For My Own Peace of Mind

This story is just for me really. To remember to love instead of hate. And to remember what hate does when it mutates into violence.

I was a newlywed. Moving with my husband to a new place. We were excited. It looked like a fresh start. He wanted to get a job that would help me keep my career. For the first few weeks, we worked together. He was opening a warehouse he was going to manage, I was renovating it. It was a perfect marriage of our careers and a good start to mine.

The place moved to was called "Lower Alabama", "The armpit of Florida", "The panhandler's state", and "The Redneck Rivera". I didn't think much of those names or why people called it that. I didn't care. I was in love. I'd hide in his seabag and follow my marine when he went to Iraq if he let me. But he didn't. I asked.

Here's a weird part. My husband's best friend is proud to be called a redneck. He's one of the kindest and most open minded people I know. His mom passed away right before we got married but she was excited for us. She was like a mom to my husband so technically a mother in law to me. His dad was always gracious and hospitable. Treated us like family.

Back in high school, middle school even. My husband and I were part of a strange mixed group of misfits. Our only bond was that we had a knack for getting into trouble. We were the smart kids that got bored and mischievous. We looked at the world as one big stunt to pull after another. How fast does a shopping cart go if you attach it to a car before it breaks? How long before people start honking in the school parking lot because they don't like hearing you sing "Welcome to the jungle're gonna diiiiiiiie!"

I walked into the new area thinking that these people were going to be down to earth and have chickens in their backyard like all my neighbors did. I thought this was going to be a blast! Even my mom grew up with chickens in her backyard but she grew up on a large piece of farm land. I was used to seeing people ride their horses to the mall. Cows on the side of the road. My home town was a big city too. There was racism, violence, hatred. So this is not to say I was sheltered. I just never experienced real hateful racism before.

Things started to get weird when they would seat me in the back of restaurants. Then they started to refuse to serve me. I was accepting of everyone...just a young adult navigating through my first years of marriage on the brink of finishing college...everything was new and fresh. Especially when you're in love.

I just didn't see it at first. After a while, comments started to pass among employees of my husband. Half and half. That's not to say much because there were only four guys.

It started to get worse when I was pregnant. Random people would see my stomach and try to shut doors on my belly. I would kick it back open or let my foot get slammed instead. People would push me when I would go grocery shopping. So I started to hang out at the Air Force Base. I started to notice more.

Fear. It does that to you. I never noticed how the majority of minorities shopped in certain areas. When they did, they loved the area. When they didn't, it was beyond awful.

I started to get really round in the belly. My husband started suggesting that I walk on the inside of traffic while the cars pass him by. Things were subtle but this was a tipping point after a year of living there. This happened because a woman that was driving into a parking lot, looked at both of us...and started screaming angrily at me. I was on the side of the crosswalk, out of the way. She sped up and drove out of her way, swerving. She almost hit me. I started screaming and jumped out of the way holding my belly. My husband got angry, jumped in the car and started chasing after her. He started screaming at her asking how she would like it if she got hit. And when she went into a store, he passed by glaring at her, mouthing that he wouldn't forget.

Stickers. We started noticing the attacks by stickers on the back. Back home, they meant nothing. Where we moved, they meant everything. The abstract deer. It usually meant hunters but over there people told us and we connected it ourselves that it was a bad sign. The Christan radio station sticker. Christians aren't bad. But the ones who believe that interracial couples are abominations are.

I noticed the signs on several churches. Intolerant. Spreading hate. Threats. The town we lived in had less than two hundred people. Maybe a little over a hundred. When you signed into the post office for an address change, they found out your birthday and would post it on the town board. In another way, this was also bad. People knew each other. And you could be quickly outcast.

Trying to side step trouble, I shopped at the base for as long as we still had access with my husband's time in the reserves that he served. I talked to the women about having their first baby, just getting advice, and making some attempt at friendly conversation. They were all so nice to me. The lady that sold furniture always stopped to talk for hours.

I was sitting in the office, waiting for my husband to finish work so we could go to an appointment. A man came up from behind me and shoved his finger deep into my spine that I cried out in pain. He then started arguing with me that he knew better than me. That he was better than me. Before it got worse, my husband just asked me to wait in the car. He told the man "if you ever touch my wife again, go find yourself another job because I will fire you."

This man, instead. Filed a complaint against me. Which is bunk because I was always at home. He said that I was taking over the office and undermining people. A year prior, I was hired to refinish the warehouse and do inventory so technically I was working taking down wall paper, connecting fixtures, paint, deconstruct and put together instructed. The job took a week. It was a year later. So his argument makes no sense. I made them cookies for Christmas and showed up for a party. I volunteered at one point. That's it. The rest of the time, I was at home.

