By and large I try to live my life doing the right thing. Not surprisingly, doing the right thing often has different definitions and can be subjective, but to me doing the right thing means balancing doing what’s right for myself and my family, while minimizing harm and distress to others. I know these times are difficult for everyone, especially having been cooped up for the past almost 3 months. I know that it’s been difficult. It’s been difficult on everybody. Tensions are high, political tensions are high, interpersonal relationship tensions are high. It’s just difficult. Nobody wants it to be this way. But seeing the gaping chasm between the way black Americans, minorities are treated and the way everybody else is treated is difficult to stomach.
Growing up as a mixed-race person being both Asian and white, it was difficult figuring out how to identify myself as any race. People would (unintentionally hurtfully) call me things like half-breed; it was difficult to reconcile when I knew that I was Asian, and I kind of just accepted that it was fine being addressed like that. I was lucky enough to even figure out a way to sort of play both sides. I got to hang out and be friends with white people (seemingly) without too much question, though I did feel the shame in sharing my culture for fear of being misunderstood (cc @davechang). I of course felt at home with Asian people because that’s the culture that I grew up in, but there was always this lingering sense of being at least a little bit less than. That sense that you just don’t have quite as much privilege, that you just won’t quite get away with the same shit. And even though I was a fairly rebellious and outspoken young person (and still am as an adult) I still had the unconscious fear that since I didn’t look completely white I probably shouldn’t fuck with the system too much because I’m not going to be the one who gets the benefit of the doubt.
I think that’s the difficult pill to swallow: it’s that you really don’t have as much in your favor as you thought. I visited a friend who just bought a house recently in a neighborhood that seems like it’s populated primarily by older white people and as a group of four Asian people, young Asian people, I thought to myself when I saw older white people walking around the neighborhood like what do they think of us being here? Do they want us here? I would sadly guess that “want” is a strong word. Tolerate, maybe. But maybe I’m also too pessimistic these days.
I can’t claim to empathize with the feelings associated with extreme violent injustices towards my minority group because the Asian minority is one that isn’t thought of or treated as a violent minority, and for that I’m lucky. But I do see that silent progress that’s done only within the confines of a systemically racist system is unlikely to incite real systemic change. And when your people have been trying to cause that change from within for decade after decade and we’re still where this country is at today, I see how physical outrage is eventually the manifestation of the years of oppression and injustice. I honestly believe that by and large the people who want the real change don’t want to resort to violence in order to be heard, but there comes a point where the choice to actively be non-violent becomes too difficult to choose and just can’t be held in.