The Racial Divide
Racism is a great divide. It can divide families, it can divide friends. It has brought upon war and it has divided this country.
Growing up as a Chinese person in America, I’ve always felt like an outsider. And while I’m generally conscious of being Chinese, there are but small moments where I honestly forget that I am.
It’s like I’ll walk by a window or a mirror, turn to see my reflection, and somehow be slightly surprised to see a Chinese person standing there. I can’t really explain it, and it sounds ridiculous. But it’s not that I think that I’m white. It’s that I think that I’m an American. An equal alongside everyone else.
Maybe that’s what it means to be a minority living in America.
If “Life in America” was a video game that was released tomorrow, there would be 4 difficulty settings:
Easy – Caucasian (White)
Normal – Asian/Pacific Islander (Yellow)
Hard – Hispanic & Middle Eastern (Brown)
Tough – African-American (Black)
6 Things to Consider About Kaepernick & Rapinoe:
1. Kneeling is almost always considered a form of protest, not abstinence. In order for that to be true, obedience must be considered mandatory.
2. Let’s say that hypothetically, Colin Kaepernick had family that recently died to gunfire from police. If that had actually happened, would it then be okay for him to kneel against solidarity? Because the system had failed him directly? But it’s not okay that the system has failed him, his family, or the black community indirectly? Can he not kneel to represent those who have? Must he really stand?
3. We as a nation, and as Americans, love to claim that we live in the best damn country on this green earth. And there’s a lot to support that notion, I get that. But can’t we have a sideline full of people dressed in ‘Merica regalia, fists and Bud Lights in the air, alongside those who may be kneeling and abstaining? Imagine the peace. To have that level of freedom and expression, that would be the apex of civilized society. If we could achieve that, maybe then we could consider ourselves great.
4. Discrimination doesn’t exist only through race. It bleeds over to anything that can define you. Your clothing, your sexual orientation, your lifestyle. Megan Rapinoe being an openly gay athlete provides a marvel of an example. If she herself feels that the system has failed her as a openly gay athlete, that she’s been discriminated against or alienated because she’s gay, or that America doesn’t fully represent what it’s supposed to, then who are we to say otherwise?
5. Until we have walked in other’s paths, how can we impart our life experience onto their actions? Have you ever taken the time to truly imagine what it would be like, growing up as a black person in this country? As a half-black, half-white person in this country? Atticus Finch and Gregory Peck have positively affected far too many young minds for their lessons to go unpracticed. And as Boo Radley has taught us, we cannot impart our own feelings onto another human, unless we’ve taken the chance to walk in their shoes.
6. Far too many Americans have died to make this country what it is. And while honoring their efforts should always be a priority, we must also remember that they died to make this land free. That’s what many of us still believe anyway.
People like Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, and Brandon Marshall will lose out on a lot. They’ll lose out on the money, the endorsements, future opportunities to be had. But worst of all, they’ll lose out on the faith of their fellow Americans, when all they’re really trying to do, is speak loudly, and proudly like an American.
Living in The Bubble
I grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon. A very predominantly white, middle-to-upper class suburb, known mostly for it’s lush trees, good schools, Kevin Love, the pilot episode of 24, and being called “The Bubble” (and for being quite racially inflammatory throughout it’s history). Despite it’s not so clean history, I’ve honestly never encountered too much outright racism growing up in LO. And while there was still the occasional chink or (insert Asian stereotype) from other kids at school, there weren’t any particularly malicious occurrences of outright discrimination. For the most part, there’s a lot of decent people in Lake Oswego who can be more open-minded than meets the eye. But I do think that my family also made a concerted effort towards white people, a strong effort, almost in order to show them that Chinese people can be good, hard-working, and honest people. As if our family had to represent Chinese people to those who didn’t know any. And back then, there really weren’t many. Katherine Yuen RIP, Paul Liu, Chris Carey, Daniel Liu, Lindsay Luck, forgive me if I miss you on this list.
When I was younger, I was an extreme anti-racist, almost to a fault (and still probably am). I’ve called out parents of friends, teachers, strangers on the street for racist comments. It’s not always pretty. I just won’t let it go. I feel like something has to be said. That there’s a need to fire back, even if I know for certain that it will fall on deaf ears. I’m still going to try.
The best example of this happened in freshman year history class. On Cinco De Mayo, as class was ending and we were all exiting, our teacher “snarkily” yelled out to a fellow student named Nick, “See ya later el Nicko”, who happened to be wearing a sombrero that day, much to the classroom’s amusement. And while I want to remain as neutral as possible, I say “snarkily” because he had a huge smile on his face at the time and pointed towards Nick emphatically.
Now this situation wasn’t as directly hostile as you may imagine, as both the teacher and the student in this story are white, and had an excellent student/teacher rapport. Making this story even more vile than it already is.
Instantaneously, in an almost knee-jerk manner, I say, “That’s racist”.
A silence falls over the room. Heads turn.
“What did you say?” My teacher snapped back.
“I said, that’s racist.”
“Come see me after class,” he answered.
An immediate ooooooooo falls quietly over the classroom. My friends look at me with support, but I see some worry in their faces, as if they know what’s in store.
“Don’t you ever talk to me like that in front of my class,” remarked my teacher while most of the class had already exited.
“I said that what you said was racist, not that you yourself are racist,” I replied.
“Don’t you ever call me a racist in front of my class again,” he answered.
His lips were seriously quivering. He was shaking. He was furious. I was extremely uncomfortable, but I still felt that I needed to say something.
“What you said was racist. I never said that you yourself was racist, but what you said was racist,” I replied.
I hopped out of that in a quick minute. I never felt so uncomfortable around a teacher in my life. He was vehemently bothered by the fact that he was portrayed in a racist light, and I know for a fact that if that situation replayed itself today, that I would do the exact same thing.
The following day, my mom and my older sister met with the school’s vice principal and said teacher for an after-hours meeting on the matter. I was later met with an apology from my teacher on how we’re both, “very sensitive people”. And while I don’t think that he was a maliciously racist person in any real way, I do believe that he had some potentially prejudiced beliefs that often bled over into his day-to-day teaching.
After things cooled down a bit, our teacher/student relationship actually gained a lot of ground. That maybe through this experience, he might have been more personally cognizant of his own prejudices, at least within his curriculum. Sometimes it takes a bit of fire to spark change.