Part III: Racism is Hard
I feel like I should have offered an emotional support puppy to you all at the beginning of this series because I know racism is hard. Some people would argue that the lessening of the pain that ‘racism’ brings shouldn’t be lessened when being explained because ‘we’ weren’t eased into it. Racism greeted us at the door of the general public, gave us an aggressive two-hand-hand-shake and a slap on the caboose, followed up with a, “go get em’ Tiger!” We then crossed the threshold and found ourselves in this weird spot where we’re different from everyone, but at the same time we aren’t because if we’d ALL strip down to our skeletons, muscles and blood, we’re ALL the same.
Racism is hard. It’s hard for people that experience it, it’s hard for those that don’t understand it. I genuinely appreciate those that see me for who I am and see my differences—but don’t see my one really big obvious difference as a detriment to me as a human, as a person, as a female, as a creator, etc. I know that there might be some readers that are scrunching their noses in disgust at what I’m saying right now, but to you, the reader that doesn’t experience what we experience, I choose to pick up your lens and look through with a veil of grace, and all I’m asking is you do the same. Then if you still don’t agree, you can trash me all you want, I can guarantee I do not want you in my corner.
I’ve been trying to show how racism runs deep in our society by way of telling my own experiences from my own life. My hope was and is that most of the people that know me would be able to see these experiences through my eyes. Most of the people that know me know my family, too. They know where I grew up, my brothers’ names, and the house I grew up in. For those that don’t know those details about my life, know me as an adult, they know me as a human, so for them, I assumed it would be some-what-easy for them to read this series through my eyes. For those of you that have no idea who I am or where I come from or what I’m about, that’s fine. I just hope that you can give me some grace as a human telling these first-hand experiences and try to understand that life isn’t fair for any of us, but those of us that have different colored skin, life handed us a 5-second delay that we won’t ever recover from, no matter how hard we try.
As time marches on and we continue to see acts of racial violence continue to un-necessarily end lives and the unsettledness in our society continues to boil over, those of us that have the 5-second deficit get louder, and we try to get our White brothers and sisters to meet us in the middle, so we can close that 5-second gap—TOGETHER. It’s when White Privilege doesn’t see the gap, that’s where it gets hard. It’s hard enough that there are White people that appreciate the gap, that firmly believe with every fiber of their being that I am a lesser person than they are. I’ve had to fight for certain things in my life, I also had to fight to prove that I belonged here, even though I had no choice in my coming to the United States of America.
I know I’ve shared stories, and some of them I’ve shared more than once, but there’s one more thing that I want to share, one more thing I want to discuss.
Good golly almighty if there is one thing I’d rather not have to deal with, it would be relationships. I’d rather just get a letter in the mail, or more so an email because I’m awful about checking my mailbox…and find an email letting me know who my husband is, when he’s going to come and maybe his name…and maybe a photo…but because I’m still a little bit of a queen and would still appreciate being swept off my feet, but please put me on my own horse as we ride off into the sunset…and instead of a horse, can you put me in the passenger’s seat of your car…because, I like the wind in my hair, but if I’m looking fancy, I don’t need the wind to mess it up. A little boujee, but still basic.
Relationships are hard. They’ve always been hard. I’m not saying they have been hard for JUST me, I know they’ve been hard for everyone. In my mind, I’ve always assumed this to be because I’m not blonde, therefore, I’m passed over easier. At least that’s what it was like growing up. I didn’t ever (still don’t) have the physical assets that are obvious to those of the opposite sex, but I have a wildly fantastic personality (the most unattractive compliment to a 16-year-old girl). Now-a-days—I appreciate the compliment. I’d rather have a wildly fantastic personality with a heavy dose of humor so that I can entertain one with my wit as opposed to be expected to “entertain” with other…uhh…talents.
Now, I know that is definitely not how it goes [all the time]. I know that dudes generally prefer a gal that can carry on a conversation, a smart lady, someone that’s fun, and generally shares a few interests with him. Now this is where it gets...um interesting.
