There are certain words in my vocabulary today that wouldn’t have existed a year ago.
COVID-19, a global pandemic, mask mandates.
County lockdown, city curfews, closed borders, purple tier, red tier, orange tier.
Gen-Z’ers using humor as a coping mechanism through TikTok, calling it a parallelogram, pandemonium, panoramic.
Certain phrases that have become more apparent in our everyday vocabulary.
Black Lives Matter, ACAB, “Say their names,” defund the police.
Stop Asian Hate, xenophobia, “the Chinese virus,” “kung flu.”
The fetishization of young Asian women is not a compliment; it is terrifying.
We’re living in a world where Black and Asian people are targeted for the color of their skin, and the generalized implications that come with it.
Where “good stereotypes” don’t outshine the truth that news coverage refuses to air.
Where our personal voices are silenced because we are told to fear hurting the feelings of the majority demographic.
But how can we care about your feelings when it doesn’t seem as though you care about our lives?
And you’ve created this “model minority myth” that may or may not ring true for some,
but our lives are not an ongoing game of Oppression Olympics.
We are the minority
and we are done living in fear.
I don’t want you to look at me when the news says “Asian women,” as if I am the only one who has something to say.
I need you to back me up on this,
I need you to say something first,
prove to me that you are an ally
and that I have your support,
because my response will always come out of anger,
and I don’t have the time or energy to worry about offending you.
I cannot imagine the pain of losing your life to a bullet,
but I can imagine the scars racism leaves in your mind.
I still remember the shock I felt when I learned that the term “corrective makeup” in theatre was meant to transform my small Asian eyes into having double lids,
because I would only look human on stage if there was a dark black line drawn over the top of my eyelid.
I remember the confusion I felt when, on Chinese New Year, a white male museum security guard walked past me and whispered in my ear, “xin nian kuai le” and once I registered what he had said and abruptly turned around, he was staring at my body, smirking with delight.
I remember the anger I felt when, walking by a mic-upped street performer, he made a point to stop his act, turn toward me, bow with his hands in a prayer position, and mumble Japanese slurs at me.
I remember the bystanders laughing — some confused, some ignorant.
I remember the discomfort I felt when crossing international borders and listening to the questions I would have to answer regarding contact with any possible diseases. I remember being the only Asian in a group of white people, and hearing border patrol ask my friends if they had ever had a case of “yellow fever.” They never asked me, never asked anyone before or after us.
I remember being told, “that’s not a microaggression.”
“They’re just doing their job.”
“I don’t think they meant it in a derogatory manner.”
I remember getting gaslighted over and over again to the point where all my feelings have become internalized and I am numb to the words that are meant to inflict pain upon my people.
I remember forgetting that I am a victim of racism, because I have been conditioned to brush it off and forget about it.
But I think it’s time to stop remembering the life I am currently living.
It’s time to start taking up space,
time to start verbalizing our assaults,
and not let fear dictate our actions.
Yes, we could “kill them with kindness,”
but no, we cannot let them continue gaining access
to the group of people they oppress
while continuously getting let off the hook because the color of skin they possess
equates to success.
In the same country we are fighting to express our offenses,
Their transgressions need to be accounted for,
so that we may begin to make progress.
Contact Stephanie Chan by email: firstname.lastname@example.org