CLC Blog

A Million Voices

A million voices scream in my head as words get stuck in my throat. This wouldn't be the first time, and it most definitely wouldn't be the last. Another crude comment about my appearance by someone of a different age and gender as me. I stutter over an awkward reply and excuse myself as quickly as possible. After about five seconds running through a million scenarios of what I could or should have said or done.

This is a familiar story for many girls on a day to day basis. An unwelcome comment that turns their day upside down. And I am sick of it.

How come, in our society, it is ok and almost appealing to make comments on women's appearance, as though that is the only appealing quality of this individual? We see it in marketing, Hollywood, and even politics.

And even when we do see Cat-calling in movies, it is usually to have a damsel in distress for the protagonist to save. And, yes, there are those rare gems of movies that show realistic situations where a strong female character stands up and protects herself, but those are few and far to come by. There is no knight in shining armor that is ready to defend you in every situation like this, as there shouldn’t be as a majority of women do not need that, but then it goes back to the point of why the heck someone feels the need to comment on our appearances in a disgusting manner.

Why do women actors get asked questions about their appearance while their male colleagues get asked deem meaningful questions about the plot? Why does Black Widow's superhero suit have a V neck line in the majority of the movies she is in? And why is it that a man has said, and I quote, it is nice to grab women ¨by the pussy¨ in a seat of power???

My little sister will have to deal with crude comments in future, and that terrifies me. Thinking that a man will look at her in an unholy way, that he will make crude comments to her, or if someone may touch her in an inappropriate way makes my blood boil.

This is not justice, this is not equal. There is hidden sexism in so many aspects of my life that it is suffocating at some points. And this “social norm” has led to OLD MEN thinking it is okay to make crude comments to 17 year old girls. 

Well I am done. I, and so many others, do not need your vindication of our appearances. We do not need tips on what to wear and how to walk. We do not need you to comment on if we should wear makeup. We don't need your approval. All we need is to be comfortable in our own skin.

A million voices go through my head. But I am going to choose to listen to the one I know is important. The one that says keep my head high, the one that says keep on fighting, the one that says that even though men will make comments or even harass young girls like me, one day I and so many other bright young women are going to show the world there's so much more to us then just our appearances. 

And I, for one, can't wait.

Posted by Esther Steinke

Becca the Peacemaker

Becca, the Peacemaker

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5: 8, 9

My youngest daughter, Becca, is 18 years old. She graduated this year from high school and this meant no prom, no graduation ceremony, no saying good bye to all of her friends and teachers, no closure in her senior year. She missed many events that are usually considered “rites of passage” for a person her age.

But losing these experiences does not define who Becca is or how she sees this world. Throughout this Covid 19 pandemic, she continued to work as an essential worker at the facility where her grandmother lives and even though Covid 19 was in the facility, Becca worked as a dietary aide, one of the few who kept working to deliver food to all the residents who lived there. She wore a face shield, mask and gloves and didn’t regard the mask as an infringement upon her rights and freedoms but as a way to protect the residents, herself, her co-workers and her parents. She willingly picked up extra shifts so that the work would continue unimpeded.

And Becca has been our family shopper since the epidemic began. Each week, she dons her mask and ventures to all the places we have needed her to go so that her father (who has diabetes) and I (who am in the “age risk” category) reduce our risk of exposure.  We are so blessed.

But this is not why I write today. Today I want to share two stories that are but a small glimpse into the world and how Becca acts as peacemaker.

Last week Becca was pumping gas at a nearby gas station on County Road 10 in Mounds View, about 2 or 3 miles from our home. One of the staff was doing some outside work. It was hot, the beginning of the heat wave we’ve been experiencing and the uniform for the staff member included long pants and a button polo shirt. A middle aged white woman pulled up alongside to pump gas as well and she said to the young staff member, “I bet you’re hot.” “Yes” the worker nodded in agreement. “But I guess your people are used to being out in the sun…having been in the fields for generations.”

Becca’s eyes widened and as she reports her mouth dropped (although you couldn’t see it because of the mask she was wearing). And Becca said to the woman, “Excuse me, I think that was incredibly insensitive”. The woman gave her a look, finished pumping gas and drove off without another word.

The worker said, “Thank you” and the reply was “You’re welcome.” Then the young woman said, “You didn’t have to do that” and Becca replied again, “Oh, yes…I did”.

