PREFACE (please read first!):
Thank you for taking the time to read this, it truly means a lot. I will be touching on some sensitive issues that some of you may not be very comfortable with. But I hope that you would push past the uncomfortable. With that, I also want to say that my interpretation and experience in no way is a reflection of the individual stories of very real humans who are on the frontlines of racism and xenophobia. I hope that you would read with grace and an open mind. For the past three months all of these stories of racist words and actions have weighed heavy on my heart, and it’s taken me all this time to formulate my thoughts. While this is just a 5-10min read, I hope that it will achieve something more. If you've been a target of xenophobia and racism, I hope this would help you feel heard, even it it's just a little bit. I hope that this would be a chance for us all to gain perspective and a deeper sense of empathy. I hope we realize that our world becomes an even more dangerous place if even one person chooses to be ignorant.
Pandemic to Xenophobia
In February 2020, the Coronavirus had just started spreading, but it was mainly contained in China. We all couldn't predict what was about to happen, the magnitude of this and how it would result in a global pandemic. What I also didn’t realize then was that this was just a fragment of what was to come and that as the virus spread further west, so would xenophobia. From short ignorant comments to physical & violent harassment, during the past few months many Asians been targeted and blamed for this virus. Which truly shocked me, but maybe I shouldn't be shocked because our society has always been turning against each other, and when we are in a crisis it's easier to point fingers at another race.
For some, these acts may just be out of pure ignorance and not being educated on Coronavirus at all. However, for a lot of people the xenophobia has always been there, and the pandemic has given them an excuse to act on it. And this is so dangerous. Whether we are aware of it, we all grow up learning habits, words, actions, beliefs and ultimately core values from the people around us. We learn from our teachers, peers, relatives. We learn from film & TV, the news, social media. We have learned a lot of good things which I hope you keep for the rest of your life, but we also have grown up in a society that has discriminated and divided races. All of these things we have learned have ingrained itself in our brains as ideas and truths that we now believe and act upon. Some things we have learned, we have to unlearn. These are things taught by society, possibly parents or teachers. You may say that it isn’t our fault that we learned it in the first place. True, but it is entirely on you to unlearn it. Before even trying to learn about the racist incidents happening right now, before reading about someone else's racial profiling, before pointing fingers, check your own heart. Unlearn the racial biases, targeted accusations, racist jokes that are in you. Re-evaluate where you stand and what YOU believe in. Then take the next step.
It starts with you
If you are at all on social media or have seen the news you are probably familiar with the tragic brutality and racial violence against Black people. Unfortunately, this isn't something that is new. It's something that has been on-going, and we have just been given more access to it in recent years because of improved social media networks. You may have re-posted or re-tweeted these tragedies, and feelings of anger & frustration builds up within you. But a re-post along with a heart-broken emoji just isn't enough. Reading the news headlines and being angry isn't enough. Even our tears and empathy isn't enough unless we choose to take another step into the uncomfortable.
I find it interesting that media seems to be taking steps to be more inclusive, having more representation in movies, in sports and TV shows. I've seen communities of people come together to support Asians in Hollywood, to celebrate Black NBA athletes & hip-hop artists, to have Latinx actors play the lead in TV shows. We support their culture, yet, in our day-to-day lives, we still witness discrimination and racial profiling. We see on the news, yet another tragic death of an innocent Black person. Minority college students are discriminated against. Racist jokes still get laughed at. And this is the problem. We celebrate diversity when we are comfortable and stay silent when things get uncomfortable. In our world today, our silence and inaction is dangerous.
Silence and ignorance is hypocritical to the representation you "support" in fame and media. We have got to identify prejudice and racism within our own thoughts and actions. We need to call ourselves out and be willing to be uncomfortable. Check your heart, re-evaluate your lifestyle and take action. We can't just be angry & sad. We need to accompany these feelings with much more. The recent tragic, undeserved deaths of black people deserve more than this. We must change ourselves for the sake of the future generation and society. Let's not wait until the next news headline to change. You have the ability to make a change today, starting with your own heart. We can't be silent to injustice, and it is our responsibility to make sure our fellow citizens feel safe in this world. It starts with you.
