Features, Law and Politics, New York

On A Personal Note

June 9, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

I have to start by saying that I avoid the subject of politics. However, I have to make an exception. Politics have replaced religion and God forbid you voted differently or if we don’t agree. Another subject I avoid is racism. In full-disclosure, I grew up with racism. I remember a cross that burned on my neighbor’s lawn in Long Island. I was only a 6 year-old boy at the time and I still recall the expression of sadness on my Father’s face. He took me next door after the fire trucks came. My Father extended his hand to a man, Mr. Praus, and said, “Not everyone feels this way.”  I was very young, but old enough to understand the look of appreciation in Mr. Praus’s eyes when my father reached him.

Safe to say, I grew up around ignorance. I was the only Irish Jew in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. I was teased for my differences. As a result, I was taught to hate my background. I have been exposed to hatred throughout my entire life. Years back, I found a Swastika drawn on a wall at the workplace. The intention behind this was clear. All this means to me is hate is nothing new..

As a parent of a biracial daughter, I have seen racism firsthand. I have seen the sad results of nasty reactions. I recall trying to find my daughter after she went missing for a few days.
The authorities said they were looking. But were they? Was there racism here? There could have been.

The police said “Not to worry,” because she would eventually turn up. Insert pronoun trouble here: I was told “These types of kids run away all the time.” I was told, “Don’t worry. She’ll show up.”
They were right. She did.

She was a passenger in a car that suffered a head-on collision. Fortunately, my daughter made it out alive. The driver died on impact. I don’t think the truck that collided with them cared about the pigmentation of their skin. The driver was a 16-year-old white girl named Erica. To me, there was no black or white with this. There was only a tragic loss that no parent should have to experience regardless of what color they are.

I was in a mainly black class while learning to be a peer recovery advocate for the New York State Board of Certifications. There was a session in which we discussed personal and social biases. When the topic of race came up, I was told that I don’t know the struggles of being black. I agreed. I DON’T.
I just know what it feels like to be a parent of a child with mixed skin and how our social ignorance nearly killed her. My daughter believed she was “Different” because of the color of her skin. Proud to say she is not different.  She is my daughter. She is also doing well and in school to be a nurse.

June 9, 2020

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