The higher ups didn't listen to him. He didn't care. He got another employee to back him. It was getting so bad that my husband set a meeting. They were telling him to quit and that they'd miss him (this guy wanted his job and said so in the meeting that he wanted to replace him). They kept interrupting him and shutting him up like he already resigned.

See, my husband was ready to leave this place and wanted to get another job where it was safer...but he wasn't sure. They were ready to kick him out and take over. But the weirdest thing happened when I walked in. The two guys got belligerent and started yelling at me. The other two guys called later and said that what they did was uncalled for and that people shouldn't argue with the bosses wife when she says "treat all people with respect. It doesn't matter if it's a customer or an employee. Treat people with respect." They said I had no right and they don't "have to thank you for a damn thing you did here."

When hurricane Katrina happened, they were short so I volunteered to do inventory and office work. Stupid stuff. I filed papers, said little, and counted caskets. I worked into the night so they could go home or take time off to console family, or find family. I traveled with my husband to scout out routes first and purvey the scene if people needed assistance.

I started crying, "you don't have to thank me...I just tried to help because I don't have family out here...I don't know anyone out here...I wasn't doing it to be thanked" They looked at me and mocked me for making it personal, saying I have no right to "speak" (I had heard a few comments I let slide about Asian women being subservient. Seen but not heard. I thought it was some stupid joke. I didn't think they were serious.). They kept yelling at me for a long time until I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

My husband's boss tossed it as me overreacting and threw away the complaint. Months later...the guy gets fired after several accounts of sexual discrimination and abuse of his employees...the guy that hurt me got fired for several different accounts as well as being psychologically evaluated for being mentally imbalanced. The other guy was arrested for DUI and carrying drugs from this "girlfriend". There goes his truckers license. I felt bad for them. They made their fate.

At the hospital, however. The racism got really bad. It's attributed to ptsd. Getting slapped and hit by nurses, told to shut up. Overdosed and abused. Told my "yellow baby" is sick with jaundice when she wasn't. (You look in the eyes. The eyes for jaundice. Then you screen for it.) My marriage suffered. We had trouble adjusting. My real in laws even had issues with Japanese people and made a few snide comments in front of me and later denied it. I didn't want my husband to cut his family off, he felt he needed to. But still. It's tough. It's a tough decision so when things come up with your biological family, what do you do. They made him choose and it wasn't fair. It put a strain futher on us. Lots of things piled up. Though I love him...things are complicated...hate, prejudice, misunderstanding. Our marriage is between the two of us so our mistakes are our own. But it's hard to side step the fact that this had a lot to do with some parts of it.

I've gone through this story a few times. I don't remember. I just wanted to write this again. Because I want to remind not hate. Look what happens when you do. The destruction it leaves behind is devastating.

Tekkamaki Tekkamaki
13 Responses Mar 8, 2009

Thank you for your comment, Pulchritudinous! I find it a little curious myself of those who people call heroes sometimes do not consider themselves one. But on the other hand, I think it is because they act genuinely and the ones that boast of their good deeds have many dark secrets to hide. Least that is what I think? Thank you again for reading and I am glad that you got something good out of it! : )

Wow, I never knew racism was so rampant in some places. I've only ever lived in one city in the North USA, and was homeschooled, so I'm pretty sheltered, I guess.<br />
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Your story is so amazing because of the way you handled it. You are definitely one of my heroes (it's interesting how all my heroes are the people who some, maybe most, wouldn't consider heroes unless they knew the story, and maybe not even then) because of the amazingly, wonderfully gracious way you handled the hate and fear. You are an inspiration to me, even though I do not have to deal with racism, I have other things that I fear, and it's wonderful to see someone who went through more than I have and came out of it all with such an incredible attitude.<br />
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Thank you for the beautiful (yet also horrible) story. It was very eye opening.

Thank you oriundus! For some reason I quite enjoyed the planting and growing comment, lol! <br />
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It is funny because I had been thinking about this a lot. About ten years ago almost I was on the outs with an ex boyfriend. One of the heated arguments that blew up into violence was over race. He generalized a race of people to be awful post 9-11. I defended friends and children I knew that were in no way related to the tragedy but were all of Arabic descent. The guy was clearly ignorant. His "excuse" for choking me wasn't about a little boy whose dad was middle eastern. But he thought that I thought bin laden had good intentions. What I said was people use good intentions and pevert them into violent acts. Years later he only remembers what he wants and how wrong I was. Then those events I wrote about above happened.<br />
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I suppose my driving force for that attitude was actually SEEING the ignorant hate in that sad little person. I see what he chose to do. I saw that if I were to hate, it would be no better. And those on the receiving end of that hate have quite a bit of scars to heal from. I found much more success learning compassion and understanding. More peace. I could live my life not shrouded by fear. <br />
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Thank you for reading and commenting. I really get perspective revisiting this and greatly enjoy the points of view!

