We're All From Here!
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
One of the things I enjoyed most during my ten years of living and working in NYC was the diversity. It was not an exaggeration when I mentioned in an earlier article entitled "The City", when I said, "some mornings, I would hear five different languages (not including English and Spanish) on my 25-minute walk from Penn Station to my Midtown office". Part of the beauty of NYC was the one stop shopping in terms of exposure to different cultures, customs and most of all; people. Wendy Ng is a dear friend I met while in NYC who happens to be Asian-American. We were co-workers and share many fond memories from working together at SiriusXM. Thanks to social media, Wendy and I have maintained our friendship even though we haven't seen each other in over five years.
By some reports, in many major cities, hate crimes against Asian-Americans has spiked over 150%. Not that discrimination and violence against Asian-Americans is new. During World War 2, Japanese Americans were stripped of their property and livelihood and placed in internment camps guarded by arm guards, because they were considered security risk. Yet, while the US was just as much at war against Germany as it was against Japan, German Americans were not treated harshly and were not interned in camps guarded by armed guards. With that history, it is still surprising to see and hear violence against Asian-Americans (especially the elderly) is trending up and has become a major headline today. I asked my friend Wendy if she would share her thoughts on this disturbing trend of anti-Asian violence as well as the Asian-American experience in general. Her response below is well worth reading:
"Overall, I feel like Asians are the forgotten minority because almost every time color is
mentioned it’s black/brown. Where does yellow fall in that scale? We definitely are not
white because we get none of those privileges. And yet there seems to be an exclusion
of us when people talk about “minorities”. We’ve totally been scapegoated as the
“model minority”, what black/brown folks should aspire to because look; they
(Asians) are successful and are an American success story. But I feel this pits us against each other with the appearance that Asians are somehow better off or are treated better.
To see that some of the current violence against Asian-Americans is being committed by other people of color is terribly upsetting and heartbreaking. Why are we hurting each other?? We’re on the same side! Asian-American organizations and groups supported Black Lives Matter and are a part of the overall social justice movement! This violence against Asians creates distrust, anger, and further expands the racial divide that is tearing our country apart. It says to us, we support you, but you don’t support us. That we are still seen as “other” and unimportant.
I also think “otherness” is why we are targeted. It's hard to explain, but I’ve been often asked where am I from? It's always that feeling of I don’t really belong here. I don’t think people see Blacks or Latinos and wonder whether or not they’re American unless they hear an accent. For Asians, it’s you’re from somewhere else, you don’t look like an American. Which is what Trump tapped into. These other looking people brought disease to our country.
Culturally, Asians are raised to keep our heads down, work hard, and stay out of trouble. As a result, many times we remain silent and thus become easy targets. I think the wave of anti-Asian violence has gotten a lot of Asians active because it’s been specifically targeting our elderly. It's especially disturbing because respecting your elders/ancestors is something we're taught from an early age. Also, they’re elderly people and it shouldn't matter what color/nationality they are; they can’t defend themselves!
My experiences shouldn’t take away from anyone else’s. I know this article is about Asian Americans, but it's really about all of us (minorities). Many of us have had to deal with racism and its by-products (sadly, a lot of times from each other), but I think that’s where empathy and understanding must come into play. Simply put, if something made me feel bad, I should do what I can so no one else has to feel that way, too. Don’t they teach this in Kindergarten?"
Please join me and my friend Wendy and call out those who discriminate and commit violence against Asians or any minority group. Remember our history and don't allow discrimination and violence against minorities to take hold and become normalized again. Many have forgotten (if they ever knew), that America was built and is anchored by its tolerance and acceptance of people of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Wendy's heartfelt and sincere comments are for everyone, but especially for those who are less tolerant of the true beauty of America, it's diversity! We're all from here!