Admittedly, I’ve been pretty silent about the recent attacks on Asians in this country. It’s obvious that these attacks were uncalled for. I usually let things play out in the media and social media to see the response before I react. I tend to think that the majority people are inherently good and that it’s the few outliers who have evil intentions.
My husband is white, and yes, sometimes we make jokes about his “whiteness” at the same time WE make jokes about my Asian-ness. There’s no ill-intent there. We know each other’s stories and why we are the way we are.
When the recent attacks on Asians finally made it to the media, my husband asked, “Did you or your family ever face racism growing up?” My immediate answer was, “Yes.” Being of Filipino descent — and especially having a strong Spanish background — people didn’t know what we were. We were just foreign. I recounted one time we were in our RV having a picnic by the bay when a white man (probably a military veteran, based on the way he was dressed) started yelling at us, “You Vietnamese Chinks. You think you can take advantage of this place? Go back to where you came from.” I thought, “…I was born and raised in the U.S.” Mom was visibly upset but said, “Ignore him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’re not Vietnamese. He probably had a bad experience.”
There were times where people would tell us to “Go back to Mexico” or when I got especially tan, I would get ignored when I asked for service. One time, our family went to a local sit-down restaurant and we sat there for an hour without any service, even after getting the waitress’ attention a few times. We walked out of there angry and hungry. That was the first time my parents ever said anything about how what they did was racist (this was back in the 80’s, where we should have been past racism). It was also the first time that I felt a pit in my stomach for being discriminated against. It hurt to know that we were hated not for our actions, but for what we looked like.
Educating the Ignorant
I recently overheard an audio file (with no context) that was making fun of the “China virus” and the Chinese language that was sent by someone who I would least expect to send such a thing. My first thought, “That’s messed up. Why would they send that?” This person was not an “angry white male” that the media likes to portray as the only racists in this country. In fact it was quite the opposite. I have to emphasize that because we all know that all of us harbor a judgmental attitude — even just a little bit. It’s not reserved for people of a certain color or gender.
I wanted to understand what was going on and why that was sent. Maybe he just wanted to get a laugh. Maybe he sent it to show how mean it sounded or to get some kind of reaction. Either way, it was upsetting. Now, I despise “political correctness” but there’s a point where words and actions are just wrong and shouldn’t be said, done and especially perpetuated. Making fun of a language — that’s wrong. Making fun of someone’s origin — that’s wrong. Sending things out that originated from racist intentions — that’s wrong.
You don’t know other people’s struggles
The person who received that awful message consulted me before they responded, knowing that something like that affects me more than it would them. I totally respected that. I don’t appreciate when other people think they know what is good for me before consulting me. I don’t want people who haven’t walked in my shoes think they KNOW what I’m going through. So before you start speaking up for others, ask, “how can we support you?” Of course, there are occasions where immediate actions are necessary — like stopping an an attack or helping someone who struggles communicate. When you take a stand for a cause, consult before you react.
The Fact is, I’m Not Afraid
I’m not personally afraid of random attacks but it does cross my mind as a possibility. It’s probably because I’m not outwardly “Asian” at first glance and the fact that I live in a culturally diverse city. However, I am saddened that this is happening among the AAPI community in other parts of the country. Generally speaking, Asians tend to be less outspoken when it comes to these issues. I am glad that this is getting noticed especially by non-Asians. I don’t ask for any kind of reparation, I only hope that awareness brings more understanding and respect for each other.
I don’t harbor hatred for the attackers — I know they are struggling, too. Perhaps they’re affected by quarantine, the virus, etc. to a point of mental breakdown. Or maybe the media has over-played the “good vs. evil” when it comes to China that some people tried to fix the problem in their own way. What they did was wrong and that needs to be addressed by law to its fullest extent.
I’m not afraid, but believe me, if someone were to attack me or my family, know that I’m not going down without a fight.