I had this moment of clarity. The Hasan Minaj, interview on the New Yorker radio hour. It’s right after 9/11, Hasan is a teenager and his father told him not to answer the phone; but of course he answers to vicious racial and religious slurs and threats and violence and ending with, and the caller saying the address of the family home. Not yet recovered from the call is the sounds of breaking glass. The windows of the family car were broken. Hasan races down the street to find a trace of who did this only to return to see his dad with sweeping up the glass.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?!” His dad responds in Hindi: “These things happen, and these things will continue to happen. That’s the price we pay for being here.”
Hasan called his dad’s reaction, the American dream tax. I could relate. My stomach tightens, the words catch in my throat, and my fingers pause over the keyboard. As a minority, I am happy to have a seat at the table, I knowingly, accept less than. I realize my resistance to Sheryl Sandberg and that lean in business that literally makes my eyes roll. Who can lean in when there is the fear of being kicked out. With all due respect to a very successful Ms Sandberg, I make the assumption, she has never been asked to leave an event because of her race as I have been.
If ideas akin to the American dream tax pass generationally, then the corollary is true. There are people who never question their right to live in a neighborhood, work at a company or sit in the board room. There is something passed down generationally; a sense of entitlement and privilege. There are the taxers and the taxed. There are taxers with no idea they are taxers. The taxed, we know who we are; we know what “extra” we have to do, what “slights” we encounter that the taxers don’t.
This week, be the observer; what do you see? The taxers or the taxed? It’s not a balance; you can be in a situation with all taxers or all taxed. If your office, neighborhood, gym, coffee shop is not diverse, think about why. Don’t revert to, well no one choses to live here or work here, go a little delve deeper into the why. These are observations, not judgement.
A little boy in San Ramon California, taunted by the kids at his school because he was one of the few black students. He started off with a few friends, but those friends threatened by the other kids, so what few playmates he had vanished to none. As parents, is anyone asking their children, “is anyone being mistreated at your school?”
It’s really comfortable to think, “that doesn’t happen here” or when someone cites an incident to say, “that is an anomaly or a one off.” That’s the discount. It’s something taxers say that make themselves feel better; it does nothing for the taxed. How to shift away from the American Dream Tax being ok? I will follow the guidance of Hasan.
“… equality is a right everyone should have, I am born here, I have the audacity of equality.”