Sigh. I have recently learned of two instances of racism directed towards Asians. One has made national coverage and the other hit much closer to home. Both have left me offended and frustrated. It doesn’t matter who the target is; racism is never okay. It especially worries me that these incidents have come right now when Japan is working through a horrific crisis. When people should be responding with compassion. With sensitivity. How are these things too much to ask?
The first instance I am referring to is this video of Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student making blatantly racist comments about her Asian classmates. Wallace reportedly apologized and said, “I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did.” Her delivery of the commentary seemed rather biting and deliberate to me, but I am swimming in a sea of angry bias at the moment. I thought her words were extremely hurtful and judgmental. I have to question her judgment in even posting such a video without expecting to get in some degree of trouble. What really gets me (well, the whole thing gets me) is her quick comment at the beginning of the video that her rant is not directed towards her friends. ‘Friends’ AKA her Asian friends who are clearly not like the other ‘hordes of Asian students’ at the college? A friend once made a similar side note to me when complaining about international students at our school (who are mostly Asian). “Not you,” she added, as though that made the rest of what she said okay. It didn’t. It doesn’t.
The second instance was relayed to me by a friend who teaches preschool. She told me she recently had to stop her 3 and 4 year olds from pulling their eyes into slants. To hear this just made me sad. I had classmates do that to me in grade school, too. Who continues to teach this ignorance? Who continues to allow it? We are all responsible for ending these unacceptable behaviors. We cannot just rely on someone else to do the job. There might not always be someone else. I asked my friend if there were any Asian students in the class and she said yes, one. A little boy who also happens to be adopted from Korea. My heart ached a little.
There was a time when I didn’t care about race and I thought those who did were making a big stink over something already largely resolved. How wrong I was! I remember just a few years back when the picture of Miley Cyrus pulling her eyes into slants was released. I told myself, “She’s young and just messing around. She didn’t mean to offend anyone.” Even if she didn’t mean to hurt someone, she clearly did. Maybe people keep pulling stunts like this because they think they can get away with them. I guess, in a sense, they do get away with them. What more has been asked of Miley Cyrus or Alexandra Wallace than to make a public apology? They get a slap on the hand and say they’re sorry, then the world moves on to the next controversy. What is an appropriate, natural consequence for racist behavior anyways? Yeah, I don’t have a sure answer, either.
I used to worry about sounding like a whiner for bringing these things up. Being viewed as whiney is just never good. But this isn’t whining. This is demonstrating that I am not some static stereotype. I am a human being who feels justifiably hurt when racism is directed at me or others who share my background. No one deserves that kind of treatment. This is me responding honestly to a reality and an injustice. I think about that little preschool boy and I want to be a part of creating something better. There is so much left to do.