The Children Are Always Ours

Ulf Andersen / Getty Images

I made a post framed by the James Baldwin quote: “The children are always ours, every single one of them, all over the globe; and I am beginning to suspect that whoever is incapable of recognizing this may be incapable of morality.”

Over the last three months, I have struggled to find my words. Being uninformed and uneducated on the last 75 years — and beyond; living in my own self-centered bubble trying to take care of my own young children and to heal my own traumas, I had not paid enough attention. Partly this is by design: I was born and raised in the good ole’ United States of America. Land of the free, right? Where everyone is equal! We’re good here; so sorry for those that are there.

Partly it was my own willful ignorance: I have always hated horror movies and crime shows. Becoming a yogi in my teens cemented my “positive vibes only” outlook on life. If I didn’t allow those kinds of images to infiltrate my mind, I didn’t have to be disturbed by them. I could keep moving through life spreading love and light, thoughts and prayers.

But the plight of Palestine has opened my eyes. 

My initial instinct was to speak for both “sides” because I stand against any harm against any people. So I shared stories condemning all violence and all hate. I tried to be some kind of online mediator, pointing out that criticizing the Israeli government’s actions was not the same as hating Israelis or Jews. People are not their governments. And I have a lot of Jewish friends with whom I’ve always had an easy affinity that is perhaps rooted in our similar perceived place in America – marginalized-but-not-really – in that the racism against us has largely been less visible and less constant than the racism against others such as the black community. So I went to my Jewish friends first to ask, how are they? And second, what is happening? 

Antisemitism is real, as is hate against too many marginalized groups. I tend to address the hate and discrimination against Asians and immigrants as that is what I know best from my personal lived experience. But let me be super clear: I stand against all hate.

It has felt hard to make a statement that won’t upset someone I know. I have felt that I don’t know enough. I have felt that I have no right to intervene when I have no ties to the region, religions, or cultures. I have found myself fumbling and confused when people would accuse me of being unfair and biased. Those accusations never felt true but I found myself giving more weight to what others were saying about what I was saying than to what felt true in my own bones.

When I shared my belief that all children need to be protected, I wondered who might try to silence me. I didn’t say these children are more important than any other children. As a mother, I do not asterisk saying “I love you” to one of my children with saying “Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I hate you” to my other one. The divisiveness and finger pointing is maddening and it is meant to keep us distracted. I believe that most of us do not want any civilians harmed and I think the numbers show that most US citizens want our tax dollars going to our own healthcare and education systems, not to another country’s military, not to the killing of any children. 

I used to consider myself non-confrontational. I figured it was just how I was wired. Growing up under the weight of a parent’s mental illness, I learned to defuse what I could, to redirect attention to stuff that was less scary, less bad. I’m typically very good at seeing both sides, except maybe right in the moment when I’m clashing with my husband but even then, it usually only takes me a few minutes before I can see his perspective. And, being Asian in America taught me to keep my mouth shut. If ever I did open my mouth to say something controversial and if even just one person criticized or even simply disagreed with me, I would cower, regret, delete. I would doubt myself and fall back in line.

But now — I’ve found my words and my courage. As a mother, I see in my own children the thousands of dead, maimed, orphaned Palestinian children, ones that are being affected RIGHT NOW IN THIS EXACT MOMENT. As a human being witnessing the ongoing massacre of fellow human beings, I must speak up. 

I’ve had difficult and heartfelt conversations with friends who see things differently. I welcome the information they want to share with me but neither they nor I are historians, journalists on the ground, or foreign policy advisors. So I am committed to doing my own reading and using my own discernment when taking in any “news” because we most definitely are in the age of disinformation. We are all subjected to manipulated information. (Thanksgiving, anyone?) 

Learning about Palestine deepened my understanding of the truly insidious power of oppressive systems — namely the greed, power, and systemic racism that my country was built on and continues to operate by. 

Racism, perhaps ironically, is not black and white. It is not a matter of whether a person or a group is Caucasian or white-presenting. It is a systemic hierarchy. Racism is the gnarliest set of roots that criss cross and spawn off and might seem to die in one spot but regrow in multiple other spots, taking on new shapes and directions. 

Growing up in America as a person of color, I recognize racism instantly. It’s like an unconscious reflex, like a familiar scent from childhood. I recognize the gaslighting, invalidating, dehumanizing, fear-mongering, silencing. I can see the driving force of these powers in Palestine as well as throughout the history of other once-occupied lands, including that of my own motherland of Korea. 

Are the numbers coming out of Gaza completely inflated? Time will tell. But even if they were 50% of what is claimed, I am still not okay with the indiscriminate bombing of an entire territory. You do not decimate the whole of Manhattan with 1.629 million people in a purported effort to eradicate all criminals.

There is literally nothing — not vengeance, not in the name of God or state, not anything — that makes it right for even one child — let alone hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands — to have to suffer, to live in fear, or to die in violence.

Everyone deserves to live in peace — no, to live free. I stand against all violence, all hatred, all oppression. I stand against the genocides happening in Palestine, Congo, Sudan, Haiti, Syria, Burma, and to too many more peoples.

As a mother, I stand with all children. I stand with the children of Palestine.

I am a mama, writer, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate.
More posts by Leah Kim.

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