There are some gentlemen who prefer blondes, some that prefer brunettes, some that don’t have a preference, and some that prefer Asians. Yes, I’m overly simplifying for the sake of me rambling.
Asian fetishes are a real thing. I’m just laying it out there for you to know. More than anything I’ve requested prior to this point, don’t you dare even try to argue that the Asian fetish isn’t a real thing, it is. If you’re a White person and you even remotely try to disregard this as a thing, you should probably start from the beginning of this series and read it until you no longer have that thought. Asian fetishes are a thing. *Time out
I just want a little acknowledgement that getting complimented by the opposite sex is flattering. Sometimes it’s unsolicited and gross, but sometimes it’s really thoughtful and it makes your whole day.
Don’t worry, I know that yes, 1000% feminism is a real. We gals can do everything you can do, mister MAN. According to queen Bey, we run the world, and Alicia Keys doesn’t wear make-up for anyone, but when she does, it’s because she wants to. I take the time to curl my hair because I want to do it, for me, because I like my hair curled. But it goes without saying that being on the receiving end of a non-gross and genuine compliment that you weren’t fishing for feels warm and fuzzy. Continuing on…
Being a girl is hard, we’re expected to do all the things, and accept our lesser pay to the MAN. Being a girl is hard because we have to not only look good, we also have to keep up that level of sexy, or bubbly, or sweet, or whatever because once we start to dial back our efforts, something is wrong. News Flash: Not always the case. Being a girl is hard because if we wear a certain outfit and then end up the victim of rape, people start to point fingers saying it was how the victim was dressed. News Flash: definitely not the case. Ever. Being a girl is hard because we do get hit on, but we also get hit on in disgusting ways, degrading ways, ways that make us feel uncomfortable and if we turned the tables and hit on dudes the same way they hit on us, we’re too forward. HMM, YA DON’T SAY?! Here comes my splash of racism… *Time in
Being a girl is hard, and being an Asian girl is really hard. Asian fetishes are real. I know I said that a few sentences ago, but they are. To be complimented is one thing, to be objectified as a woman is another thing, to be objectified as a woman of color and be found attractive JUST because of my color puts me on the 5-yard line out in center field with one foot inside the paint about to be called for 3-seconds, but the puck just went in and the line judge just called a hole in one. Yes, it’s that weird and uncomfortable.
I’m not stupid. I know there are adult videos produced based on this type of fetish, and that’s really fun because that’s the only thing I see in my mind when I first start talking to a man, when I meet him for the first time face-to-face, and randomly after our 7th date. At some point or another I imagine said gentleman friend “researching” these videos and getting a certain physical response due to the content of the videos and picturing me as one of the “leads.” Gross, isn’t it? Try being the lead. –No, I haven’t ever starred in one of these, but in someone’s mind, I have. Do you feel dirty? If you do, I only tiny-apologize because I solicited that response to prove a point.
Because, on the opposite end of the fetish spectrum, I’ve also experienced a one-sentence conversation that went exactly like:
Dude: “I don’t know if I could ever be in an inter-racial relationship.”
…I don’t even have words for that. I’m just going to leave it there.
Dating is hard. I honestly never know if any man is interested in me because of the fetishes that have been highlighted by that “industry” or even by HISTORY. Because even history points out that the appreciation for “exotic” has been a thing. There’s even actual research data that states Asian women are rated higher in desirability on dating sites, and it isn’t just because we’re all math and science geniuses. News Flash: I am neither. I also cannot play the violin, volley the shuttlecock over a net with a badminton racket, or do nails.
Again, as I've said over and over: I don’t want you to pity me. That definitely isn’t my goal here. I don’t want your pity; I just want to be seen as a human. I want to be seen as someone who works really freaking hard every single day to support herself. I want to be seen as a strong independent woman who doesn’t need any man to take care of her, but at the same time wants a man to sweep her off her feet. I want to be seen as an Asian by other Asians, but I also want my race to be seen and marked as an asset to me as an individual. I am exhausted from the constant hum that I’m automatically assumed to not speak English as a first language, that I’m here on a work or school visa, or just that I’m too "exotic" and not as good as the White woman sitting next to me.
