Friday, July 8, 2016

To Be Asian-Americans: Tears

My Asian-ness keeps me from crying when I hear about another unjust death of an African-American. I am shaken to the core at horror of the violence, but I do not shed a tear because I do not see myself, my son and my family represented in that video. Intellectually, I understand the injustice, the history that led to these tragedies and the hard work that must be done to move our country forward.

Emotionally, as a human being, I empathize and I hear the strength in the mother’s voice and anguish in the girlfriend’s cries and I am moved and I feel the feelings, transform in a warmth behind my eyes, but I don’t completely let go and the tears do not come.

I don’t cry because I do not know and I cannot completely understand what it means for African-Americans to see one of their own face terrible injustice, again. I’ve read Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and watched Gates’ series African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. I have a great depth of knowledge of Motown and Soul music and I can drop many Rap verse by memory. I’m proud that I’ve taken the time and that I have interest to learn about African-American culture, but I’m not black. I can spend the rest of my life immersing myself in African-American culture, and I still will not know what it means to be black in America.

The reason, I have this interest in African-American culture is because it has taught me what it means to be a minority in America. I spend most of my time as a minority surrounded by white people. I don’t belong to an Asian church or have a group of Asian-American friends that I hang out with. I live primarily amongst white people. When you are a “model minority”, it is easy to forget that I am not one of them. It is in African-American culture, that I have found inspiration and understanding in the development of my racial identity.

I’ll never forget walking into my first teachers of color lunch and seeing a room, where once again as an Asian-American, I was a minority. Instead of being lost in a sea of Caucasians, I was embraced in by a group of African-Americans. We validated each other’s feelings and trusted what we could not fully understand to be truth, honoring other’s perspectives. It is in that room I felt valued and seen for what I am, an Asian-American.

These shootings are an issue for Asian-Americans. It is not an issue in the same way that it is for African-Americans, or for Caucasians. All of this racially based violence is a symptom of how we as Americans value and in many cases devalue groups of people in our country. Unfortunately it continues to manifest most tragically and most visibly in the African-American community. But even if it doesn’t affect your community, it affects you. With tragic injustice, the promises you tell your children about our country become closer to lies and in these lies we lose our souls.

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