Thank you for commenting renguul! When I lived in that area, I had to find someone who was open minded or just even open to friendly small talk, it was so isolating! Being able to at least connect with someone even for a short period of time got me through some of the tougher days. Thank goodness for the internet too!

mandyh- Thank you for commenting. I had forgotten about this story and it was good to read again. Tough to remember but good to remember.

Im sorry for what you experienced. It is sad that people are so ignorant. Very sad. You are a very strong person not to hate. I am Mexican American and therefore too have had to deal with racism. After one upsetting incident though, i went to bed full of hatred. I replayed what had happened over and over in my head and regretted not doing anything about it. I admire the way you went about this, admire the way you are so strong. I admire the way you remind yourself not to hate.

FrenchSpaniard. Oh yes. We had to go in and out of Alabama and Georgia all the time with the old job. It was scary. I used to wear dark glasses and a hat...and avoid taking out my honda. It's so weird how they stereotype things like that but they do. One time there were several people waiting around my car just to see who'd come out. My husband walked out alone first just to check it out and they started with the questions of "why" he has one. There were trucks everywhere, American cars. No foreign "brand name" cars. He just said he liked the gas millage and they left him alone and drove off. That's all they were waiting for. The owner of the car. Can you believe that?<br />
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Really creepy!<br />
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Andrew. Oh your thoughts are SO similar to mine! I thought the same thing. I would think people would be concerned but they were all angry on lookers. Not sympathetic at all. <br />
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When I saw this at my home town, it was isolated and rare. But I said something. I always stood up for others. Or I refused to take it myself which people around me would be supportive...<br />
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PapayaBubbleTea...yes...that's probably why I moved. I had a sinking feeling they'd attack even a helpless infant. Well, matter of fact, I saw some people being mean to children. The area had this hate for the mexican population too and if any person was tan, they took them for mexican and would harass them...even if they weren't. It was awful.

Think of it this way, it's beautiful she is loved. Which in fact, makes her special and beautiful no matter what judgmental people say. You see her for who she is and that's a beautiful gift. My grandma was the most special person in the world to me. She's gone now but she truly left me with love and compassion and lessons I will never forget. Loving grandmas can really make you feel invincible sometimes just by their love. She might never say so but I say this as a granddaughter myself. I've always felt it in my heart.<br />
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: D<br />
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I've known that pain as well but it made me realize that kids that only look that far never see into your heart. A friend that will take the time and look into her heart is a real special friend indeed. The rest of the kids aren't even worth the time and attention from her. Maybe someday they'll come around. If not, then there's still many great and wonderful people for her to meet. : )

Well, my granddaughter is mixed race White/African American and we have experienced racism as well. I had to go talk to her K teacher because she is one of a handful darker skinned kids in her school and some of her classmates were not being nice to her. (I wonder where they learned that?) She has a white splash birthmark on her cheek, they tease her and she says "That's where my grandma kisses me." I always wished she would never know that pain since we're white people raising her and we never treated her like there is a difference. It's just sad

Don't be sorry. It's ok! I guess the point was that I can still laugh. People say some of the silliest jokes and remarks and I laugh.<br />
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I know what real hate is. And I know not to fear it. I can move on but always remember.<br />
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I just wanted to share this to tell you the backstory and that I still find good jokes funny. Bobby Lee and Margret Cho are hilarious. I even make really off jokes myself...I can be really bad sometimes!<br />
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People don't need to be careful around me when they make Asian jokes or funny remarks. Matter of fact, they make me laugh. So I just wanted to say even though it's not ok to others, I don't mind. But if it's dry, than I probably won't laugh. I'll just say "man, that's so dry...I had to go to the desert to get a drink of water" drrrrry response to a joke, lol! That was bad. I know.

What a terrible ordeal - no person should have to endure>I'm so sorry.

As much as I wish this never happened to me...that it didn't exist...I know I survived it. <br><br />
I went back to visit these places. Showed my daughter where she was born. We created good memories there. It was amazing and so healing. I felt reborn in a way. We had a lot of laughter there too. I "met" her there...she came into my life there. So an amazing thing happened to me even with all the bad. It's tough remembering a few of the trials and tribulations my marriage went through but I do remember we did try to weather the storm together. It's a good memory.<br><br />
I plan on going back another time too for vacation. It's actually a very beautiful place. Not much to live in but great to visit.<br><br />
This helps. I can overcome. I can learn strength though others tried to make me weak. But sometimes remembering this does make me exhausted and overwhelmed.<br><br />
I think I need a little break.

I am so sorry you had to live through this. But I'm glad you wrote about it. Its good for you and for us too, so that, even now, after the fact, we can step up and be a witness. <br />
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I read this story and see that deranged animals walk among us! I see the despicable injustice and cruelty they did to you. And I despise it. I denounce it. And I promise I will recognize it for what it is when I see it again and do something to stop it! Thank you.