Beware – this is a little erratic! That’s the best way to describe the last month – up, down and side to side. My emotions. My thoughts. My activity. My writing. Been under a bit of a spell lately but things are coming right! For a while I was having some issues at work. It was almost deja vu all over again – four years ago I was in a role where I was having it out with my manager on a daily basis. It wasn’t quite that drastic this time but the feeling of being unhappy and having that misery from work spill into every other aspect of my life was creeping its way back. I remember it got to the point where my friends and family grew tired of my company because all my conversations revolved around how much I couldn’t stand my job! I didn’t even notice it either! Once I resigned, everything started to fall into place. There was some backlash. I had colleagues criticise me for “abandoning” students who were dependent on me. I took that into account before I made my decision but realised that I had to be selfish and take care of myself before I could serve others to the best of my ability. In saying that, I knew they were gonna be fine and could still offer support from my new office which was close by. I’m still in touch with those students today and their progression always makes me smile.
I always tell people there’s no job that’s worth your happiness or your health. Thankfully I didn’t have to resign from my current position – it took a while but we came to a resolution and ever since then, I’ve been able to fully enjoy my surroundings. I’m an advocate for equity and inclusion and I’ve been taught to stand up for what I believe in. I’ve also been taught to choose my battles wisely. Every institution has its politics and power dynamics at play. When it comes to conflict management, I can’t stress how important communication is – the sooner the better too. That’s usually where the breakdown begins and ends in my experience.
Getting past that ordeal, I’ve had an amazing month full of reunions! Lots of family, friends and entertainment starting with my buddy Aida from Lehigh and performances by Diana King and Crystal Waters in Columbus…
Finally made it back to Chicago! Only been there once before to chaperone students on a one day-trip. In those four hours, I managed to be propositioned by a crackhead who informed me that she’d “take me to the candy shop” and rode in a random ass limo with a driver who shared the tale of his former Peruvian cocaine dealing lover [he also cautioned me to watch out for the Wiley family, especially Miko]. Hung out with two other gangsters from Lehigh – Krista who came to visit New Zealand over Summer 2011 and Sarah who I used to have “Doctor Who” marathons with.
This time around, I watched Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the World’s Largest Block Party with the Lehigh/KPMG cohort then headed out – remind me never to go sailing on rough waters after a night of Long Islands. It didn’t end well at all.
Right after throwing up/feeding the geese at the dock, I caught a flight to Vegas to attend the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s new Cirque du Soleil show, “One” with Malaena. It was AMAZING! Great to see the New Zealand girls kill it on stage. The entire 90 minutes, I was either jamming or holding back tears [or both!] The after party was mean too – Pharrell was the surprise guest performance [he sang a chorus of “Beautiful” to Leilani] and the food was BANGING.
Stopped in the Bay Area in time for the 4th of July with more smelly Lehigh people. James, the British slag and fellow RA, whose couch I used to crash on when I couldn’t be bothered walking up the hill at night and Muna, the Jordanian activist, who basically lived with the Kappas.
I also connected with a bunch of family! My Mum’s cousin, Nonumalo Pese, and his lovely wife Tupou who are doing great things with their business in San Jose…
…the talented songstress Aaradhna who’s touring the US, promoting her critically acclaimed album “Treble & Reverb”…
…and for the first time ever, my Mexican relatives – the Maivia/Smith family in Sacramento! I immediately felt at home with them – very loving, not to mention HILARIOUS…
I pride myself on not only building meaningful relationships but maintaining them too. I’ve been blessed to have so many genuine bonds with so many great individuals, especially coming to the US where I only knew a handful of people.
Having said that, I’ve been truly saddened by the reminder of the state of race relations in this country that the verdict of the Zimmerman trial has brought [that’s not to say New Zealand’s got it right – we definitely have a long way to go but it’s still shocking all the same]. It pains me to see life devalued in such a way and it’s even more disheartening to read so many racially charged opinions with the people who are offering them being so ignorant as to not knowing that’s just what they are. Many of these people being my own acquaintances/colleagues/friends. Is it really that hard to believe such prejudice exists given the history of this nation? I guess I can’t blame them though, that’s the system they’ve been brainwashed by. I even bought into it myself to some degree, once upon a time.
I don’t want to go into the trial but I do want to talk about how scary this is. In New Zealand, police have pulled me up a number times over the course of my life, starting when I was only 8 – I’ve even been arrested and wrongfully charged of committing a violent crime [I’m talking 14 years for grievous bodily harm] and trust me when I say I was treated like shit because I was brown. It didn’t matter that I was at law school on a full ride scholarship and leading all kinds of initiatives on campus and in my community – all they saw was another hoodrat. I was at risk of losing everything I had worked hard for all because a white girl’s word was being taken over mine. No other evidence, simply her word. I was locked up for three days. It was horrible and has to be the most humiliating experience of my life. If there’s one thing my Mum never wanted for us kids, it was to spend time in a cell. Moving to the US, I’ve taken extra special care to keep as far away from that type of situation as possible but even so, I was pushed and threatened by a police officer right in front of my home recently. It was caught on camera too. When I filed a formal complaint and submitted the footage, it was disregarded and written off as following procedure. All I asked for was an apology and an opportunity to have a sit down with the officer concerned. I didn’t even get that. I could probably be shot at any time [by a perfect stranger, let alone a cop] and not have any recourse. Who knows? That’s what this trial says to me and I actually fear for my friends and students of colour. To those who think I’m exaggerating, let’s face it, you’re more than likely white and with that comes privilege. You may have black/brown friends but that doesn’t mean you know what it’s like to have coloured skin or you know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of it. Not to reduce oppression to only be about colour but that’s what I’m dealing with everyday. Something the white majority never have to think twice about.
I work with ‘minority’ students for a living – I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now. This may sound weird but over my last three years here, I’ve often thought to myself “If I was black, would I receive this same level of hospitality? Would I still be getting to do all these things and having these same reunions? Would I have these same friendships I have now if I didn’t have an English sounding accent?” See, the special treatment I get in the US, I don’t get that where I’m from. Over and over again, I’ll see a look of suspicion turn into a look of excitement after I open my mouth and the person in front of me realises I’m not some N. from the ghetto/cockroach from the barrio. Because I’m somewhat of an ‘exotic novelty’, I tend to get a pass from my white counterparts [a luxury I don’t have in New Zealand]. As a result, there have been several occasions where they’ve felt comfortable to say things they wouldn’t dare say in front of someone who’s black – you’d be amazed. When I check them on it, I usually get a “But you’re not black, Krit!” thrown at me. I don’t need to be. You come to New Zealand and you’ll see my people ARE the ‘hoodrats’ and ‘cockroaches’ you’re passing judgment on. I grew up in Porirua and I’m not ashamed of that. I want people to know that’s where I come from to show we can make moves too but we’ve got a lot more to contend with than what you might like to believe. I’m over the “you only got this or that just cuz you’re Samoan” comments to which I usually respond by asking “you wanna know what you got in life just cuz you’re white?” The discussions about institutional oppression can be wearisome after a while [I get more listening ears here than in New Zealand but again, I think that’s because I’m not black] and so now I’ve limited myself to only having them with friends who I really care about and I know can handle it [and hopefully carry on the conversation with others].
It’s great getting to roam around and do what I do but I can’t help but wonder how different things might be if I were black. With as many black friends as I have here [contrary to all the photos in this post, they do exist!] I still cannot speak on what it’s like to be black in America and I’ll never try to. However, I believe all oppression is connected and the sooner we all realise that and start caring about more than just ourselves, the sooner we can start making real change. I hope and pray this generation of young people can do much, much better.