From what I was taught in school during my third-grade year, I learned that racism was lynching and 1960s Segregation Laws. From what I was taught at home, racism meant not treating everybody with respect. Third grade me was confused by this; how does not respecting someone lead to lynching? I had so many questions about this giant leap in logic. I searched for answers, and in my search, I discovered the word 'stereotype.' I latched onto that word and bridged a connection. As an Asian-American, I dealt with stereotypes.
You wouldn't guess it at first glance, but I am indeed Asian-American. My mother and my half-sister immigrated to the United States after my mother met and married my father. Then in an average town in Missouri, I was born, a baby with white as milk skin.
That's the short story, start to finish. As an Asian-American, I've only had to deal with a few inconveniences and stupid jokes put upon by my classmates. My mother and sister, however, deal with prejudices and stereotypes almost every day.
My mother met my father on a dating site. They fell in love and wanted to have a life together in the United States. My mother viewed it as a chance to marry a good guy and have a better life for her daughter, my sister. Others, upon hearing her story in the United States, viewed it as another foreign gold digger story.
The process of getting to America was hard on my mother and sister. My mother was let into the country a few months after she married my father. My sister, on the other hand, had to wait eight years and had to stay with our aunts and uncles. She spent eight years without our mother, only receiving visits over the years.
My mother and sister made that sacrifice to see a country that could give them better chances. For my mother, she would be able to make an income to support her family here and support her family back in the Philippines. For my sister, she would be able to go to an American school and live with her mother. The country of life and liberty was their beautiful dream.
They didn't realize what they would have to face while they were here.
While in public, my mother and sister no longer speak in Tagalog. They're careful to speak in English unless another Filipino approaches them. While shopping, the sales ladies pay special attention to us when we come inside and after we leave. In one encounter, my sister and my mother were looking at jewelry. I strayed away so I could ask the sales lady a question. While talking to her, she pointed at my mother and sister, and said, "You have to watch out for those Mexicans. They're always messing around and stealing stuff. You also have to watch out for blacks."
I was stunned. I had no idea at the time how to reply to that woman. I only could mumble, 'They're not Hispanic.'
That sales lady took one look at my family and assumed that they were thieves. My mother, who loves to buy jewelry like no other, still has no idea that that happened. I couldn't tell her. How do you think it would feel to be accused of something so immoral because of your heritage?
That was not even the last time. Christmas weekend, my sister and I went to Walmart to pick out earrings for my mother. My sister asked another random sales lady a question about earrings. We didn't know that after we left, she had us followed by security. A security woman followed us throughout Walmart, watching as we bought necessities for that night. She convinced herself that we had stolen a pair of earrings.
She had us stopped and brought it to her office. She only asked my sister to empty her purse. Maybe because she was the oldest, but I don't believe so. My sister emptied her whole bag, nothing but her wallet and a few receipts falling out. My sister kept repeating that we didn't steal anything. The security woman only smiled cockily at her.
It wasn't until I emptied my purse, library books, and candy wrappers falling out that she let us go.
A few encounters with unkind sales ladies does not qualify for the peak of racism. My mother and my sister are luckier than most (if you can call stereotypes made upon them still fortunate). They are still proud Asian-Americans who love their heritage, but who also Iove their present country more. But I know that there are so many who are subjected to worse. Men and women unjustly lose their lives and their freedom because of their race.
What I've learned from my sister and mother is that it's okay to be proud of your culture and celebrate everyone's differences. They taught me to love and respect everyone. They showed me that being black or Hispanic meant nothing in terms of one's character. My mother and sister made it clear made it clear that there are good and bad people, bad because of their choices not their race. They taught me racism runs deeper than lynching and the 1960s; it grows its roots from fear and ignorance. It's the boys and girls who took their jokes too far and grew up to not fight for what's right. It's hiding in cowardice or not caring to have an opinion at all.
In recent events of the BlackLivesMatter campaign, I didn't know how to write my opinion. Writing about my mother and sister helped me realize that I stand with integrity. I stand up for doing the right thing. I stand up for my black brothers and sisters amidst the protests. I stand up for celebrating the lives of so many lost, for celebrating a magnificent culture of individuals who are beautiful in all their differences. I say this with all the breath I have, I stand for diversity and helping those who are facing injustice. I stand up for my mother and my sister, and others who are oppressed because of their race.
America; whether you are black, Asian, Hispanic, white, or whatever you may be, I will stand with you, unbiased. If you do not wish to stand with me and my brothers and sisters, stand back. You will not get in the way of progress.
Below are sites to help support the cause or to even educate yourself:
An Asian-American Perspective