I am learning to stop minimizing my pain at Asian racism

When I was growing up, I was ashamed to be Chinese. I hated my Chinese name. I was ashamed of anything that showed my legacy. I remember using my money to buy a light colored base in the hopes of being able to transform my career. The girl at the makeup desk looked at me like she was crazy. But I was convinced that the base would make me look white. Being Chinese could be my secret.

I never understood why the kids used their fingers to stretch their eyes so that they looked tilted and made fun of me. I shrugged. When people uttered racial insults, I kept quiet. In my culture, I was taught that it was best to maintain harmony, save face, and avoid conflict and confrontation.

The jokes changed as I got older. Suddenly being Asian was exotic and sexy. There were white guys who would only go out with Asian girls. I was in my twenties when the Caucasian boys started paying attention to me. So I played with the fantasy of Asian girls and made it a part of my identity. That was acceptance, so I thought.

I’ve grown such a thick skin on all of this – I’ve adapted a lot of coping mechanisms to navigate sexism and racism that I thought was a normal part of life. Along the way, I was silent. I’ve laughed at Asian jokes and even participated in them. I gave priority to the mix instead of causing a stir.

Minimize your reaction to pain. Reduce it. Leave it on your shoulders. This is the approach I have taken all my life. Now I am realizing that this approach of sucking it does not make me stronger, I fall asleep to injustice. A pattern has been created in which I detach myself from discomfort. Perpetuate racism.

I also never wanted to make a “big deal” out of these things, because I have so much to be thankful for. I am also learning that I can feel angry, sad and hurt and these emotions do not deny my gratitude.

I am heartbroken by what is happening in the Asian community. I’m also starting to recognize the feelings I’ve discarded for so long need air to breathe. I stopped crying several times yesterday while I was hooked on the news of the shooting at the Atlanta massage parlors where six Asian women died. I moved to the channel behind the channel of different Asian hate crime stories, including the 76-year-old Chinese woman who fought the 39-year-old attacker. I imagined how I would feel if I were my father or my mother. And then I imagined how it would feel for relatives of these vicious racism goals.

Today, after hearing more news about what’s going on and receiving some loving messages from registered friends, I cried. I feel the pain of the Asian community and I start to feel mine.

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