I’m trying to. Aside from mild instances of bullying and othering as a child, I have not really had overt, negative interactions around race, despite there not really being other Asians around when I was growing up. I am thankful for that. I did notice when my married name got me 2-3x the job interviews and recruiters as an adult… But have not really noticed anything else. And tbh, it’s not something I’ve focused on. I am still lucky with my lot in life at this point. My family has been able to build good lives for themselves, despite coming here with nothing… And for that, I am grateful. They have found friendship and support in the communities in which they have settled, it feels like.
I grew up largely in mixed communities of people with predominantly white, black, and hispanic backgrounds. The worst overt racism I can ever recall is when some kids made fun of my dad’s accent, after he turned a corner in a hallway in my elementary school. They weren’t white. But that’s still pretty mild, especially if you consider what happens to some kids in the inner cities. I do remember it being a moment of anger, something I don’t often feel.
That all being said… just about every single one of my best friends growing up were also black or Mexican. My friend groups were always more “diverse”… Even after I moved. When I moved to Nyc, I got to know many South Asians. Even when I ended up in a majority white, conservative state and town, somehow I ended up with the only 2 black girls, some native girls, and a couple of other East Asian girls at the high school within my friendship circle. I ended up with more gay friends than I expected too. For the most part, the common denominator was that these were all gentle, thoughtful, sweet people (my friends).
I’ve been seeing so much news lately and trying to understand the more complex race relationships in places like California and New York. It makes me angry, and sad. There are so many new stories, everyday. With videos, body counts even.
So I’m presented with all this information that seems… so damning. And it seems like there’s a pattern. And I can’t refute someone else’s lived experience like that, I know. There are likely problems that are unquestionable at this point. Maybe they’re regional, maybe not. Maybe they are cultural and require *lots* of nuanced analysis, and maybe humans just don’t make sense and there is no formula to understanding every single problem sometimes.
But I can remember **my** lived experience. All my friends, growing up. I can remember that even if we do encounter a lot of assholes along the way, we do not have to paint anyone with a broad brush, especially simply based on race. I can remember that people come with so many different histories and traumas. I can try to be compassionate. But it gets harder, every single day. Everyday that you feel unheard, and even targeted. You want to empathize. But you also want to have a voice. Do we have a voice? Can I be true to myself as naturally reserved and always aspiringly thoughtful individual, and still express myself? I am not vocal, but that does not mean I do not have thoughts.
Consuming the news wears on me. Trying to interact with people in any meaningful way on social media is impossible. It all gets the better of me at times. I wonder if my perspective is being distorted, or if it was just distorted all along. When is it cynicism, and when it is pragmatism? Perhaps the news I get is also… more selected, based on algorithms? Certainly not out of the question. I don’t know. But I have a growing unease about it, and I just want to understand, and solve the problem.
I want to understand what’s true, and I want to be able to see our problems clearly. Are we seeing our problems clearly? Can we even agree on what they are? Or am I doomed to live remotely in my old age, as far, far away from people as I can get? It would be a peace, even if it weren’t the peace my more idealistic, younger self had envisioned, long ago.