The second story was even more personal for Becca because she herself was the target. She was doing the family shopping at Aldi in Mounds View yesterday. She had her cart half filled with groceries from the list: vegetables, bread, cheese, baking needs and oh yes, one of the corner tables on special that week at Aldi. Her dad had asked her to look for them and if they were in stock, get two. So one was in the cart and she had the second one in her hands when, once again, a white middle aged woman came around the corner and said to her, “I need that”, pointing to the box in Becca’s arms. “There’s another one on the shelf for you” she tried.

“But I need two”.

“I’m sorry but I have this one. There is one for you on the shelf”.

And then as Becca later told us, the woman began to berate Becca, telling her she was young, probably only shopping for candy and fast food and on and on it went.

Becca told us, “I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to say. After it went on for a bit and no one was around to witness this, I told the woman, you can have this table, even though you are not entitled to it. I’m not going to absorb any more negativity from you. Have a nice day”. And the box went back on the shelf.

Some would say that the woman got away with her bullying, that she didn’t learn a thing, that she couldn’t be shamed by Becca’s words. Some might say Becca should have gotten the store manager to intervene. Some might say that Becca backed down.

But I say that Becca is pure in heart, a peacemaker. Becca named the woman’s poor behavior and called her out. She stated what she would and wouldn’t accept from the woman (no more negativity). And then Becca chose to bless the woman by wishing her a good day as she walked away.

Some might ask why do I keep mentioning that the two women in these stories were white? They were mean spirited but why bring in race? The young staff member was a person of color-that’s why the woman said what she said. And Becca? Well, for those of you who don’t know, Becca is Vietnamese, adopted as an infant. I think the woman who confronted my daughter in the store saw teenager, mask, and Asian eyes…that’s all it took for the woman to decide that Becca did not deserve to purchase an item that the woman wanted for her own. So she simply demanded it from her. Race and white privilege permeates these stories.

As Becca told her father and me these experiences, I find that I am so grateful for Becca’s spirit of generosity, kindness, compassion, purity and peacemaking. I am in awe of the way she has matured and is finding her voice; that she speaks up and out; that she names that which is privilege; and that she protects those who are vulnerable. I am grateful that she has decided to be a peacemaker and that she is living into her calling as a child of God, helping to bring in the Kingdom of God.

As we, her parents, prepare to send Becca off to college, we are aware more than ever that it is a harsh, cold, and privileged world right now, made even more divisive by the politics of the day: oppressive, racist, unequal, filled with intentional fear mongering by those in power. We send her out with no small amount of trepidation, knowing that we cannot fight her battles for her; we cannot protect her all the time. But we can and will continue to support her efforts, stand with her as she names injustice and pray unceasingly for her.

Go out into this world, Becca. You are ready. You are making a difference. God goes with you.

The Volume of Silence

The saying “your silence speaks volumes” has never been more relevant in our country today. With the killing of George Floyd and too many others, the built up outrage and pain has finally burst, prompting protests throughout our country. This has made people speak out against the oppression of African Americans by the police system.

Almost everyone has experienced grief before. The dark cloud that looms over one's head, sometimes so thick one feels as though they won't ever see the sun again. The feeling of not being heard, the silent screams when words fail to convey our emotions. So how much more pain and silent screams could an entire race collectively have from repeatedly getting beaten down with no vindication of their pain?

The repeated killing of African Americans in our country cannot go unnoticed. This is not a problem that will go away if we just close our eyes and cover our ears. This is a problem that is hurting and killing people’s neighbors, friends, and families. We cannot afford to stay silent anymore, we cannot turn a blind eye to this anymore. The silence that too often befalls this subject has only contributed to the growing problem. 

What has happened in our country, in my opinion, relates to the old Chinese story “The Emperor's New Clothes”. In the story, everyone is too scared of the social consequences of telling the Emperor that he is not wearing any clothes, so instead they stay quiet, or even play along with the charade.

It's easy to overlook the struggles BIPOC individuals and communities face, as I myself and many others do not have to worry about police brutality or being discriminated against. But this is a reality many people in our country experience on a day to day basis. And they are not staying quiet any longer. They are past patiently waiting, past holding their tongue, past moving on to the next big news. And so am I.

Staying silent in the wake of violent acts of inhumane proportion against our brothers and sisters of darker skin can't go on anymore. 

The emperor has no clothes.

There is police brutality towards people of color in America.

It’s time we end our silence.

Posted by Esther Steinke

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