Years ago, when I started blogging under Sending Johnny Off to College, I was trying to make sense of the journey of losing my baby, my first-born son, to the world after high school. I wrote about preparations and feelings, anxiety and anticipations, gratitude and loss, and expectations. I wrote about leaving your child in a city in a different state with strangers and faith in my son and in the system he was entering. And it was rough. For all of us. In ways we really never imagined. But, in the end, John navigated what came at him. He called and asked for help only when absolutely necessary. He grew up, and so did we, and he learned to appreciate ‘home’, and we missed his presence very much.
Today was different. Though he’s been on his own for a couple of years now, independent and living his own life, he’s been close by, in a community demographically not much different from the ones in which he grew up. This weekend, he moved to a relatively rural area not really far from us geographically, but a lifetime away in terms of culture. He even made mention of the white neighborhood, a comment I didn’t know how to interpret honestly. But I was aware. After visiting and helping John get set up, and as Steve and I headed to go hiking in a beautiful area just a few short miles from John’s house, we noticed an abundance of political signs, Trump 2020 and Women for Trump. Every other house seemed to announce their support for our outgoing president. And a cold chill went through me. I know that not all Trump supporters are inherently racist, but a good number of them are, and though my family and acquaintances who are Trump leaning might make accommodation for my Asian son, I think that might be only because they know him. And they know me. And they know Steve. On the street, in a car, in a bar…I just don’t know.
I worry incessantly about John in a way I don’t worry about my other two children. Not because of him, but because of the world in which we live, where the brown and black-skin people are always thought of as other. Where race and ethnicity often determine expectations and behavior. Where my three children, raised in the same family with the same parents, still experience the world very differently from one other. Where after raising my John for almost 25 years, I still can’t truly understand his life experience.
I hope my fears are silly and without basis, that small towns with layers and layers of Trump-supporting locals can see past what I think they can’t, that they can assume the best and make my own prejudice seem small-minded and wrong. But, sadly, about this I am not hopeful.