Let’s get up close and personal.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the Asian community with a recent video sharing the racist encounters of many Asian Americans throughout their lives. My journey with racism began way before I was born in ways I can’t control. It has shaped me as a human being and helped me learn how to deal with people and understand why and who they are. Before we go any further and connect our hearts through our experiences, I want to ask that we do our best to put on a lens of anti-condemnation. That we seek the human flourishing by being the light the world needs, in the best way we know how.
Story 1: Elmhurst, Queens:
Joking and walking slowly back home after middle school with my friend Jacky, my sister was a block ahead of us. We got jumped. Four to five Hispanic kids came out of nowhere yelling all the racial slurs (and in Spanish) and started punching me and my friend. I escaped and ran ahead to my sister because I didn’t want them getting at her, regrettably leaving my friend behind. In the end, we all came out fine. Why did they do it? They were bored! Other than that, “Hey, you’re Chinese. Chino.” were phrases from school clearer in my ears than the lessons from teachers in class.
What pissed me off more than the actual racist slurs was the hypocrisy. If you called a Colombian or Puerto Rican a Chicano or a Mexican, you weren’t going home that day. Everyone that’s yellow on the other hand was Chinese, period. Don’t ever forget that we’re all part of one huge country.
A friend I met a year later said, “People shouldn’t make fun of Chinese people. If they all gathered in the same place and spit at the same time, they could make an ocean.” Yes, that was 7th grade…
Story 2. Pennsylvania:
“Hey you!” said a voice from a Ski-Lift.
A 13-year-old me was trying to enjoy a day skiing with friends. I look up.
“Yeah! Go make me some fried rice!!” The boys giggled at their horrible taste in humor.
Hmm… I screamed back, “I would, but you gotta buy me the rice first!”
This is probably the most reoccuring insult there is…
Story 3. Senegal:
In 2009, I was selected to go do community service in a West African country. Out of the 16 students in the group, two were Asian (including myself.) The other guy was Japanese. Everywhere I went on the streets the adults would stare and the kids would scream out “Chinois! Chinois!” They never seemed to notice the other guy. No one in the whole month we were there called him Chinese. No matter how dark I got (the darkest in my life), he got darker still. I was still the Chinese kid.
Story 4. Indonesia:
I was with my relatives and on the way to a beach in Bali, I saw some guys playing chess on the ground. I stood to watch for a minute. One of the guys looks up and says, “Lihatin apa cina?”
Which translates to, “What you looking at chink?”
Story 5. April 4, 2016 · Düsseldorf:
You know how when someone calls Marty McFly a chicken and he drops everything? Yeah, that’s exactly how I react towards racism.
On the tram (streetcar) on the way to church, there were two Arabs and an African. When I got on, they started saying “Ni hai, ni hai.” They couldn’t even get the insult right. Without skipping a beat, I turned around and yelled at them in French, purely out of instinct. They were damn speechless: A random Asian kid in the middle of Germany yelling at Arabs and an African in French.* Of course, yelling never does anything.
*French is the colonial language of many Arab countries as well as West African countries.
Walking away to find a seat I was still blowing steam. As soon as I sat down, I felt I was being told, “You wasted a great opportunity to have shared love with people.” I was like, “What? How? What could I have done?”
“You could have decided to ignore the comments, plop down next to them, and asked them their names and where they were from.”
Dang, what an answer. I was speechless. Change of heart. No matter where racism strikes, people are people. Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those that persecute you.”