By Paul Eschbach
Why speak up now? After Charlottesville, I was hurt and angry with our country. I sat up sick, reminded of how ugly we could be as a nation. Maybe if I had spoken up then, there would be one less hurt now.
Racism is a part of the man I am today. Many of you have heard what slurs I was called throughout my life so I won’t repeat them. For whatever reason everywhere I've lived I was viewed as an unknown, an outsider, and someone to fear or hate. I too acted out and was an ignorant child, as my father has reminded me and was quick to correct when he heard an unforgivable outburst. When a classmate opened my front door and screamed a slur at my mother I was filled with rage but my mother was the first to teach me not to let them win by engaging. The hurt I felt I gave back. I wanted so bad to be on a side, wanted to belong. Thankfully I had a few close friends that accepted who I was. I remember thinking about what would happen when I had children and what they would have to face. Hoping that they would never have to feel what I felt. Kitchens were an equalizer for me. It didn’t matter where I was from or who I was, all that mattered was how I put the plate in the window. I thrived on being told I wasn’t fast enough, good enough, or my station wasn’t clean enough. I was used to "you don’t belong." It was all fuel.
Friends laugh now when I tell them of my past and say "Paul you’re white." I'm not, I’m Paul, son to a mother from Guam and whose ethnic background is deeper than just Pacific Islander. I'm a son to a father who is white but has never taught me color and only ever tolerated tolerance. I'm an uncle to two nephews with Egyptian ancestry. I'm a husband to a woman with Jewish blood. I'm a father to a little girl who will now carry this burden in America. I’ll do my best to raise her to love and treat everyone with respect, like my parents tried to do with me. I’ll do my best to snuff it out if she brings it home and to teach her to be proud of who she is.
As a founder of Betera, I will bring these values with us as we grow. Our future as a nation depends on how we carry ourselves every day and what we tolerate and teach in our homes and communities. We are a country that welcomes the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, but Xenophobia and Racism have prevented us from being a safe space for all. We can and should be better.
Paul Eschbach is one Betera’s founders. He lives with his family in Larkspur, CA.