Marisol Gonzalez shares her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madison. Posing the question, "Does the pandemic help us to be more human?", Marisol describes supporting her young daughter through an incident where she witnessed Coronavirus-related xenophobia at school. She reflects on her own experiences with racism, and uses this as a learning opportunity for her daughter. She encourages others, as well, to build empathy and examine how the pandemic might change the way we relate to one another.
Narrator Name: Marisol Gonzalez
Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
Date of interview: 10/22/2020
[00:00:00] - Start of interview
[00:00:34] - Tell us about your pandemic experience and the last several months.
[00:09:55] - Thanks for sharing with us.
Interviewer: Hello, my name is Andres Torres. I am a Library Assistant with Madison Public Library and I am here with Stories from a Distance, part of the Living History Project, which is an archive of stories and testimonials from the people living in and around Madison. And now, I would like to welcome today’s narrator.
Marisol Gonzalez: Hi, my name is Marisol, and I have lived in Madison for more than sixteen years.
Interviewer: Well, thank you so much for being with us today, Marisol.
Marisol Gonzalez: Thank you.
Interviewer: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience during this pandemic and what the last several months has been like for you?
Marisol Gonzalez: Yeah, I want to start this story asking this question: “Is the pandemic helping us to be more human or dehumanize us?” I want to tell you this story about what happened in the beginning of the pandemic in my neighborhood. One day my daughter came, and she says, “Mom, I cannot play with my friend and neighbor, Kiera.” And I said, “Why? Why is that?” And she told me, “Well, she went inside crying.” And I said, “What happened?” And she told me, “Well, there’s another neighbor, a five-year-old, who came where we were playing with other girls and she said that we should not play with Kiera because Kiera is from China. And Chinese people are responsible for the coronavirus and nobody should play with her because it’s dangerous. And then my friend Kiera went inside her house and started to cry.”
And in that moment, I felt very angry, and I feel for Kiera more than for anybody because I have been in that position. I remembered telling my daughter how horrible those comments could be and how hurtful that can be, and how those comments can show the lack of understanding of this pandemic. I can see how it’s easy for a five-year-old to say that but also for other people that are older, you know.
I told her the story about our president, Donald Trump, talking about us being Mexicans, being rapers or drug dealers and referring to us as a whole, all the Mexicans in the United States have this title, and how bad it feels. Because it’s not true. I’m not a rapist. I’m not a drug dealer. But then, they put me this label, right? And it hurts. And I explained that to my daughter, because I wanted to make sure she understands that words have a lot of impact in people and it’s not okay to say those kinds of things. Then I told her if we keep thinking that way then what other things can we say about American people? Can we say that they are serial killers? All of them are serial killers? You know? If we keep thinking that way, if we keep that close-minded, that everybody is this way or that way, and blaming people for the things that happen, that doesn’t make us as a community. My daughter understands that, and she feels really bad for Kiera.
I made the decision of asking my daughter who this girl was, and I know her parents of this girl, and I decided to send them a message saying this is very bad. I don’t know where your daughter brought this idea from, maybe it’s too much news, maybe it’s too much—I don’t know, I don’t know what it is but definitely. And I didn’t send it only to them but I sent it to all of my friends, all of the parents of the children that were in that place at that moment. And I say I think it’s enough for right now, the things that are we living and doing in this government that we are being very separate. Like, there’s something that this government is doing to us and the worst is that we can use the pandemic to do that too, in our community. Especially because we live in that community that is a multicultural community.
I can say that primary, that most people here is from China, and so, what are we going to do? Are we going to tell our children to not hang out with Chinese kids because the coronavirus came from China? That is horrible. That is horrible. And, actually, I told them, because we received an email from the Eagle Heights community—the people who run the community here—and they told us they have been having cases where people have been discriminated just because of being Chinese, you know? And I say there’s no space for that here. We have to do something about it, you know?
And so, my daughter brought up this idea of ‘I will just be very good friends with Kiera.’ And, I say that’s a really good idea. And so she went and knocked on her door and offered her a popsicle, and then they spent the whole summer together. And it was wonderful because I feel like my daughter learned a bigger lesson, that it will take care of her for her whole life and to see it’s very important to be more human.
I can see now with this pandemic how we fight, and we feel bad, and many people are depressed and all of these things because we cannot be together. I think it’s time to reflect, like, if we are angry or feel bad because we’re not being together. What kind of people you know are being together? The same you usually hang out with? The people that is only like you? What if we end up in this world with people that are different than you? Are you okay to open up and be willing to let other people that is not the same as you enter your life? Because it’s important to think of those kinds of things, you know?
And so, as I say, I think this story brings me a lot of pain but also I wonder, you know, if we can reflect a little bit more deeper into what are we doing as a society and how we are dividing or making those divisions ourselves. And definitely I feel really good about the way I handled it. I feel very good about the lessons that we learned. And, most importantly, is that my daughter now has a friend in China, because Kiera went back to China at the end of the summer, and now my daughter and Kiera hang out together through video calls, you know. And we have to make this kind of play dates, thinking in Madison it’s going to be one day and in China it’s going to be different. In Madison it’s going to be night and in China it’s going to be day. But it’s wonderful, it is really wonderful to keep that connection.
Interviewer: Yeah, I agree. It seems at times that powers that be are trying to divide us and drive a wedge between us instead of bringing us all together under this shared experience that we are all living right now. Well, Marisol, I just want to say thank you so much for sharing your story and thanks for being with us today.
Marisol Gonzalez: Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]