It’s been difficult to pen down complicated, delicate and uncomfortable thoughts regarding racism on the domestic front, from an international perspective. Since the death of George Floyd, however, the need to confront racial injustice is no longer a choice but dire necessity. So I scoured the courage to finally say, Dear White People…
You just don’t understand.
What it’s like living without your privilege, the kind that permeates without uttering a single word. What it’s like to walk into the store with endless shelves stocked with the perfect makeup that matches your skin tone. What it’s like to turn on the television and never seeing your race widely represented. So your childhood icon looked nothing like you – heck, Barbie seemed a few shades too light – but it was okay because that’s just how it always was. What it’s like to make peace with it all, without contemplation. Ever. Most importantly, you just don’t understand what it’s like to be unfairly stereotyped.
Growing up in America as an Asian immigrant was certainly not the same as being Black. But if I were to walk down any street outside of Asia today, I’d be overwhelmed by the fear of having acid splashed across my face because I, along with my race, is believed to have started COVID-19. Just ask an Asian friend of our very own Nadia Cho, he was hospitalized for 30 hours after being beaten in Madrid as the city geared up to reopen post-quarantine. Nonetheless, oppression and discrimination that Asian Americans experience differ greatly from Black people’s 400 years of control and occupation. Not to mention, their struggles with the police frequently result in murders despite that sometimes the killers aren’t even cops.
As a world traveler, I’m often thrown in the face of history’s cruelty. White privilege, supremacy and colonization conquered the Caribbean islands, Oceania, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. That is, quite literally, the entire world. When you’re non-White, you naturally become race-conscious. It’s an inherent observation regardless of where I am in the world, I will always know if I’m the only Asian or non-White person in the room. Or when I “happen to be” the last person served at a dinner table full of White folks. Then, expected to play the piano after the meal, like a circus monkey performing on cue while a circle of White friends and their families applaud with approval.
I can empathize but none of my misfortunes can ever compare to the unfair treatment toward Black people in America. This country is in chaos, on fire. The outcry fueled by rage against police brutality is equally charged by the likelihood that Black families losing loved ones to coronavirus is achingly high. Furthermore, the viral video of Central Park Karen ignited greater frustration toward people who use race and privilege as ammunition against the Black community. George Floyd’s death was not only the most recent addition to a long list of police killings of Black men, but jogging and birdwatching are now activities that cannot be done without the fear of dying.
Let’s not forget, America may be in anarchic disarray but the act of protest itself is undeniably American. It’s a privilege that exists solely in the feat of democracy, in the land of the free. We all remember what happened this week 31 years ago on the other side of the world, where bloody sacrifice of protests led by students in Tiananmen Square culminated in an ultimate battle between an anonymous man and a giant tank.
Dear White people, you may not understand what it’s like to be darker-skinned but you can teach yourself and spread empathy. If you’re a parent, teach your children on how to be anti-racists while making banana bread. If you’re a boss, encourage diversity as you build up a multicultural staff. If you have a massive platform, tutor your followers on why using the N-word is NOT okay. Even if it’s part of a song’s lyrics. If your community is filled with people that look exactly like you, then branch out. It’s now your responsibility to conduct an open dialogue about racial injustice, because it’s exhausting to keep explaining.