It was sometime in the early nineties when I was flipping through the tv channels and landed on a popular talk show. The topic of the show was racism, and on the stage was a crying Asian American girl who was probably twenty something years old.
I thought, ‘oh here we go, all these crazy racist people have upset her and now she’s on the show to talk about it. Well, thank goodness I don’t need to hear this because I’m not racist. I have asian friends!’
Yep, I’m thinking like a white person.
The host of the show said to her, “When people look at you, they don’t see an American, do they?” She kept sobbing and shook her head. “No, they don’t.”
Holy crap! To my horror, I suddenly realized that I was one of ‘those people!’ But how?
While mentally beating myself up, I realized that none of my Asian friends were born in the United States. My Vietnamese friend was born in Vietnam, my Korean friends were born in Korea, etc. So therefore, I inaccurately concluded that every Asian person I saw on the street was not from the United States.
I didn’t like discovering this truth about myself, but I took it as an opportunity to do better. To recalibrate my thinking, and not be so quick to judge where someone was born based on their race.
What prompted this post
The whole reason I’m writing this post is because of the current, and very disturbing, news reports about increased racist attacks against Asian Americans. All because the first cases of the coronavirus were discovered in China. That’s the racist logic, the virus began in China, so go assault Asian Americans.
And now it’s affecting many of my Asian American friends who say they’re worried. This increased anxiety is not only for themselves, but their children, and especially their parents. Attacks are becoming more targeted against older Asian Americans. The assumption is that they don’t speak English and either don’t know how, or are unwilling to pursue legal action. So they’re viewed as easy to attack and get away with it.
Listen and Learn
Even though most of us would never verbally or physically assault anyone, that doesn’t mean we would never think or say anything racially insensitive. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Asian Americans love America as much as I do.
- Asians are not a monolith. China is a very different country from Japan, which is different from Vietnam, which is different from Korea, which is different from Taiwan, which is different from the Philippines, and so on.
- I need to speak up against racist things that are happening. My friends need to know that I have their back. I can also give them a shoulder to cry on when needed.
And finally, I’ve also learned that I don’t experience the anxiety that is felt by people who don’t look like me. So to all of my friends, please keep me in check so I can be a better friend and give you the support needed to beat this hateful virus.