Once upon a time, I had a boyfriend named “Bob”. Bob was a really intelligent person, and his wits were probably the thing I liked about him the most. His main work was writing, and I loved every bit of it. At the time we were dating, I was also in midst of applying to colleges. I was starting my personal essay on Common Application, and I saw this essay as a gateway to find something deep within me that I could bring to the surface. It was an opportunity for me to share something precious and personal. I wrote about the layers of inner turmoils I had when being ripped from my Chinese culture and my American culture. I wanted to show people that microaggressions and constant acts of racism that took a toll on my well being and development as a human being did in fact exist. When I was done writing my first draft, I asked Bob to use his killer editing skills to look it over.
“Did you read it?”
“What did you think?”
“It was...fine. I mean, you’re Asian. That’s it.”
I thought of every moment from childhood when I would stand in front of the mirror and stretch my eyes to be bigger.
I thought of every wave of embarrassment and shame that washed through me as I took my Asian-looking face with me as I got off Canal St. Station.
I thought of every time my family cursed at me for being too white.
I thought of every laughing child in my memory pulling the sides of their eyelids to ends of their faces as I walked by.
To Bob, all these moments were dismissed with a short wave of the hand. “There is nothing new here,” he seemed to say. “You’re complaining about nothing.”
Time and time again, I have been shut down for trying to problematize how this nation views Asians, and specifically Asian-Americans. That “Asian” only means take-out Chinese orders, small eyes, math, and incoherent English. There is no India, Thailand, and other entities in “Asian”. There is no diversity. I am no different than the other few billion people that reside on the other half of the planet. I have been shut down by other minorities, groups whom I thought would be fighting for the same cause as me, because I am a “model minority”. My people are rich and become doctors. We aren’t shot on the street at the very sight of us. And fair enough, these are things to be happy about. But does this mean that poor and middle-class Asians do not exist? Does this mean that there are no problems to be addressed? That there is no injustice, and our existence can just be glazed over?
When Peter Liang was convicted with 15 years of prison for mistakenly shooting a black man while on duty, supporters of Black Lives Matter relished in this final act of justice, and the Asian community suffered. It was proven, with evidence, that Liang had shot this person by accident, and that he could not even see what this person would have looked like until it was too late. Yet he has 15 years of prison, while white police officers choke and beat young black men to death in broad daylight, and walk away with a fine. Black Lives Matter, you may have seen justice against the police, but perhaps you need to see the bigger picture. Perhaps you need to realize that within this act of “justice” that you have finally achieved, there is another layer of injustice towards another minority group.
I do not mean to say that I do not support Black Lives Matter. In fact, I am very much an advocate of the general policies the movement fights for. However, I am also proposing that we dig a little deeper in order to see that other colors exist outside of the black and white binary. Yes, we exist. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Native American, Mexican, and so many more. We too are people of color, and we need to be heard.