I love the rain in Los Angeles. For a moment, it stops this sprawling metropolis of sunshine and chaotic freeways to bring in a sense of calm. And calm is being frayed at the edges these days.
And to me, life is all about finding that calm inside the chaos.
I’ve spent over 2 decades as a professional filmmaker focused on telling human, diverse stories. Right now, the story of mankind is that life is moving faster than ever before. All around us there’s so much happening that we can barely keep up. Politics, climate change, Coronavirus, social media – we are constantly bombarded by this cocktail of chaos. And we all have our own way to try and control it.
In America, we try to make the complicated simple by using categories. Are you a jock or a nerd? Gay or straight? And one of the oldest and truly American system of categories is the one we call RACE.
Over the past few centuries, we’ve managed to turn complex cultures and ethnicities into simple groups that we call races. They’ve expanded and contracted, but we’ve still based our fundamental ways of looking at other people based on outdated stereotypes. We put them all into large groups and just assume they’re all the same.
And then there’s the people like me, who can check more than box. We’re often asked to pick a side.
To label ourselves.
It’s the chaos to our calm.
I struggled and fought against this for years until I lived in Copenhagen for high school. The population is around 5 million and it’s been labeled the happiest place on earth. Ironically with a really high suicide rate. Maybe happiness is all a matter of perspective?
When I lived abroad, I attended an international high school. I met other kids from Denmark, Pakistan, Turkey, Mexico, China and Russia. And the question of who I was changed. I wasn’t asked what race I was. I was asked where I was from and for the first time ever I became – The American. Even though it was assumed I was an outsider because of my skin color. Most of the questions were about what America was really like. Were there always shootouts like in the movies? Did we just eat hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza for dinner? Had I ever been in a gang.
This made me realize that all those labels were just based on someone else’s perspective. And the best thing that I could do was try to see myself outside of those labels. This wasn’t easy. In America there’s expectations. I’m a person of color, so there’s still a fight for equality and recognition.
With world events unfolding, including a global pandemic. The need to look beyond the simple categories are even more necessary. The whole world is fighting against a virus, and some are still clinging to the racial stereotypes to place blame and perpetuate myths.
We rise against struggles like these when we band together as one – as people. When we seek to defend ourselves using falsehoods, we only make ourselves more vulnerable. It will be a rough time the next few months. But we will see it through by knowing that everyone together is in the same battle. And when we look back, we’ll marvel how we were able to overcome these trials and show our greatness.
It’s how you keep your inner calm around all that chaos.