Love Over Bias: My Personal Experience
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all saw each other through a mom’s eyes? To celebrate the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, Procter & Gamble just launched this “Love Over Bias” video that is phenomenal! It will make you smile and cry at the same time. It’s about the moms of athletes across the world who took them to practices, made sacrifices to pay for lessons, wiped their frustrated tears, and celebrated their triumphs. It’s a beautiful film that I PROMISE will change your day today.
This film celebrates a mom’s role as her child’s first and greatest advocate. A mom is the one who sees her child’s potential regardless of how others might see them. It’s something that hits very close to home. We hope this film will help bring people together and see beyond the things that divide us. If we could all see each other through a mom’s eyes.
My experience with bias is personal, and I hope you’ll take a minute to read my story, share your own stories, and then please share the film with all of your friends on social media. Let’s help bring people together.
What are You? My personal story with Bias
“What are you?” asks the woman standing next to me in the grocery checkout line as she leans in to take a closer look. “Persian? Brazilian? Greek? Hispanic?” It’s a question I’ve been asked regularly since I was a little girl where I was taken around the playground and shown off to other kids who had to see for themselves my conflicting appearance. You see, I don’t look like most people living in the rural part of the United States where I am from. I have caramel brown skin, dark wavy hair, and bluish green eyes. My brown skin paired with the blue eyes throws people off and they can’t quite place me in a category- so then the question comes, “What are you?” And with pride I am able to say, I am part El Salvadorian, part Dutch, and part everywhere in between. I love my rich and blended ethnicity but I am much more than my skin color. I’m a mother, a wife, a counselor. And I credit this self-confidence to my parents.
My Parents’ Example
My mother is from a small Central American country called El Salvador and she moved to the United States after high school to go to college during El Salvador’s civil war. During that time, my mom met my American father whose grandparents emigrated from Holland. Their decision to get married and blend cultures was difficult for some family members to accept. My mother often felt isolated and alone, like a fish out of water so far from home. She continually had to prove her intelligence as her heavy accent caused others to automatically assume she was uneducated or from impoverished circumstances. But the truth was that her El Salvadorian family was quite educated and well-to-do. Despite the opinions of others, my parents got married and were determined to pass down a legacy of love and compassion to their children.
They made an intentional decision to take us three daughters on several trips every year around the world to help with humanitarian aid and to visit our family in El Salvador. On more than one occasion, we were asked to give up Christmas gifts so that we could travel to Mexico and provide Christmas for a few families there instead. I can’t say that as a pre-teenager I was thrilled with the idea at first, but those memories remain as some of my most favorite Christmas experiences.
Finding My Identity and Voice
Throughout my youth, I spent summers in El Salvador with my grandparents, aunts, and cousins during the heat of their civil war. I saw poverty, desperation, and fear in the people of El Salvador and I knew it was very different than home. As a young child returning home to Utah in a predominately white neighborhood, I realized my family was different. I was different. My skin was much darker than others and I stumbled over words when I spoke as I tried sorting out the English and Spanish in my brain. I realized at 5-years-old that the world was a much larger place full of all variations of color, sizes, and cultures and I felt lucky to be in on this secret that not many other kids knew.
I began identifying more and more with my mother’s heritage and felt proud to be Latina. I wasn’t ashamed. In middle school, I remember a boy calling me the most derogatory racial slur imaginable and I stood up to him without fear. I wouldn’t allow someone to talk to me that way and let’s just say he never bothered me again.
Many years later, the comments and biases were still there. I once had a person roll down their window while driving and yell, “Go back to your country!” when I accidentally cut them off. I am a born American. I am in my country! I’ve had people assume I don’t speak English or that my family comes from the “rougher part of town.” I cringe each time I fill out a questionnaire and get to the race/ethnicity boxes where they ask you to mark if you are either Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, or Other— I never know what to put. I want to write next to the “other” box, “It’s complicated!”
Choosing Love and passing it on to the next generation.
I know what it feels like to be judged on something beyond my control, like the amount of melanin my body produces causing a darker pigment. It’s hurtful to be judged on that alone. I also know that I can either choose to react from a place of anger/fear or react from a place of love and in order for me to teach my children about love- I must live it. And therefore I choose love.
Love is a conscious choice and it is something we can help our kids recognize from an early age. I believe that if we can fill their brains with messages of love, then there won’t be enough room for messages of bias. We just have to get there first. I do this by having these messages on my wall like “Choose Love” or “Live to Love” as a daily reminder for our family.
But I believe the most important thing I can do as a mom is to give my family real-life opportunities to practice love. Just like my parents took us on humanitarian trips across the world, I intentionally look for opportunities for my family to be around others who are different than we are and find ways we can get to know them and love them.
When my oldest was almost three, we brought him to Thailand with us. We visited an orphanage there and he shared some of his very own toys with the children.
You don’t necessarily have to travel to faraway places! I am always on the search for local events that can expose them to other cultures such as IRC (International Refugee Committee) where my kids are able to mingle with kids from Syria and other countries. We talk about the situations their countries are going through and what it would be like to be in a new country and how to be a friend.
We have befriended refugee families in our town and invited them into our home. We’ve made visits to their homes so our kids can get to know each other. It’s amazing how easily children can make friends, even when they speak different languages.
Together as a family we fundraise money and collect items for projects to take to other countries including recent trips to Ghana, Uganda, and Nepal. My children help fundraise, collect, and sort the items we take and if they aren’t with us on the trips, we always share stories with them when we return.
The “Untouchable” Caste
Most recently, I was in Nepal and had an experience I will never forget. We visited a village from the “untouchable” caste of Nepal whom no one will touch, hire, or even acknowledge. While there, some of the girls in this village took me by the hand to their tin and dirt-floored home and proceeded to paint my nails and give me a makeover. They even gifted a pair of their very own earrings as a token of love. These girls were a powerful example to me of the love we can share as members of the human race. I cried when it was time to say goodbye.
I love the message P&G is spreading this Winter Olympic season of #LoveOverBias. It’s one of love and of celebration of people from all cultures. It’s about the moms that help us get there. Please watch this video and share it! The message of #LoveOverBias is so powerful and one that the world needs to hear right now. Let’s focus on the commonalities that bring us together and choose to look through a loving lens. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below.