Critical Race Theory Would Have Destroyed My Family
My grandmother's friend was decapitated in front of her because she made the mistake of not bowing before the Japanese officer as he walked by.
I sit on the bed, listening, as she tells me the story. My grandmother's sullen eyes stare out the sliding glass door of our Los Angeles home. Her vegetable garden is directly outside, but she's looking at something farther away.
It was hot that day, she recalls. They just wanted to go to someone else's house on the other side of their small rice-farming town. They were both nervous. The invaders ruled with absolute brutality, and they expected you to do everything they commanded. Everything.
The town hated bowing down to their oppressors, their masters. They resisted in any and every way they could, she says. She turns her head and looks at me as I sit on the bed. A sense of defiance flits from the corner of her mouth and follows a weathered wrinkle to her eyes. She says she liked to walk with women with babies because if you were holding a child, you didn't have to bow to the Japanese. So, whenever the Japanese would approach, she would ask to hold a woman's baby. She pauses after telling me that, then stares back out the glass door, satisfied.
My maternal grandmother's name was Clara Mella Motos, and she was married to my grandfather, Geminiano Arenas Motos. She was born in the town of Polangui in the Bicol region of the Philippines. She taught me strength and courage and forgiveness, but she never taught me to hate. Of all the people who could have taught her children and grandchildren to hate those who oppressed her, she could have. But she didn't. Her generation was oppressed, not mine.
As I got older, I would go on to become friends with those of Japanese descent. Chris went to the Air Force Academy two years before me. Steve, whose dad was going to be a Kamikaze pilot in the waning days of World War II, wanted to be an engineer and design airplanes after high school, and I was going to fly them. There's Tetsuo, who was an excellent jujutsu fighter but was reluctant to get his black belt. Then there are the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force officers who took me out for sushi during a military assignment to Japan, and we shared sobering stories about the military and, surprisingly, about World War II, over warm sake. We lamented, we bonded, and we became friends.
I knew them all as warm and good people. They are from a culture rich in warrior ethos and social mores forged in shame, honor, and duty traditions. The acts committed by their grandparents did not define them. What my grandparents endured did not define me. The past was the past, and we were not the past.
It's interesting to me that two peoples, from two very opposite sides of a tragic history, would become good friends someday. I guess we were never taught to hate each other. I'm thankful for that.
I'm convinced that hatred is taught, often at a young age. It's something you learn from your environment. It's not something you're born with. People like Larry Elder and Ty Smith, among others, understand this and are sounding the alarm against an insidious ideology that aims to divide Americans. There are many parents like Kory Yeshua, who is teaching his young daughter Royalty about how inherently wrong Critical Race Theory (CRT) is, and he's letting the world know about it. "It doesn't matter if you're black, or white, or any color," Royalty says; how you treat people is based on who they are and "if they're nice and smart."
It reminds me of my cousins when I was younger. When I was a kid, my family and I would occasionally travel to Denver, Colorado to spend Christmas with my paternal grandparents and my other cousins. We all came from different places, but Grandma Helen and Grandpa Donald Gordon's house was a place to reunite and enjoy the holidays together as a family.
I remember the smell of peanut brittle and the sound of cousins laughing and playing in the snow on those chilly Christmas mornings. In many ways, that red brick corner house in Denver was a personification of this melting pot called America. My grandfather's parents immigrated from Sweden, and my grandmother's parents immigrated from Lithuania. At Christmas, there were Whites, and Blacks, and Asians in the same house, as part of the same family. There were blue-collar workers and white-collar workers. Some were making minimum wage, and some had their own businesses. We were musicians and accountants and models and artists and veterans and entrepreneurs and everything in between. We were all different, yet we were all the same.
I never looked at my cousins as anything other than just my cousins. To me, they were just Ricky and Lisa and Audrey and Valerie and Jason. There were many other cousins too numerous to name, but they weren't White or Black or half or hyphenated. We were family, we were friends, we all got along, and that's all we needed.
Nobody told me that my grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe and helped defeat the Nazis, was racist simply because he was White.
Nobody told me that my dad (who adopted me when he married my mother) and my aunts and uncles were all irredeemably racist because of the color of their skin.
Nobody told me that my aunts and uncles looked down on me and some of my other cousins as less than them because we were racial minorities.
Nobody told me that I should always be looking for racism and feeling the oppressive effects of racism everywhere I went because I was a "person of color," whatever that means.
Nobody told me that the only way a minority like me would succeed at anything is if White people have the same interests as I do and that my White relatives would help me only because of their own selfish, racist interests.
Nobody told me that my White cousins were better than me or that I, as an Asian, was better than my Black cousins because Blacks were once slaves.
Nobody told me that I was labeled an "Asian" or that some of my cousins were labeled "Black" simply because my "White" relatives wanted to maintain this social labeling scheme that gave them dominance or advantage over our lives.
Nobody told me that my White family members were too ignorant or uneducated to relate to the Black or Asian experience because their white skin pigmentation was somehow a barrier to intellect, sympathy, or compassion for another human being.
Nobody told me that the deck was stacked against me and that I probably shouldn't work hard to succeed at anything in life because of a supposedly white supremacist or racist system that was meant to keep me down.
Nobody told me or my other cousins that we were oppressed.
Nobody told me that my grandfather, who reminded me of a real-life Santa Claus and whom I loved dearly, was an oppressor.
And yet, that's the world that I would have grown up in had Critical Race Theory (CRT) had its way back then. It would have corrupted everything that brought us together and held us together. Unspoken words and feelings of resentment sown by CRT would have eaten at and unraveled the fabric of this beautiful tapestry that was our family.
In short, CRT would have taught me to hate and resent my cousins, my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my country at a young age. As an offshoot of Marxist Critical Theory, CRT would have done just that. My mind and my heart would have been filled with divisive sentiments and ideas. But that's one of the ends of Marxism, isn't it — to destroy the family unit and replace it with the State. And when the State becomes the most important thing to you, that is when you become controlled.
I've heard it said that all CRT wants to do is to look at American history through the lens of race. That's a flawed and disingenuous proposition that's both reckless and dangerous. As the old saying goes, "if you look at the world through rose-colored glasses, then everything you see will look rosy. And if all you have in your hand is a hammer, then all of your problems look like nails."
It's a sunny day in Rapid City, South Dakota. My mom, dad, sister, and grandmother, Clara, are visiting from California. I greet them at the front door, give hugs, and begin to give a tour of my first-ever apartment. I'm proud of the place; it's someplace I can call my own after graduating from the Air Force Academy.
We pass by a wall. There are things hanging on it from my training at the Academy. There's a wooden training Japanese katana sword and a kendo bandana with kanji writing on it. The bandana was given to me by a visiting Japanese Air Self-Defense Force officer who trained with us.
My grandmother looks up, then asks me softly, "Is that Japanese?"
I'm at a loss for words. I don't remember what I say. But I'll forever remember that look of hurt on my grandmother's eyes as she simply purses her lips, looks down at the ground, and leaves the room.
I feel as if I'm dying inside. I want to tear everything off of that wall immediately. How could I be so insensitive?
When I get the chance, I apologize profusely to my grandmother and give her a tight hug.
"It's okay," she says. "That was a long time ago."
I'm convinced that it's strength and courage and forgiveness like hers that break cycles of hate and prevent seeds of hate from ever being sown into this beautiful, hopeful world.
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