I am wiping my tears at my desk. I just watched the New York Times video of the day.
This weekend, The NY Times published an open letter written by its deputy metro editor Michael Luo about a racial slur yelled at his family on the street. The letter has been shared across Asian America, and the Times asked Asian Americans to tweet their own run ins with the ignorant.
Today, the newspaper compiled a video of the indignities Asian Americans experienced. #thisis2016, and it’s heartbreaking.
Many of these same words have been used against me in the past and present. Just days ago, a faculty member asked me if I was born in America. This week, a student assumed that I was talking about myself when I mentioned how much I admired people who struggled with the irregularities of the English language. So, my heart sinks when I hear the same phrases are used against others.
There is an assumption that Asian Americans are immigrants and do not deserve the same rights of other Americans. My family has been in the United States for more than 100 years. Japanese Americans are proud that their blood has been shed for this country and that their internment experience has made the community an advocate for others.
The phrases heard in the NYT video aren’t microaggressions. They aren’t perceived slights against the oversensitive. “You speak English well” is not a compliment. It is a confinement of Asian Americans as a permanent immigrant class and an ignorance of the contribution Asian Americans have made toward their country of citizenship. It is a confirmation that I am not included in the imagination of what it means to be American.
You would expect that these attacks would come from an archetype - Southern, White, the uneducated, etc. But, many of these slurs are spoken by people who think they are my allies. Some of the worst racists call themselves “progressives.” They can be liberals of the worst kind because their own sense of superiority blinds them to their own prejudice.
These indignities are so frequent that I have learned to ignore them. But today I closed my office door and let myself cry.