If any of you saw the absolute failure of a film “Spring Breakers” starring James Franco, then you get the reference I’m making with the title of this blog post. A few weeks back, I wrote a post called Catch Up where I caught up on what I had missed the week before and let you all in on the insanity of my life. Well, here we are again.
First of all, let me say that I appreciate the opportunity to relax. I am currently enjoying the tropical climate of Livingston, NJ where I am sipping on a Shoprite brand water bottle, and basking in the chandeliers that hang above the desk at which I sit, soaking up the electromagnetic rays from the lightbulbs in the store. Yep, this is my Spring Break. It is only Thursday and since Spring Break officially commenced for me this past Friday, I have worked a staggering 42 hours.
As some of you may know, I have an hour commute to work so let’s do some math. If Brooke works 6 days, has an hour commute, and drives to work and back every day, how many hours did she drive? That’s right folks, I have driven 12 hours since Spring Break began. That means that I have dedicated an entire day to driving in the past six days. Want more math? Here you go: If Brooke lives 50 miles away from her job, how many miles has she driven in the past 6 days? 600 miles. That’s how many. Now here’s the bonus question: when does Brooke need to spend a fortune on new back breaks? Yesterday. Woohoo!
Anyway, I shouldn’t complain. It’s easy for us to complain. We’re broke, we’re in college, we eat like crap, we’re stressed, but hey, we have air in our lungs and a roof over our head. Now, that’s something to smile about right?
I spent a lot of time reflecting on our bus trip. I really was so moved by the students in Puerto Vallarta. “The first borders are our minds.” I mean, wow. How moving was that statement? But, what really got me was their consideration for us. I mean, let’s really analyze this. Maybe they know that NJ is a blue state and maybe they don’t but regardless, they were so thoughtful with what they said. They were asked what they assume about NJ and about America. AND THEY HAD NOTHING BAD TO SAY ABOUT US!!!!!!
Ask anyone on the street what they assume about Mexico and be prepared to hear hateful things and ignorant statements. These students refused to offend us. Even when asked what they thought Americans thought about them, they were very respectful and made it perfectly clear that they knew not everyone felt that way. The Mexican people have been labeled as lazy, criminals, and more recently, “bad hombres”. The students we spoke with were educated, and poised. In fact when asked how the perception of Mexican people by the US made them feel, they were at a loss for words. Doctor Zamora helped them to describe the feeling and I can’t remember exactly what was said but I believe it was along the lines of hurtful or painful.
Why is it so difficult to understand that Mexicans are not lazy, Jews are not cheap, Muslims are not terrorists, African Americans are not criminals, Whites are not trash, Asians are not bad drivers…the list goes on and on! It is simple: PEOPLE can be lazy, cheap, terrorists, criminals, trashy, bad drivers. Because PEOPLE are PEOPLE. And PEOPLE are not defined by the few bad apples in their race. If someone is an asshole, guess what: they’re just an asshole! If someone is cheap and they happen to be wearing a star of David around their neck, guess what, and get ready because this is going to shock you: THAT PERSON HAPPENS TO BE CHEAP AND THEY HAPPEN TO BE JEWISH BECAUSE ANYONE CAN BE CHEAP AND ANYONE CAN BE BORN JEWISH!!!! We are confusing labels with defining characteristics and we need to stop.
Look at me. I am pretty privileged. (I’m not bragging) I’m white, not bad looking, not overweight, my daddy’s a lawyer, mommy’s a teacher and I live in suburbia with my gorgeous sisters and my purebred dog. But what people don’t know is that I was born in a WASP town as 1 of 5 Jews and was taunted for it for years. I love being Jewish but growing up as a minority wasn’t easy. People threw pennies at me, called me a Kike. I even had one of my friend’s fathers kick me out of her birthday party because I was Jewish. I walked by the kitchen on my way to the bathroom and heard her father say, “I don’t care if everyone in the class had to be invited, get that Jew out of my house.” My mom had to come get me and my father was never told because if he knew, he’d be in jail.
Now, it’s 2017. I love being Jewish. I mean I love it. #jewswag But, there was a time when I had to hide it for my safety. It’s not that big of a deal, honestly, but there’s this Arabic market in Paterson, NJ and they have the best food. My boyfriend, who is Israeli and has an accent, and I stopped there on the way home one day and I happened to be wearing my star of David necklace. I was walking into a store when my boyfriend pulled me to the side and tucked it into my shirt. He put on his best American accent and whispered that I had to do all of the talking because people would know he’s Israeli. What? This is AMERICA! No one cares there you’re from here right? I have money. That’s all a shop owner cares about right? Wrong.
I walked into the shop and saw dozens of Palestinian flags hanging on the wall. Still, I felt safe. I did not judge because I had no reason to judge. Then, I walked into a back room because I saw beautiful Hamsas hanging on the wall. To my left, hung an Israeli flag on the wall with red paint spattered across it, meant to be blood. My heart hurt. I was not angry and I was not scared. I was simply hurt.
The difference between my experience and the experience of an African American girl living in Arkansas, is that no one working in that store knew that they were supposed to hate me. I was a white girl with a quiet boyfriend buying some middle eastern food with her necklace tucked in and that was it. I should not have to hide who I am out of fear but I am able to if I need to. I am privileged. The black girl in Arkansas, which is a hotspot for the KKK, shows her minority status on her skin and for that, she is a better person and she is stronger than I will ever be and I pray for the day where regardless of what we look like, we can simply walk the streets of our state feeling safe.
I don’t think I’ll ever see that day, and that makes me mad because I want to have faith. But the students from Puerto Vallarta showed me that maybe that day isn’t as far away as I originally thought.
I usually have to think about what I’m going to write before I write it but this just flowed out of me! I loved our bus ride to Puerto Vallarta! Thank you for the opportunity 🙂