Someone asked me if I had ever encountered racism. I thought about it a second and a particular event came rushing back to me. It was a one time occurrence but it made me think about how terrible it must be to endure that time and time again just because of who you are, where you came from, what you look like from a random person who makes a judgement due to their own prejudices.
For me it was in college. My then boyfriend had two really good friends who were from a small town on Cape Cod. We were living in Boston and drove there for a warm spring weekend. We were going to stay at one of the guys girlfriends house. We both knew her and had spent time with her over the year.
We got to the house and met the parents. I felt uncomfortable the second I stepped foot in the house. The parents sized me up and I could see in their eyes that I did not look like their friends. I am Jewish.
They began to interrogate me. Where was I from? How was it possible we all met? I knew exactly where they were going. I wanted to ask them what did they really want to know. I felt like saying would you like to see my horns? I have never felt so uncomfortable somewhere. All I wanted to do was get out of there. I could barely breath.
We were supposed to stay for dinner and spend the night. I refused. I told my boyfriend that I would not stay the night there. I felt unsafe. I am sure it would have been fine but I didn’t feel at ease until we were in the car and out of their neighborhood.
It is a moment that I had not thought about for years. Yet when someone asked me if I had ever encountered racism it was unbelievable how quickly that came rushing back to my brain. Think about how awful it must be to have to endure that often. You probably become numb to it and put up a wall that has a hard time every coming down.
What is happening now with the Syrian refugees is what spurred on the conversation. Most of these people are people who just want to have a roof over their head, food on their place, access to medicine and a place that they can raise their families. Our friends became Canadian citizens after living in Canada for decades. It was time. The last part of the process was that you had to come in for an entire morning and discuss with groups of people who were also getting their citizenship what the most important thing about becoming a Canadian citizen is. My friend figured economic security, opportunity to do something of value for the country. The answer among all the people in the roof was safety. After hearing from many of them how they had got to Canada he said he looked around the room of people from all over the globe and almost cried. Think about that, the most powerful thing to all these people was that they were now safe.
I think about how lucky we are all to sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families knowing that we have a roof over our head and food at the table. We should really be thinking about all the refugees around the globe who are looking to have the same experience as us, to be with friends and family around a table filled with food and to be thankful for the ability to lead the lives that they want to live.