I'm just as broken
Before I say any more I want to say that I am aware that I have been that person. Scrolling past all the tragedies because it’s too much, or not paying much attention because I’m not American. There are days when I’ve been guilty of being a bystander to racial jokes. And that’s not okay. But I will try harder each day to be better. To unlearn and step into the uncomfortable. I hope together you will, too.
"What about me?"
If you are privileged to be the majority, recognize this and use your advantage to help others. Start conversations with those around you. Talk to your parents and grandparents about these issues. If they’re not on social media, they might not see these things as often as you do. Just because they "come from a different generation" does not mean that they have an excuse to ignore these things. Be the one to bring this issue to light. Educate yourself on racial injustice, learn terms and phrases. It’s easy as picking up your phone and googling it. Step into the uncomfortable. You cannot be silent with all the tragedy happening around you. Silence in this time will hurt more than heal.
If you are a BIPOC and have been discriminated against—whether it be an ignorant joke or physically harassed, I empathize with you and for you. I wish that you didn't have to live in fear. I hope you know that there is still good in the world. And while we are far from perfect, there will be small glimpses of hope each day. Your unique story, background and values are worth hearing. So share them. Share your hurts and celebrations. I know it may be vulnerable and risky to take that step, but by sharing your experience with a friend of a different race, you are making the world a safer and more beautiful place. Society NEEDS your story & experience. If you don’t know where to share it, please share it with me. Without you society is a pretty boring place.
If you are a BIPOC you also have a duty NOT to be a bystander. We cannot be that Asian police officer who stood beside his White colleague who was choking a Black person to death (George Floyd case). When a joke is made about a Latino, other minorities should be first in defending them. Your voice is valuable and you have the duty to take action, too. Just because you're a POC, doesn't mean you have a pass at being racist or ignorant. It isn’t the responsibility of the majority to get rid of racism. We all carry this burden together.
If you say none of this applies to you because you don’t live in the US or a country with large communities of minorities, you’d be wrong. Just because your country does not report gun violence on the news does not mean that people aren’t being discriminated. We have seen what discrimination has done to a nation like America, and it would be unfortunate if that were to happen in other nations. With our world so connected, we need to care about this. Racism spreads like wildfire, and it will continue, if we don't do something about it. If we don’t care about it now, we’d be cursing our future generation.
The future is literally in our hands. Each conversation you have, each time you learn something new is one step forward into a better future. For yourselves, for your nation and for the world. I pray that you would take this seriously. Let's not let our future kids grow up in the same society we are living in now. Our world is a much beautiful place when we aren’t living in fear, when we carry each other’s burdens. I hope I live to see the day when people of color are not only represented equally in media, but also seen as equals in real life.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Please message me with any thoughts. I'd love to continue having discussions with you. If you have more time you can check out various articles below, a glossary and my background/why I care about this.
Links to recent articles & stories
these articles in no way covers the magnitude of racism in the US and globally, but it's a start
BIPOC / POC: Black Indigenous People of Color, a term used to represent minorities and people of color (usually in the US)
Discrimination: "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex."
Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.
Xenophobia: "dislike of, or prejudice against people from other countries."
My background / why do I care?
If you don't know me you'll have to know that I am a TCK (Third Culture Kid). I am a Chinese-Singaporean but actually grew up most of my life in Tokyo, Japan. There I attended an international school with other students of different nationalities. After graduating high school, I decided to move to the US and completed four years of undergrad there. During these four years I learned more about the deep roots of racism in the nation. Through real life stories from peers I learned how big of an issue racism is. An issue that is clearly a predominant in the US. I learned what it means to sit in a classroom amongst white peers. I witnessed how ignorant some people could be. I saw hurt and wished I could fix things. I tried my best to pave a better future for incoming minority students. I left the States on a positive note, and I left it with a hopeful heart. Clearly that hope has been crushed. But I've seen growth and change before on my small college campus, which only means that there is growth and change to be had on a larger scale.