I knew the card was motivational sap, but I bought it. When I got home with the groceries, my husband found it between the napkins and a box of detergent. “Who’s this for?” “I thought we could send it to Anna,” I continued apologetically, “I wish it used the words success and failure instead, but I was drawn to the idea of persistence.”
“You can send it to her if you want to,” he said with a smile, which meant he wouldn’t sign it. It’s been sitting here on the raised kitchen counter, staring at me for the last two days:
A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.
Putting additional pressure on a kid who’s just started college is absurd. Even though Anna knows we don’t frame success as competition and we don’t expect straight As, this tidy little aphorism reinforces a cultural deception, a delusion that there are two kinds of people in this world and you, too, ladies and gents, girls and boys, can be a winner! It’s about YOU and how hard you’re willing to work.
How American. But, no, it’s not even that inclusive. It’s Caucasian American, as long as you’re not too different (e.g., LGBTQ, disabled, disfigured, disproportionate in height or weight to media standards).
Instead of throwing the card away or striking through 'a winner' and 'a loser' and scribbling in success and failure (which doesn't work on any level), I stare at it and decide there's something still valuable behind the flawed nouns: Trying. To keep on keeping on. The question then becomes, “What’s worth trying for?”
For Anna, it might be passing the first semester or not letting her lovesickness for a boy in Hawaii hijack her college career. But she's not going to be concerned that others will ignore or slight her culture or race. She may be offended by a peer's racism or stupid stereotype, but it's not going to affect her personally. She's not going to worry about her brother being killed by police, what happens when she walks into a store to buy something, or being held to a different -- almost always higher -- standard.
My daughter will not have to keep trying to appear good enough to others.
This is her privilege, like mine, an accidental and arbitrary one bestowed at birth, and it's worth eradicating.
Yes, I know I won't win at ending racism. Luckily, I have been mentored and befriended by many women and men of color who have taught me the importance of both persistence and small wins. But maybe I can influence someone else. Maybe not today or next year, but someday.
The imperfect card helped me realize what is worth my time and effort over the next three weeks. I choose to focus on racial justice during 14 Words For Love's Peace One Day event.
As Peace One Day gets nearer (Sept. 21), I hope you will find something worth trying for, something related to peace and connectedness. To the notion of One World. That's all we got. It should be everyone's privilege to be good enough because he or she is here.