Friday, April 16, 2021

Anti-Asian Racism vs. Institutional Racism

I had an interesting conversation with my son about the anti-Asian violence in the news in recent weeks. We were having different reactions to it, and I appreciate that we respect each other enough that we could just talk about it as adults.

My reaction was one of pity, irritation, some anger, and flashback emotions to my childhood. I finally published the poem I wrote 3 decades ago in college on the Kimchi Mamas blog. I grew up in a mostly white area, and I remember one student from Puerto Rico, and two Black families growing up.  The students who terrorized me the most were two Black girls and many white boys. I was bullied and teased in elementary school. Daily. Marginalized in middle school. Respected finally by high school, but seen as "other" by most of my peers.  This continued through college, and even my early working years.

This life experience is what drew me to California in the first place. A Japanese family that I grew up with back East moved to Cali for the same reason, and I remember them writing my (white) parents telling them the difference they saw in their youngest child's socialization after moving. How the teasing finally ended and he could just be himself at last.

I had very good, loving, supportive friends growing up and in college, so I got through it. These experiences shaped me, of course, and I can unironically be grateful for the forge that made me strong and resilient. And yet. There are also threads of insecurity that held me back from trying things when I was younger, and self-esteem issues that plagued me when dating, and I do at times wonder how I might have been different if only I had not had to suffer these issues. I moved to California to escape racism less for myself than for my kids. The strategy worked.  My kids faced very little of the racism that I did, with only one incident that called me down to the school. My parents were at my school every month it seemed.

My son's reaction is much milder. Yes, the attacks are bad, but it's not institutional, is it? He has a point. While there have been serious attacks, and deaths even, these are rare compared to what our Black friends, neighbors, colleagues have to deal with. I've never worried for my life when being pulled over by a police officer--I see them as protectors, not a harmful force. I've never had to distrust doctors, hiring managers, authority in general based on my race. Based on my gender, Yes indeed.  But not my race.  Mostly it's the social interactions where the racism issue has come up, when people assume I am foreign or don't speak English. Minor indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails