When I was a new immigrant to this country, I was the only girl of Korean descent in the elementary school that I attended in Bakersfield, California. Amy B. Seibert School. There was a bully named Andrea who used to slap my face regularly.I told my family about this and Marilyn, from our sponsoring American family, started coaching me with my limited English skills and told me the next time it happened, I should look at Andrea in the face and say "Stop it!" And so I did. But it didn't work.
So the next thing I knew, Marilyn accompanied me to school and asked me "Where's Andrea?" I pointed her out and witnessed Marilyn going over to talk to Andrea and telling her in no uncertain terms that she was to stop slapping me.
It worked. Part of the reason it worked is because Marilyn was a pillar in the community. A woman of stature. Her husband was also a pillar. They, along with their three children are the Americans who helped us find our footing, doused us with love, and cheered for our success. The Wulfekuehler family.
Andrea heard Marilyn loud and clear. Even though I was different, I mattered. If someone had said to Marilyn "But what about Andrea? Doesn't she matter too?" Marilyn probably would have said "Of course she matters. But I'm here not because someone is slapping Andrea. I'm here because Jenny is being slapped. And I'm not going to not do or say anything about that." I think that when a nation has a long-standing track record of killing unarmed Black people, it is not illogical for someone witnessing that to speak up. And when the witness stands to speak, they may say something like "Stop it!" Or a collective community of witnesses may say it another way, like #BlackLivesMatter
To me, those three words don't mean that other lives don't matter. Because of course Jenny matters and Andrea matters too. This great nation protects the right for Marilyn to speak up and get involved and it protects a collective group of like-minded and concerned witnesses to stand together ... to state the case and shine light on matters of importance.
(I am reposting today, this story of mine which I originally posted on July 12, 2016. Today, as our nation is hurting, and as some people STILL don't understand that saying a person's life matters isn't saying that another person's life doesn't matter, I hope this story helps create some understanding. One day much after that fateful day in 1974, I overheard my mom asking Marilyn how we could ever repay her. And you know what Marilyn said back to my mom? She told her to pay her back by passing along the kind of love and support that the Dohs received from the Wulfekuehlers onto another person or persons in need, whoever or wherever or whenever that may be.)