The growing number of [reported] incidents of anti-Asian racism and violence going on in the United States recently is upsetting. I'm not the most vocal person, online or off. I keep to myself most of the time and not stir the pot. But I've read so many articles and testimonies from other Asians on Twitter over the past couple of weeks, it's becoming overwhelming inside. Right now I feel that I need to come forward with some of my own experiences with racism.
My first was a doozy
The first time I remember being on the receiving end of racists was about a couple weeks into my 9th grade year (if there were incidents before then, I clearly do not remember them). I was walking home from school and was about halfway there when a group of 3 or 4 guys came up behind me. I didn't notice them at the time, at least not until one of yelled at me some derogatory remark which made me turn around. I don't remember exactly what they said but it hurt, almost as much as the sucker punch to my face.
I guess I blacked out for a few seconds because the next moments were a bit fuzzy. Those guys were yelling things at me and then I heard someone else yelling at them. There was another guy walking home ahead of me who saw it it happened and ran down the hill to my defense. He scared them off much to my relief.
He helped me up, walked my sobbing self home, and helped explain what happened to my parents who then called the police. I don't know how far that (if there was any) investigation went. How descriptive could I be when I only saw their faces for a second or two? White males, shaved heads is all I still remember today. My rescuer told them similarly, probably was able to toss in approximate heights and color of clothes.
Amazingly though it turned out the guy who came to my aid lived literally across the street from me. He agreed to walk to/from school with me and not to worry. The next day, we were walking home together and got a bit farther this time when those guys tried to accost me again. My new friend had a surprise for them in the form of a long chain link which he started swinging around, chasing them off. I never had a problem with them again.
That guy turned into my best friend throughout high school and the best man at my wedding. I don't think he knows how much I truly appreciated the good deed he did for me back then. Thank you, Dave.
Other random acts of racism
Luckily I have not been on the violent end since then. It has moreorless been people with obviously racist remarks or even ones where they probably didn't even realize they were making them.
- Back when we were first dating, my wife's grandmother called her dad and asked him, "Did you know your daughter is dating some dark-skinned colored boy?" Her dad replied, "Yeah," and hung up. She later claimed I was only marrying her granddaughter to get my foot in the door of this country.
- On my wife's first day of college, she & other girls were passing around pictures and she had our prom photo. She was asked, "What's it like being in an interracial relationship?" ... Same as dating a white guy?
- During my graduation party, my grandparents sat outside most of the time. My wife invited them inside to join the rest of us and they told her that "they didn't speak the language."
- My wife was told that "God never meant for the races to mix, but in our case it worked out."
- My wife and I were walking out of the grocery store one evening. Some teenager with his friends across the parking lot yelled out towards me "Hoowaaah!! China man!" doing a crane kick pose from The Karate Kid.
- We were at the grocery store (different day) with our 2 young boys, this white woman approached my wife (who is also white) and asked her super excitedly, "Did you adopt your children from China??" Before she could answer, I popped up from around the corner with some fruit. She saw me and said in a very disappointed voice, "Oh... I guess not" and walked away.
- When my wife showed photos of our kids to people, some would ask, "Cute kids, what are they?"
- My wife's aunt's husband complained about the food at my son's graduation party, most of which were Filipino dishes.
- While I was out trying to tend to our flowers out front, I overheard someone in the neighbor's driveway say, "Them Japs never did know how to take care of their lawn." I don't know if he was talking about me but it'd be a strong coincidence given how much I don't put as much effort as everyone else with my lawn.
- My wife's uncle once told her he felt sorry for the kids from "relationships like ours" because they would grow up never knowing what world they belonged to.
- I've randomly been asked, "Where are you from?" Best reply I have is "Texas" and I wouldn't be lying.
- My wife was told by her dad's wife that her aunt said to her, "At least only the little one looks like him," referring to our daughter.
- While leaving a buffet restaurant, we heard our server say, "Those Japs never do tip well."
- My wife was told in an online chat room that she was trash and a race traitor.
- A nutritionist told my wife (when we were eating rice very often), that just because she "married one didn't mean she had to eat like one."
- Some kid at the high school told my daughter she was "one of them yellows" and yelled "Konnichi wa" at her.
- Someone told my wife that they understood white men wanting Asian women, but the other way around made no sense.
If there were times of obvious racism before my teenage years, I don't remember them. Before moving to Ohio, the majority of my life was spent in West Germany and Hawai'i while my dad was active duty in the Air Force, settling in Ohio after he retired. I went to DoDD or on-base primary schools so my educational and residential lives were full of diversity. I never had any issues with the local German communities either. So to my knowledge, I did not run into racism until it literally smacked me in the face.
I am very introverted and don't like conflict. I usually let things slide and maybe laugh it off. I suppose I'm the type of Asian that's a lot more quiet, reserved, reluctant to complain, and possibly has a senseless stoicness in just accepting what fate throws at me — a lot of things that people would say I just need to overcome. There's a Chinese phrase "吃苦 (chīkǔ)" that literally means "to eat bitterness." It's a metaphor for bearing hardships and having to endure suffering to overcome things. It's supposedly a common trait among Asians. I don't know if that's part of my issues but some may agree that it sounds familiar.
I know when it comes to racism directed at me and my family, the onus is mostly on the other persons to not act that way in the first place. But I have to learn to do my part and properly react as well, even though I'm very lucky to have a woman in my life who will not hesitate to speak up for me if I don't. I'm somewhat proud of myself that I didn't rewrite the above bullet points to make the sources more vague. I thought about it a few times but realized that wouldn't do anyone any bit of justice.
I've always thought that I lived my childhood as not much of an Asian at all, that I grew up too Americanized to consider myself a real Asian. Maybe I had developed a sort of colonial mentality and just wanted to fit in with everyone else. I'm half Filipino and can't even speak Tagalog for goodness sake.
However, I have been trying over the past several years to rediscover myself in regards to my heritage including: learning more history about the Philippines and our people, expanding my cooking, and attempting to learn the most elementary Tagalog. Although day to day life will always come first, I'm trying to become a more proud Filipino. And I'm grateful that a couple of my kids are finding interests and pride in our culture.
This all said, these past few weeks of constant incidents of anti-Asian violence and racism is starting to push it for me. I've been quietly upset about it all and I needed to let this out into the open. If there's anything positive to be gained from any of this, it's that I will try even harder to be a more complete me that I can be.