The Awakening

One year ago, I penned an article aimed towards the world and the mistreatment of Asian Americans in the wake of COVID-19. And one year ago, I was met with the most hate I’ve ever seen in my life. I won’t entertain you with the hate comments because, honestly, I can’t even bring myself to revisit the feeling of thinking no one could relate to me.

THE REMINDER, THE ANGER, & THE APOLOGY

On March 20th of this year, one year since the beginning of quarantine and the biggest mental struggle of my life I wrote this in anger: 

I’m choosing to sporadically write this out right now because I suddenly got very angry and felt this needed to be said. 

Yesterday, I told my dad “Sometimes I think ‘What if Lola and Lolo were still alive, what would I have done knowing their safety would always be at risk'” only to realize that in this moment, no, they aren’t here. In this moment, I have to think – are my friends okay, are my parents okay, am I going to be okay. 

During a Zoom call earlier this morning, a friend born and raised in Taiwan couldn’t even begin to fathom why this was happening because to a foreigner, we’re all American. I was born here. I was raised here. When I was little, friends were just friends, neighbors just neighbors. As I got older, we all started separating ourselves because it was no longer “friends”, it became Asian and non-Asian friends, and with the rise of racial awareness, it became “Filipino friends” and “Viet friends” because we, as a community of diversity, could not POSSIBLY imagine trying to just see each other as we are. We had to separate ourselves under the guise of knowing there was someone in a subsection of a subsection who understood me better because time and time again, it’s been proven that people don’t make an attempt to understand differences unless they’re forced to. 

For all those who love Asian media, food, fashion, you better have a good LONG talk with your Asian friends right now. This freak who’s choosing to blame sex addiction for the murder of Asian women deserves death. You can’t drool over a woman and think she owes you anything simply because you exist. For every Asian immigrant, there is a family either in America or in Asia, dreading that something might happen all for the sake of providing a better life and a good future for our lineage down the line. 

I’m fucking angry. And I wasn’t allowed to get angry until now – now that Asian hate crimes have FINALLY hit mainstream media. I’ve been angry since last March and kept my mouth shut because at any mention of Asian racism, I was met with 

“All Asians are racist anyway” 

“If you’re not racist, you’re the minority” 

“If you’re not condemning China, then you’re a racist because they’re all racist” 

STOP USING MY PASSIVENESS AS A MEANS OF PROVING THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM. WE ARE ALL AWARE OF THE PROBLEM. 

But it was NEVER convenient to say anything because there will always be someone who’s had it worse. We are NOT comparing our struggles. Your experience is your own, and the presence of my pain does not invalidate yours. Stop trying to push this narrative that “well now you know how it feels” because that’s just creating some race in the Pity Olympics where the ones who’ve felt the most and struggled the most are the only ones who can get mad. 

No, I’m fucking angry. I’m angry at every person who’s come up to me and tried to speak to me in some random Asian language. I’m angry at every asshole who tried to lessen my experience as an Asian American woman because I’m Filipino or because I was born here or because I don’t speak the language or because I date outside of my ethnicity. I’m fucking angry at how Kpop has been part of the global media source for ten years yet CONVENIENTLY it took AN ENTIRE YEAR for non-Asian social media to speak out about these hate crimes. 

Model minority, my ass. You know these “good” stereotypes that are supposedly harmless and not racist? All it did was create a generation of Asian American millennials who suffer from anxiety and depression because we weren’t able to reach that peak of success everyone assumed we would. We were placed in a bubble of “oh you must be smart” “you should be good at this” as if we were given expectations and rules we never even fucking asked for. 

I’m tired of people of all ethnicities trying to lessen my experience as a minority.  

I am not a performative activist. I’m just furious. And it’s about fucking time the media let me be mad. 

I’m no longer angry. In fact, I’m more solemn. I’ve been buried in my thoughts, realizing that holding in my anger only prolonged a revolution of Asian Americans finally speaking up and fighting the concept of being model minorities who do nothing but sit by. 

There is something to be said about this obvious bridge between different Asian communities. Where one world may think we are something to behold, another thinks we are nothing but garbage. I’m not specifically talking about those who participate in hate crimes against Asians in America, but I’m also referring to those in the Asian community who refuse to recognize that Asian Americans have an odd unspoken trouble. 

We don’t belong really anywhere. 

In my first article, I think I saw myself as apologetic because I didn’t want to let the world know how angry I was. There were more pressing matters at hand. George Floyd’s death started a revolution, and the act of racism towards Asians because of misconceptions and stereotypes around COVID was a side thought. It stayed a side thought, and Asians stayed quietly angry as we have in the past. It’s not in our nature to fight back in a battle we want no part of. If someone calls me chink, I’ll tell them to get a better education. 

Where my black hair and eyes stand out in America, my style and attitude does not fit in in Asia. It’s almost as if the bridge Asian American children try to keep is actually our downfall. The distinct nature of American individuality does not fit into the Asian agenda, but the tradition around home, family, and a dedication to our work does not fit into the American agenda. 

Holding onto both of my cultures has never been a problem for me. 

When Crazy Rich Asians came out and Rachel Chu was told, “You’re not Chinese. You’re Chinese American,” I realized that there truly was a difference between me and my family still in Asia. Walking along the streets with them, it was so obvious I was not from there. The way I spoke and the way I carried myself was very unlike native Asians, and it took a long time for me to see that. 

I grew up in a small suburb in Long Island, New York. My neighbors were Latino, and my childhood friends were Black and Latino. I didn’t see another Asian person outside of family until I moved, and suddenly it was like I’d found another piece of myself. I’d found people who looked like me, and I didn’t realize how happy it made me. As I grew older, I realized that even though people looked like me, it didn’t mean we would be friends forever. We all had different backgrounds, and we all had our own challenges throughout our lives that made us into individuals. This wasn’t the glorious 20s of my life that I thought it would be. After years of realizing that your ethnicity and background can’t dictate or decide your fate, my small friend group formed into all these amazing people who look nothing like me, but I can’t live without them. 

Maybe it was my mistake trying to appeal to a larger crowd of who I assumed to be my kin. I found my kin over the years, and we share no common blood. We’re from different towns, and our families speak different languages. I’m tired of pretending that the Asian monolith myth exists and that I can find comfort in those who look like me. 

I’m so proud to be Asian American – more than I am to be Asian or American. 

I am a distinct subsection of the world. I am the bridge between my Filipino heritage and my home-grown American culture. I’m proud to say I was born in New York but spent my youth traveling to Asia to reconnect with my family.

There’s no bigger pride than to definitively know where you are from and how it shaped you into the person you’re meant to be. 

Don’t be ashamed of the life you were given. Pity those who doubt you and all that you are because of where you came from.

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