Disclaimer: Due to the nature of this post, I just want to remind people of my commenting policy (both here and on my Facebook wall). The tl;dr version is that I reserve the right to immediately mallet comments I consider to be trolling or offensive. Plan accordingly.
Ever since I decided to “come out” (so to speak) and start sharing articles on the things I truly believe in (whether parenting, relationships, education, race, etc), my Facebook wall has gotten a little bit heated. I’m still getting used to dealing with comments that are completely and abjectly wrong (okay, okay, DIFFERENT THAN my opinion). It’s difficult for me regarding issues I am passionate about (and have a certain strong opinion on) and see some of my friends have almost diametrically opposed views come out and comment. It is hard to separate my disappointment or aversion to their point of view from their personhood – as I imagine it is difficult for them regarding me.
Some folks have wondered why I keep posting articles about race and privilege and not about other things. Why do I “only” share links about certain aspects of race or privilege? Well, quite frankly, it’s my Facebook and I can post whatever I want. Just like this is my blog and I can write about whatever I want. Also, I think about race and privilege quite often and that’s what I’m interested in.
But why all the white-bashing? Why all the articles about all those evil white people or mean rich people? Why all the race baiting?
Race baiting? No. Just because an article mentions the actual REALITY of many people of color does not qualify as race baiting.
The only people who think race doesn’t matter are people who have the privilege to ignore it and can pass through their daily lives without the constant reminder that they are [insert race].
Hapa Papa tells me he no longer reads the links I post about race because I post too much about it. That is his right and his prerogative. But you know what? It is also his PRIVILEGE.
He doesn’t want to think about race? He stops reading my articles and voila! Doesn’t have to think about race anymore.
How many black, Latino, Middle Eastern, or Asian people would like to go about their day and not think about race? I bet 100%. Except they don’t get to. Why? Because if a black dude walks down the street, he gets to hear all the car doors lock as he strolls by, minding his own business. He gets to watch people cross the street in order to get out of his way. Are all these people doing it on purpose because he is black? Probably not. But it happens often enough that he notices it. It happens often enough that lots of black men notice it.
When an Asian person is asked, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? No, where are your parents from?” They don’t get to forget.
Asian people don’t get to forget when they hear, “Great job! You play T-ball pretty well for a Chinese kid!” and get blindsided on a Saturday morning when they’re just trying to enjoy watching their kid hit a stupid ball and run around.
They don’t get to forget.
They don’t get to forget their race because no one lets them forget it.
Part of the reason I post a lot about race is that I read a lot of anti-racism sites. In fact, for a few years or so, I had to stop reading these sites because I got so burned out reading constantly about the shit that goes on in the world against people of color.
But then I realized. I am incredibly privileged. I have the option to surround myself with people with whom I rarely have to think about race and just be. I am surrounded by enough Chinese and Taiwanese people that I don’t feel I am in the minority. I can shut that part off if I want to.
However, I do live in the real world and even though I live in the Bay Area, that does not make me immune to some of the more annoying aspects about being a Taiwanese person living in a “white” world. As a result, I often post articles that touch on some of my frustrations.
Why don’t you post more articles about the people of different races getting along? Why are you so divisive? How are you different from the KKK? You must be some kind of bigot.
Are you fucking kidding me?
Dear reader. In general on this blog, I try to avoid anger. I tend to avoid “ranting” because I don’t find the tone helpful or useful to a conversation at large. Plus, who wants to always read strident blogs that spread their anger like a contagious disease?
Well, not today. I’m angry. I’ve been angry for awhile now with some of the comments I’ve been getting.
Oh, SCA5 doesn’t matter to you because your kids aren’t full Asian. They won’t be discriminated against when applying for college.
I try not to care what other people say, but I am human. Of course, I care. And lately, I have started to feel as if I can’t post what I want on my own gorram Facebook page without having to deal with essay long comments telling me how I’m wrong or totally off my rocker. Well you know what? Fuck that.
It’s not even that people disagree with me. I actually have no problem with folks disagreeing with me. I have surprisingly enjoyed reading other people’s POV and either re-evaluating my own position or further solidifying what I believe. I don’t expect everyone to think exactly the same way I do. (Shoot, Hapa Papa and I disagree on a lot of stuff and we’re still married and love each other and get along just fine.) It’s just that I’m tired. (And the thing is, I’ve only had to deal with it over the last few months. Can you imagine what people who are constantly on the forefront posting about hard issues have to deal with?)
