Whenever someone begins a sentence with “Some of my best friends are black” or “I don’t see color,” I move them quickly into a category that tells me if they define their friends by color or identifiers, they’re probably talking about acquaintances, not friends.
I am grateful that my parents taught and showed me how to love and care for people, no matter their race, size, gender, station in life, geography, age or sexuality.
They said labels don’t make people good or bad — what’s in their heart determines that. Those were important lessons to learn.
In my hometown, people were either black, white or Jewish, and my friends looked like me, stayed at church all day Sunday like me and got whippings when they lied or talked back.
So there wasn’t much time to discuss difference. I surmised difference wasn’t good or bad — it was what you had left when you added and subtracted.
Today, my friends are as diverse, wonderful, interesting and amazing as I could hope for, and each adds unimaginable depth, richness and grace to my life.
As politicians fight among themselves, as bridges and roads become more dangerous while we define “infrastructure,” as we grapple with expensive but inadequate childcare, fewer women in the workplace and cope with the last vestiges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must lift up our neighbors and friends who are Latino, Native American and Asian, lest we forget the humanity behind the statistics and news reports.
I love Westerns and, as I watch “The Lone Ranger,” I’m amazed that “Hey Injun” is how most people greeted Tonto, his Native American sidekick.
Though the townspeople treat him poorly, Tonto’s able to blend into the woodwork to gather the intelligence he and his trusted friend need.
The Lone Ranger usually treats Tonto with dignity and respect, but rarely did his peers.
Nowadays, Native Americans living on reservations are defined by their miseries rather than their proud history, and nobody’s been able to explain how Christopher Columbus discovered something that wasn’t lost, but that’s a story for another day.
Whether we’re pointing to Hop Sing on “Bonanza,” HeyBoy,” the no-named Asian servant on “Have Gun Will Travel” or the storylines that occasionally showed Asian men who served or did laundry, problematic images are plentiful.
Some history books chronicle the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor, but many don’t; so we go about our business and ignore the abuse, harassment and violence that is being heaped on Asians of all descents.
I was speechless recently when an African American man abused an elderly Asian man, and when a gunman killed mostly Asian women in Atlanta.
What happened to the Golden Rule, to standing up for what’s right? Why hadn’t I said or done more to stand in solidarity with my dearest friends? Why wasn’t I paying closer attention?
Yes, we want people to come across our borders legally, but we must know that nobody sends their children on a dangerous journey alone unless they’re desperate. Desperate people do desperate things, every day.
We, Latinos, Caucasians, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans — whatever comes before or after the hyphen — we all want the same things.
We want to live in peace in a decent home with our families, bask in self-determination, dignity and respect, and attend safe schools with enthusiastic and caring teachers.
We want our friends — all shapes, sizes and colors — to visit when we’re sick, celebrate our weddings, baptisms and cookouts, and share our trials and triumphs — the same things.
Let us fight on for righteousness, truth and justice for all. That’s what friends are for.
CYNTHIA A. BOND HOPSON, Ph.D., of Cordova is a native Tennessean, educator, author and mentor. She and her husband, Roger, lived in Paris twice. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook@drbondhopson.