Gender, Race, Age - Race
I never regretted moving to United States. As difficult as it was starting a new life by myself literally in a foreign country, It also stimulated the biggest growth that I had ever experienced. My world opened up and I gained so many different perspectives of lives from all these amazing people surrounding me. It was liberating to learn yourself free from restrictions and to know other dimensions of yourself. But, I didn’t know I was living in a bubble. A bubble that was filled with young people, like me, who were crazy about theater and wanted to devote their lives into it. They made me feel like home and helped me get stronger in this trance land. I am forever grateful for that.
Reality gradually revealed itself to me after I moved to New York.
There was one vivid memory from early days in New York scorched me. It was the beginning that made me aware of my skin color on top of my gender. On a bright sunny day, I was walking to the subway station heading into the city. There was a white dude crossed the street kept trying to get my attention and yelling at me repeatedly, “Hey, Hey, I am talking to you, Hey!” I was annoyed but didn’t think it would be a good idea to engage. Finally, He came over to my side of the street and followed about 50 feet behind me. He yelled again “ Hey, didn’t your mom teach you any manner to pay attention to people talking to you?! Didn’t you just come here to find an American husband to get green card?! Do you even speak English?!” I tried not to show my emotions and kept my mind focused on getting to the subway but my body was trembling with anger and there was nothing I could do. The risk of engaging and defending myself was too great.
I had to use all my will power holding myself back and not attacking that man verbally on the street. I wish I could have gave him a piece of my mind and did not have to worry about any retaliations. As women, that is impossible anywhere in this world. Many of my friends empathized with me and supported my decision of not fighting back then. But my anger generated form this incident never went away, never. I had to swallow it and bury it deep deep inside myself so I didn’t act out. He targeted me because of my skin color and that was my introduction to racism.
I didn’t understand how I got put under certain category because of my skin color, something that I didn’t choose; something that was given to me.
It got worse when I tried to date. I didn’t want to date someone in my own industry; I wanted to meet a man that would expand my horizon and be willing to explore new things together. The nature of my free-lancing work prevented me to meet people outside of my own circle. I joined millions of singles and got on a few well-known dating apps. If you were not an asian woman, you would not understand how disturbing majority of the messages showing up in my inbox were. People said it’s easy for asian women to date. Yeah, if you want to betray your own soul and live like a proud possession, with no self, for the rest of your life. I never was able to comprehend why they could not look at me pass my skin color. It was like my profiles didn’t even exist, only my skin color mattered. I was no longer a human being in their eyes. My value was drastically reduced; My worth was no more than an exotic sex doll from Asia.
I was petrified.
As much as I was confronted with racism, I never once felt threatened that I would lose my life over my skin color. But that changed after last election. In 2018, my sister came to visit me for two weeks. She came to relax and spent time with me. When I asked her what she wanted to do during her stay, she told me that she just wanted to experience American daily life. So we simply roamed around in Brooklyn, and visited all American icons, like Costco, IKEA etc. One day, we went to a newly-opened Whole Food to get some groceries. As she enjoyed looking at all the produces that she had never seen before, I noticed a senior white man kept staring at us and followed us around in the store. It was not a friendly curious stare. I could see the disgust in his eyes and I knew right away what he was thinking. He didn’t like us being there and he wanted us gone. I was alarmed and told my sister right away. We tried to go about our business as usual but getting out of there as soon as possible. At that moment, all kinds of thoughts crossed my mind, Did he have a gun or a knife? What should I do to protect my sister? What if he followed us home? What if…what if…I was really afraid but tried to hide it from my sister. Fortunately nothing happened, but I would never forget that horror.
Recently, a wave of asian hate crimes came with COVID-19 pandemic. During April, there were two attacks happened within fifteen-block radius of my apartment. One victim got stabbed to death on the street, and the other was burned by acid right in front of her own apartment. New York City was still in the mist of serious locked down quarantine. I was terrified after I learned those crimes from my roommate, but still I needed to go out and bought groceries. In that period of time, even a flying plastic bag would make me jump walking on the street. I could not contain my fear. I had to prepare myself every time getting out of my apartment.
How come my skin color was to blame only because the virus happened to be discovered in China?! How does that make any sense?! I was furious at the politician who sent out this ridiculous message and spread the unnecessary hatred.
I don’t think misconceptions that come with races will ever disappear. People learn to fear those who are different from themselves long time ago. But I believe humanity is all the same cross all races and cultures. I want to close the gap and help people see beyond skin colors, one at a time. However, as a woman and as an asian, I refuse to be polite on this subject anymore. I have tolerated enough ignorances and arrogances. I don’t owe you anything only because my skin color is yellow. Not me; not my ancestors; not my offsprings. It does not matter what color my skin is, I am human as you are. I deserve what you deserve all the same.