What particularly gets my goat is when the hurtful comments come from Christians – especially white Christians. (Disclaimer: I also know plenty of white Christians who are incredible allies and have been great sources of healing and support. This rant is not about them. Also, I truly believe that even if people disagree with me or are hurtful, for the most part, they are good people and don’t intend to be dismissive or cruel. But alas, good intentions don’t protect from crappy consequences.)
When white Christians hear the experiences of Christians of color (also, Western Christians re: non-Western Christians) and dismiss our concerns, it is a slap in the face. If we are all one body in Christ, that is like the liver hurting and the armpit saying, “What are you talking about? This isn’t my experience. I am not feeling any pain. You’re not hurt at all.” Or, “Suck it up. Stop being so sensitive. Stop being divisive.”
You know what is truly divisive? When white Christians tell Christians of color that their experiences are void. Untrue. Not as bad as they claim. When white Christians tell us what to write or talk about. What to express.
Why don’t you talk about XYZ instead of all the ways there is racism? Why don’t you talk more about Jesus?
You want an example of privilege? THAT’S PRIVILEGE. When someone tells you their pain and their experience and you tell them what they should feel and talk about instead because it makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t jive with how you want to picture or view the world. Because it makes you uncomfortable and possibly racist. And because apparently, being racist is the worst thing in the world.
It’s not. I am racist and prejudiced all the time. But when confronted with it, I try to do something about it and examine my motives and responses.
An appropriate response? “I am so sorry you’ve experienced this. I am sorry for my part in perpetuating this experience. How can I help? How can I learn?”
Do not tell me what to do or give me advice unless I specifically ask.
What does it hurt a person to acknowledge their privilege? No one is asking people to not take advantage of what they’ve been given. Even if people didn’t want the privilege they have, too bad. They can’t take it off. Society will treat people however it wants. That is not a person’s fault. This goes for EVERYONE. Besides, it is possible to have areas of overlapping privileges and non-privilege. (Eg: poor, white male, rich black woman, etc.) Being non-privileged in one area does not exempt a person from privilege in others. Privilege and lack of privilege interact in a multitude of ways.
Look. I’m not trying to make people feel guilty. That doesn’t serve any larger purpose. Plus, people have no control over what race, sex, orientation, etc. to which they are born. But people DO have control over how they respond to other people’s pain and experience.
What is privilege? To go about your daily life and not wonder if an interaction was because of something over which you have no control. To rarely be in situations where you wonder if you are imagining a slight because of who you are. To go about your day with people who are remarkably similar to you.
This is why I surround myself with mostly Asian/Taiwanese people. Is that racist? Perhaps. But is it racist for white people to only have white friends? WHY IS THAT NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT? Right. Because white is default.
I hang out with mostly Taiwanese mommies because I don’t have to constantly explain or justify my experiences. I enjoy being surrounded by people who are just like me. You’re tired of hearing about privilege? Well I’m tired of having to explain privilege and proving that it exists. I’m tired of having to deal with its repercussions in MY life. Plus, you don’t have to hear about it. You can turn it off. That in itself is a privilege. But you know what? I’m tired of not being understood or always having to explain myself and my kids and my culture to others. I’m tired of being “other.”
I’m also tired of being thought of as practically white. You know why people think that? Because people of color know how to “act white.” We know how to adjust ourselves so white folks don’t feel uncomfortable – because God forbid white people feel uncomfortable.
But don’t dismiss my experience because you want to live in a “post-racial” world (a fucking bounder if I ever heard one). Yes, it is better than it was before. But in some ways, blatant racism is easier to deal with than the subtle slights. When someone is obviously racist, we can point at it and say, “See? RACISM!” But when it is subtle and hard to point out, it is like a slow death by a thousand paper cuts.
I link to these articles not because I want to harass people as they are going about their daily lives, brandishing white privilege as a means to make good people feel shitty. I do so that people can possibly misunderstand me and people like me a little less.
This is why I link to articles about race so much. Because it finally highlights MY voice. MY experience.
Don’t you dare tell me to shut up.
I love when you share about these things because, as you say, I’m privileged. And I didn’t ask for this privilege, but it’s my reality. I don’t think to think about these things on a day-to-day basis. Until you write about them. Honestly, I don’t know where I stand on some of the issues you’ve covered, but I truly thank you for bringing them to my attention. For forcing me to see through more thoughtful, compassionate eyes. Keep sharing YOUR STORY, YOUR VOICE. Because that’s all each of us has to better understand one another — no matter where we stand on the scale of privilege and race.
Amen! Thanks, Amy!
