You might not be able to tell by looking at me, but I’m a proud Chinese-American. My parents both emigrated to America around college age, my mom from Germany and my dad from China. So while I may not look Chinese, I am Chinese, which leads to a lot of complicated feelings right now. Because I pass as white, I sometimes feel less worthy of feeling sorrow and outrage in times like these. But despite this, I’m still having those feelings and I’d like to share them with you. As my 9-year old son likes to say, “I’M ALLOWED TO FEEL SAD!” So let’s start with that.
I feel sad.
Why does anyone hate anyone based on their ethnicity? How could someone spit on a little Asian grandmother? Do they not understand that somebody loves their Asian grandmother so much that they start crying just typing about someone else’s Asian grandmother being spit on? We call my little Asian grandmother Nana (rhymes with Ghana) and I’m not exaggerating when I say she is both the cutest and the kindest person in the whole world. I can’t bear the thought of anyone thinking about Nana with anything but love and admiration.
Exhibits A & B
My Nana is so magical that one time when I was a child and she was visiting us, one of our pet fish died. That’s not the magical part yet; hold on. My mom flushed the dead fish down the toilet, only she forgot to flush. A few minutes later, we heard a frightened sound from the bathroom, as Nana discovered a live fish swimming in the toilet. That’s right, the pure goodness of Nana was even in her pee, which had brought the fish back to life. This is a 100% true story that has been corroborated by my mom.
How could someone gun down Hyun Jung Grant, a single mom working extra hours to put her children through college, or Xiaojie Tan, the day before her 50th birthday? The next day, when her mother called to wish her a happy birthday, Xiaojie’s daughter Jami had to tell her grandmother that her mother had lost her phone; she couldn’t bring herself to tell her grandmother that her daughter was dead. My heart breaks for Hyun, Xiaojie, Suncha Kim, Yong A. Yue, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Soon C. Park, Paul Andre Michels and their families.
I feel disbelief.
It’s 2021 and we’re still here? Some unhinged asshole can still gun down multiple people in multiple locations? Six out of eight victims were of Asian descent and the media will still speculate whether there’s a clear motive for 24-48 hours? A captain of the sheriff’s department can describe the gunman as, “having a bad day”?! You know who’s having a bad day? The family members of the 8 people this monster murdered. Every single Asian person in America who worries that they’ll be next. The employees of the victims’ businesses who will never feel safe again.
I feel angry.
If I’m being honest, I’ve been feeling angry for a while. The more work I do learning to be an anti-racist, the angrier I get that there are so many privileged people who somehow think they get to decide who deserves to live or die. Why are you so ignorant? Why are you so hateful? How could you take away someone’s mother/daughter/wife/best friend? You know what I do when I have a bad day? I make passive-aggressive comments to my husband, eat lots of cheese, and punch by body pillow, Buddy. I don’t murder anyone.
I feel afraid.
I don’t even like to type the what-ifs because it feels jinxy, but I feel afraid for my family members and friends who can’t hide their Asianness the way I can. My faux little sister (my old work partner who shares my last/maiden name) has been spit on and told to, “Go back to China!” My parents live in f’ing Florida, where I worry about my dad going to the grocery store or getting his hair cut.
I feel guilty.
Who am I to have these feelings? Although I’m technically an Asian-American, the first thing most people say to me when I tell them I’m half-Chinese is, “I would have never guessed!” Um, thanks? I totally pass as white, which makes race issues more complex for sure. My 1/4 Asian kids have blonde hair for god’s sake. When I was young, when all my white friends were having turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, we had what my family called Mongolian Hot Pot. I used to be embarrassed to admit that; now I think it’s cool as hell. My grandfather, my Dada, gave me my middle name, the same way he did for all the kids in our family in my generation, plus many of the next. It’s Chung-I and he told me it means “loyal & perfect.” I used to wish it was Rose or Ann or something more like my white friends, but now it’s tattooed on my shoulder. I’m rambling, but I guess I’m trying to say I feel guilty that I get to pick and choose when I identify as Asian while many of my fellow Asian sisters and brothers cannot, and maybe for that reason, I have less license to lay claim to these feelings. But we don’t get to pick our feelings, and deep down I know that you only have to be human, not Asian, to feel sad and angry and afraid in light of recent events.
I feel grateful.
To friends who said they’re thinking of me. To the local community, like Third Cliff Bakery, the perfect little bakery down the street that donated 10% of their profits this weekend to the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
To the Black community, who must be so damn tired of fighting for their own rights and humanity every single day, but somehow make the time to speak out against Asian hate. I was really moved by so many Black voices I follow on social media over the last few days. I keep thinking how exhausted they must be dealing with this shit every single day and then taking up the cause on behalf of another maligned community.
I feel hopeful.
Or something like hopeful. Hopeful-ish. While it took a nightmarish scenario to bring us here, there has never been such a media focus on discrimination and violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders before, at least not in my recollection. I hope more and more people across the country will be willing to take a more active stance against racism–all racism–both in their own communities and on a systemic level.