybe the best way would be the friendly approach. Initiate dialogue with a smile by saying what a nice day it is and asking if they are enjoying the game. Maybe I would start with the fellow mother and pose a “hypothetical” question to her: “If someone insulted your precious little daughter or made fun of her, what would you do? Would you just let it go or would you say something? Well, I am just wondering the same situation myself after your boyfriend made those insulting noises to my preschooler.” (And then Mama Bear starts resurfacing and I have to hold back my inner Blagojevich to finish the conversation civilly.) “What kind of example do you want your daughter to grow up with? Do you want her to be someone who respects people or shows gross ignorance because she mimics what she sees around her? Think about it and do the right thing.” –> This kinder, gentler version sounds better than the first, but I still thought the reaction could be bad. Giggles and more insults were what came to mind.
Option 3: Ignore. All my life, my mother taught me to ignore the racism I received. She said many are simply ignorant and do not know better. She instructed me not to let it bother me and give them the satisfaction of irritation. It is just an inevitable part of life that we face as ethnic minorities. –> On one hand, this is turning the cheek. Her advice would definitely not make me lose my own dignity by stooping to the low levels of others. However, I struggle with if this keep-the-peace approach does anything to solve the problem? Of course, being confronted has helped some, but racism does not seem to go away. It has always been and seems like will always be, just like many of our social ills. But that does not mean I can feel satisfied with just ignoring because of a fatalistic nothing changes attitude. Then why feed the hungry? There will always be poor without food. Why heal the hurting? There will always be pain. Jesus instructed us to turn the cheek, but He was anything but inactive and fatalistic.
I chose option 3 if for no other reason than leaving undecided. The only option I thought that would lead to the remote possibility of success would be to establish a relationship with them. Invite them over for dinner. Do life together. I could not realistically see this happening in that situation especially as my claws were having a hard time fully retracting. But in this world of division, stereotypes and easily distancing from those unlike us, I want to walk in the shoes of those not like me and continue to establish as many relationships that cross over the various divides even if those divides feel uncomfortable to cross. There is value in discomfort. I do believe there is always a common humanity underneath our vast differences.
Last night I thought of what a wonderful day it was. We enjoyed 99% of the baseball game. We had a great time with company at dinner. We went to bed happy. However, my mind could not shut off so easily once in bed. I could not help but think of the ning-neong guy and imagine a fake scenario of confrontation before slumber came to me. I did not allow him to ruin my day, but I did allow him to cause further reflection on how to raise my children to handle these inevitable circumstances. What for many would only be a nice day at the ball field will for them be potential for facing the ugliness of racial attacks because of how God created them to be. And it is not because we now live in a city where Asians are as few as cloudy, rainy days. As I have written before here and here, the ugly face of racism is everywhere even in a city where Asians are plentiful.
Today I thought about Jonah who tried to run away from God and had to spend 3 nights in the belly of a fish (imagine that smell and filth!) because he did not want to have compassion on the evil Ninevites. I found new love for the stubborn prophet who most likely would have gone for Option 1. I thought of how the love of God is beyond my comprehension. I thought of how He did not tell me off when I deserved it, but reached out to me in love. I found myself praying for racist ning-neong guy, his buddy, his girlfriend and especially the little girl in their midst. This is not to say that next time someone racially or otherwise insults my children I will not growl and attack them with full Mama Bear force. But it is to say that I will try to follow the footsteps of Him who gave them to me. I will try to be the example that I want them to follow in loving others even those most difficult to love. Ultimately, I want them to follow Him who gave everything for them to experience that kind of love themselves.