Awesome post! Shut up! . . . No just kidding! Sorry, I couldn’t help it. . . . . I’m weak. Serously, it takes a lot of guts for any writer or blogger to put their own thoughts out on the web as it’s pretty much a guarantee that someone will disagree. I cannot comment on anyone else’s opinion; but for myself, I have ahd a long histroy of dealing with racial isues and I’m often disappointed that so much focus is put on race. I have had the blessing of growing up in a family that is black and white and having my childhood and current friends come from so many different races and ethnicities that my made my life experience so much more rich than I could possible imagine. Add to that the experience of living in a foreign country and exeriencing racism first hand, it helped me appreciate even more how blessed I am. If you want to rant about racism and how other people’s pain is “valid” then knock yourself out. Don’t be discouraged just because someone disagrees with you. My request is that you don’t forget that there are two sides to that coin; please consider them both. Privillage is something that nobody on your blog or FB can deny, but it has very little to do with race and a lot more to do with the blessings we have been granted that are often taken for granted every day: Stable electrical grid, computers, internet connections, servers that host our thoughts, etc. Growing up in the 70s and 80 most people seem to have forgotten all the struggles for racial equality that this nation went through and how far we have come. It’s a rare thing now that we hear, even in the most remote place of this country, that inter-racial marriage (for example) is a bad thing, though it does still happen. It seems to me that we, as Christians, do more to help eliminate racism by actually praying for each other and then developing community with each other (regardless of race) where we talk with our neighbors, volunteer in the disadvantaged neighborhoods, tutor kids or even give money/resources to help those in need – regardless of race. In so doing it seems that racism is left behind because when we’re busy prayiing for and interacting with each other, nobody give a rats ass what the other person’s race is. Christ did not offer salvation ot only one race. To me that sets a pretty good standard as to how we should conduct ourselves. This is going to become increasingly important in the next few months and years when popular sentiment begins looking for a group to blame their woes on. I aplaud your passion, even if I do not always agree with the message presented. I would encourage you to not get distracted by the race issue (though they do exist) and focus on bridging the considerable gaps to help people to be more racially blind and see each other as not black, white, asian, etc, rather seeing each other as Jim or Steve or Toshi or Juan or Graciela or Dimitri,, etc. To me that makes more sense than squabeling over race. Chin up girl.
Thanks for commenting, Dah! You definitely bring a unique perspective given your blended family and life experiences.
I think it is possible to both highlight current racial/gender/cultural/whatever problems as well as work to bridge the gap. But just like forgiveness requires us to fully face the depth of our sin and acknowledge the hurt and consequences we’ve caused before we can forgive and be forgiven deeply, so, too, do we need to acknowledge the harm and pain racism et al causes before we can move on. That is truly a bridge that lasts.
Also, I actually don’t want people to be more racially blind. Race and culture impacts our identity – even for white people. None of us are blank racial slates. There is history and cultural context to who I am as a Taiwanese American person. What I would prefer is a cultural literacy – where people can see how their being whatever ethnicity (again, even white culture – and there is one – even many!) they are impacts their life and others.
Thanks again for always taking the time to read and respond!
hey mm, i like your ending comments about acting white to fit in. My husband and I have talked about that a couple times, how we act differently around predominantly white crowds, to fit in and hob nob better, that only among Asian friends, can we truly relax and be ourselves. it’s true! besides there was babylon right? maybe God didn’t intend for us to really blend so seemlessly… ha ha…
😉 I think we can all do with a little discomfort. LOL. I do take seriously Paul’s call to say that there is no Greek or Jew, male or female, etc. in Christ. Not that there is no difference – but that we are all equal and of the same worth in God’s eyes. That our ultimate identity should be aligned with Christ. But we would do well to remember that Christian identity is ALSO cultural! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!
Virg. I hear ya, but I was always taught that we were striving for equality, hence race should not matter. The past is relevant and important. It is important to acknowledge the past sins so taht we do not repeat them. That said, the sins comitted by others are not necessarily mine nor yours. That is a matter of personal reflection for each person so if it helps you then by all means please do so. In my expereince al ot is gained from learning about different cultures but very little is gained by focusing on race. So while learning about cultural differences and the benefits and/or pitfalls of each, I learn absolutely nothing by focusing on race as it’s not something that can be changed or re-learned or adopted by changing my mindset. Race is God’s gift to each person born into it. It’s a beautiful product of a limited gene pool and makes for some awesome and amazing biological characteristics. That said, I personally could not care less if a person is black, white, East Asian, Asian, Semetic, etc. For what it’s worth. It’s their cultural differences are what makes them interesting to me, not their race.