20200826–1955 — Why Black Lives (BLM) Matters to Asian Lives
Today I was in local european-styled pub. Granted I had had a 4 beers up to this point, so I was feeling pretty good. I was hanging there with a friend and he decided to go outside to listen to the band. I decided to follow him so I finished up my beer and in 5–10 minutes I walked outside to join him. Little did I realize that I forgot my mask with me. Graciously, a waitress reminded me that I needed to have a mask when walking to and from the inside of the bar to outside of the restaurant. Knowing how people are in this day and age, I gladly thanked her and proceeded to walk inside to grab the mask that I had forgotten at the bar.
Little did I know that as I entered through the door, I was greeted with a cavalcade of shouts from patrons at the bar telling me I need to wear a mask. To the waitress’ credit, she actually stated out loud that “he knows, he’s coming in to grab his mask” (keep in mind, my mask features a thin gold, blue, and red line US flag). Despite this, as I grab my mask and am literally in the process of putting it on my face and heading outside, I’m still greeted with shouts and angry looks as people tell me to put my mask on. No doubt, had I flipped them the bird, I was due for a fight on sight. That being said, it just reminded me how we all pretend to be a one and united America, but one simple thing goes wrong and we’re so ready to jump on each others’ backs.
The people shouting at me were people that I didn’t know. Two hours ago, we had rarely even maybe seen each other, let alone been given the chance to share bar space. Yet in this moment, they felt right in openly shouting at someone who was in the process of fixing a misunderstanding that they had no insight into, and wanted to let me know that I was in the wrong here.
And here’s the thing, I admitted it.
The bartender admitted that I made a mistake. But it didn’t stop these people from yelling at me. From reminding me that I was not welcome there because I wasn’t openly and immediately following their rules, no matter what the background story may be. And it reminded me of all the situations going on in the US right now.
This is why when I read the news, it comes as no surprise to me that a person seen as colored or “foreign” was shot or choked or killed for nothing more than a “misunderstanding”. It very well could have been, but the amount of hate that was levied upon me in a moment of brief incidence was enough to remind me that it doesn’t matter what you do, any false move could be seen as hostile.
As an Asian person, I’ve felt that I’ve always fallen just outside the definition of “a person of color”. But white people have felt free to ignore me. Because of that I was always pressured to follow the rules. From a young age, I was indoctrinated into the mindset that you need to fall in line with the people in order to be accepted by them. So I did it. For years I worked to be liked in an obviously white America. And I played the role. I am liked by many white people. I married a white person. I’m hired by a white person. I served in the military. I drive a Chevy Silverado.
But that didn’t stop me from being discriminated against by a black person in my basic training. And it certainly didn’t stop me from feeling the stares as I looked for a restroom in northern Maryland, where an all white customer-ship looked at me like I was some sort of zoo animal while I just tried to find a place to go pee. And it certainly didn’t help me tonight
The problem with racism is that it often happens alone. There is no one there to protect you when it happens. You have no white friends or brown friends. You have no one to vouch for your good intentions or provide a voice in your defense. And just the same, during this instance, my friend wasn’t physically available or aware of my predicament. There was no way in which he could have or would have been available to help defend my intentions. Instead I was subject to the immediate vitriol of people that I didn’t even know when I woke up today who felt justified in screaming at me in a very public place for a mistake that I was actively in the act of apologizing and trying to correct.
This is why Black Lives Matter.
As an Asian populace, I accept that we have no idea as to the depth of what black people have gone through when they discuss discrimination. But to that end, we have stood aside for too long and let society dictate to us how we should act. We’ve let them tell us that in order to be an “accepted race” we need to be smart and hard workers and submissive. All the while we feel free to be humiliated and castrated by a society that feels free to indict us whenever we make a mistake because we’re just trying to fit in. This is our time to join with the movement.
To be clear, I’m not saying that all white people are evil, or that no lives matter. I have plenty of cop friends and plenty of white friends who would all support me in my notion. But when it comes to physically stepping in and disallowing violence or hate or racism to occur, many people would rather choose to look away. They choose to allow the “justice system” to do it’s job, ignoring that the justice system takes far longer to give a white citizen the benefit of the doubt than it does a black one. The crimes may be the same but they’re treated differently in the eyes of the law depending on who commits them. That’s what Black Lives Matters means. As an Asian person, it does us well to remind ourselves every once in a while that even though Martin Luther fought for the rights of all men so many years ago, even in this day and age, hate is still allowed to roam free in our communities. All it takes is for good men to do nothing to allow ignorance to thrive and spread.
I truly feel for all my black brothers and sisters. I always have. But as a husband of someone who serves the local police force and as a friend of someone who actively serves as a cop, I feel that something must be said. In the past, I’ve been a fan of all lives matter and I’ve been skeptical of black people who come under lash of public justice, believing that “well they must have done something to deserve it”. But given my experiences today, it become just how obvious that it doesn’t take much. You can make a very small mistake, and be in the act of correcting it, but American’s society today is so hooked on “right” and “wrong”, “guilty” and “innocent”, “democrat” vs. “republican” that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to show a little grace.
Tonight I don’t feel like going to work. Tonight I feel like saying, “fuck America”. I’m not alone in this sentiment. I’ve talked to many who feel this way. Heck, applications to expatriate are through the roof right now. It’s no wonder why Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel. Why serve a country that won’t serve you on the same basis of fairness that it would if you were playing a football game entertaining them vs. if you were stopped by the cops last night on suspected drunk driving?
This is the underlying truth that many American’s don’t see. While it’s true that times are getting better, the odds are still stacked against us. And in a world where the gap between rich and poor is increasingly widening, that just means the gap is even larger for black minorities. America is a great country, founded on principles that I would have followed my forefathers into battle for. But lately it all seems a bit skewed and corrupted. We need to wake up and stop bragging that this country is the “best” while also realizing that this country is far from its “worst” days. There’s much that is right with what we do and how we think. But we need to come into our own as leaders of the free world and actually let people be free, not just tell them they can be free “if they work hard enough” with the hidden asterisk of “if you’re also white enough”.