I know that we’ve all gone through hard things, and we all continue to go through hard things. News flash: We can DO hard things.
Remember though, none of this is about you, it’s about me. I’m not saying my life has been harder than yours, I’m saying my life has been hard, the same hard as your hardest but for me. My life has also been indescribably joyful. I know yours has too.
As an Asian American, I’m telling you it’s okay to admit that you don’t understand. There are plenty of times I don’t understand, but I’m trying to learn more. I’m reaching out to others and asking for advice, asking if what I’m feeling is something similar to what they’ve felt, and I’ve got a safe space with my Black friends and family to ask them questions, too. I genuinely just want my White friends and family to set whatever fears you have-- set them down and with the help of asking the difficult questions, look at the world through my lens.
I don't know where we're going as a society, but I know I will probably continue to have have a lot of fear. Fear that I could be dead-too-soon one day because of the color of my skin and that isn’t fair. I am afraid that I won’t find a man who is strong enough to handle me and all my emotions because a lot of them stem from being Asian, raised in a White community and have resulted in me not being seen as the Asian American that I am. I’m afraid I’ll lose one of my children (God willing that I have them) to a racial radical thinking my child has a gun when really, it’s a bag of skittles. I often times over-compensate and beat you to the punch of the inevitable Asian joke because I’d rather be the deliverer of the joke than have the awkward feeling that I should mention that by the joke coming out of your mouth-- this makes me feel like you’re targeting a piece of me that I cannot change even if I wanted to. I’m afraid I don’t have much hope for the future because people continue to ignore, deny, or worse, continue to support these racial divides.
I don’t have anything else to say, or maybe it's that I have so much to say that I’m just worn out. I’m tired of this discussion. I’m tired that this is still a discussion. I’m tired of having to explain that I don’t know any Asian languages—written or spoken. I’m tired of myself and the first place my mind always goes is: I’m not good enough because I’m not White.
I don’t want your pity. I don’t want you to handle me with kid-gloves because believe me when I say, I’m strong enough to handle what life has in store for me. I’m not sorry this is more up-lifting. I’m sorry there isn’t some happy ending to all of this, but for the White reader, that’s how it goes when you aren’t White. Being Asian is such an interesting thing and it’s a whole culture I’m trying to learn more about. I’m just asking you to see me for all of me and open your eyes to race. See the beauty in all the colors, and read this…this is a tweet on White Privilege I saw the other day:
“Some people have a hard time recognizing privilege, saying, “I work hard. I don’t get things handed to me.” I understand that. Here’s how I respond: privilege isn’t bonus points for you and your team. It’s unfair penalties theother team gets that you don’t. Privilege isn’t the presence of perks and benefits. It’s the absence of obstacles and barriers. That’s a lot harder to notice. If you have a hard time recognizing your privileges, focus on what you don’t have to go through. Let that fuel your empathy and action.” – Marie Beecham @mariejbeech
I genuinely want to say, ‘thank you,’ for reading this series. This is definitely a condensed yet highlighted version of how I experience life and I know my experiences are small potatoes in comparison to others’. I know the experiences I have had HAVE been lessened to a degree because of my upbringing and the shelter my small town offered. I’m grateful to my family and my friends, my tiny community, and those of you that have read this that I don’t know. I truly appreciate the time it’s taken to read these posts, fully knowing they’re more essays than anything. Thank you for giving me the grace for not being the world’s best grammar-er or writer for that matter. Thank you for taking a spin in my chair for a few minutes at a time so I could share with you how racism has influenced every minute of my life in one capacity or another.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the very best life has to offer and ask you to move from here with a little grace and a little compassion with a goal to use your White Privilege to help close the racial divide. To continue educating yourself and those you love on honoring their differences and celebrating them because those are things that make each of us special…our differences.