* Art by William N. Copley - Untitled (Think / Flag) (1967)
Well, that was fast. Last I wrote I was celebrating our 1st anniversary, then all of the sudden: boom! It's the 4th of July. I’ve been meaning to write, but I was overwhelmed with too many thoughts and couldn’t write anything coherently. I still feel scattered, but I am motivated by the concept of freedom – my favorite word. So here it is.
As a second generation Japanese Brazilian, I grew up with a mix of Japanese influence and Brazilian roots, but never really feeling I completely belonged to either culture. I was not quiet, compliant and obedient, so therefore I was too vocal to be considered a proper stereotypical Japanese girl. And I was not a boisterous, Carnival and samba loving person either, so therefore I was considered too serious to fit in as stereotypical Brazilian girl. I came to the US after I finished college and immediately felt at home. Something about the US felt right in between the 2 cultures, and my ideas and personality were not anomalies here. I was only 22 years old, and in my naïveté, I thought America was truly the land of the free. And a place where I would be free of those limiting boxes that I grew up in.
But soon I found that that it's wasn't that the US didn’t have any boxes. It just had more boxes than Brazil. More options and opportunities for people to be categorized, but still – they were boxes. And guess what was the biggest box that both countries have in common but nobody openly talked about when I was growing up? Race.
In my experience in Brazil, race and racism used to be conveniently hidden behind “country of origin”. I was categorized as Japanese, others as German, Italian, Turkish, South African - even though all of us were born in Brazil. Not Asian, White, Brown or Black. Every “nationality” had its own hierarchy (with White European at the very top), but nobody talked openly about race. In the US on the other hand, people talked about it more openly, and when I got here I realized how sheltered and clueless I was about this subject. Here is where I learned about the fallacies of being color blind and the myth of model minority (more on that later).
It’s an understatement to say that my life in the US has been, among other things, an education about American race relations and, most recently, about institutionalized racism. I felt that the subject of race and its implications were a big, raw, and open wound that begged to be healed, but wasn't. And now it's blown wide open for all of us to learn and change everything.
The Black Lives Matters movement woke me up to our need to be anti-racist and do the work to dismantle institutionalized racism. The thing is: it’s so uncomfortable. It’s hard work, and it’s painful. Today we all quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and we see the beauty and truth on everything he stood for in his lifetime. But that's easy to say now. The question for non Black folks is: if we were right there when Dr. MLK Jr. was alive, would we have quoted him and celebrated him then? Let's be honest: probably not. Because it was a new idea, he was breaking societal norms, and it was painful, it was uncomfortable, and very risky. So looking back, and knowing what you know, wouldn't you be proud now if we had marched with him? Wouldn't this be a legacy worth leaving our children? I believe the same thing is happening with BLM. Years from now, when we look back – did we chose to contribute with systemic racism, or to help destroy it? Were we scared bystanders or courageous allies? Did we live up to our great values, or were we just here for an Instagram selfie?
I've been thinking about Matriark, and how we can contribute to this movement in a authentic and meaningful way. Besides educating myself and trying to raise my kids to be anti-racists, I am committed to actively search for and bring Black women owned businesses to Matriark, and I am now in the process of looking at how we can properly support charities that will benefit black women and children. I don't have grandiose notions about what we do - we are a very small company, with a small financial impact. Yet. 😊 But I care about my community, and I also know my children are watching me carefully. I want to be useful, and do what I can with the resources I have. If you do have any suggestions on brands and organizations and want to share, please send them my way, I would love to hear from you.
Hopefully one day all human beings will be free to be who we are, and will enjoy the same rights regardless of our gender, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, political affiliations, and race. Only then we will truly be the land of the free. Isn't that worth fighting for?
Happy 4th of July Matriarks, and thank you for listening. It’s been quite a year. ❤️
PS: check out some commentary below on All Lives matter versus Black Lives Matter (I love one from Lizzo in particular), plus some other random things on relevant subjects like masks (see video below and chose which one is more like you) and home schooling. I told you I was scattered...
PS 2: I haven't spoken about Covid-19 today because I am tired of talking about it but please #wearadamn mask. 😷