By Marpheen Chann
Dear Fellow Americans:
Let me begin by saying that I know and understand your fears and anxiety when it comes to jobs and the economy. I get it. Production has skyrocketed with the help of technology and companies are doing more with less - which means fewer jobs - while paying less (taking into consideration the value of the dollar and inflation).
On top of that, economic globalization has provided companies with opportunities for more cost savings by shipping jobs and production overseas.
The thought of losing something is scary. It's scary for everyone. The thought that you could be next on the chopping block, especially when you have a house and mortgage payments, car payments, kids to feed, college to save for, credit card debts, heating oil for the winter months, etc. Believe me, as someone adopted by a white working class family in rural Maine, I understand how scary it can be.
Your fears and anxiety matter. But the issue minorities, immigrants, refugees, and the poor have is that, right now, your issues seem and do matter more in the system we have today.
Think back to when you were growing up and having dinner with the family. Remember when you did not want to touch the broccoli or the peas or vegetables? Or perhaps your mom or dad accidentally burnt the meatloaf or mac-and-cheese while stressing out about something? What was the response?
Eat your vegetables. There are starving kids in Africa.
Now hold onto that thought. Because now I want to say, as delicately as I can, that you occupy a special place and have a certain status in America that lets you enjoy certain rights and privileges - simply because of the color of your skin. Now, before I lose you, think with me for a bit.
Whether its advertising or art or whatnot, colors have a tremendous AND subtle influence on our perception of certain things. For instance, the color red can symbolize power or it can associate things with anger. The color blue can symbolize and associate things with trust or it can be a depressing color.
Now think about what you grew up with when you were looking at magazines and watching TV. Who were all the successful people on TV or on those magazine covers? What color was there skin? Growing up seeing that, you begin to associate the color of their skin with all that is bright and beautiful and successful. The few black or brown people who happen to make it into those spaces disguise that and the thought that enters is: "oh, well if everyone works hard, then they can make it to the top no matter what they look like."
So being white in a society where everything bright and beautiful and successful is white builds into our heads what is called biases. Everything that is not bright and beautiful and successful then has to be attributed to something - so, often, and in reality, it is associated with people that are not white. So that is why we say that you are less likely to be stopped by police. Even if an African-American male is walking down the side of the road minding his own business, his skin color and hair and clothes are measured up against the white person in that other neighborhood. In the subconcious, that African-American male doesn't measure up - so he must be up to no good. He must be stopped. You know... to protect the community. To be more specific, to protect the white community over in that other neighborhood across town - the one with the nicer houses and white picket fences and maybe a kid and a dog running around.
But you see, I'm not saying this to say it's your fault. I'm writing this to say that we're all victims of a broken system that divides us and makes us look at what's on the surface, rather than what's in the heart. You may be white and I may be brown, but cut both of us open and we both bleed the color red.
The other thing about our broken system is that it always uses "The Other" (a fancy term for scapegoat) to distract you from the real issue. Especially when it comes to jobs.
You're told often enough and loud enough that the Chinese are stealing your jobs. But the truth of the matter is that the top 1% who own the jobs are stealing your jobs away to make an extra dime on top of the millions and billions they already own. The top 1% are the beneficiaries, the ones who reap the most, from a system that makes an idol out of gold. The 1% are the ones who benefit from saying the Chinese are stealing our jobs and that our taxes, which pay for our schools and roads and teachers, should be cut so they can afford to keep the jobs here in America. The 1% also benefit by making you feel that your fears and anxiety mean more and should mean more than anything else.
They benefit when you feel that immigrants are stealing your jobs - you know, the one where you're picking strawberries on a hot summer day, or something like that. They benefit when you feel that you work hard for what you get and that those who don't have what you have must not work as hard - when the truth is that our country still has some things to work through when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of slavery.
Your problems and issues matter. But there are issues beyond just jobs and the economy that matter too. So let's make a deal: we'll work with you to fight for better jobs and a better economy for all, but you have to work with us to fight for equality and justice for all. I think this is what will make America great again.
Candidate for Portland City Council District 5.
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