This week has been a week.
It really took me by surprise, that this week’s events would hit me with such force. That a man in Atlanta, who went on a shooting rampage targeting Asian women, would make me afraid, living in my suburb of Seattle.
Afraid. I lived in DC during 9/11 and the DC sniper. And this, for me, is scarier.
I am only part Japanese. But it’s visible enough that many an Asian stranger has asked me about it, asked me if I was part Asian. And their excitement when I said yes! They had found one of their own! I was welcomed into their family.
But I am mostly white, living in white spaces. With white people, who did the “polite” thing, were color-blind, and never commented on race. And so I thought I passed as white among white people.
Then I lived in Texas! I assumed that people who noticed my non-whiteness would chalk it up to me being part hispanic. Because … Texas. Boy howdy, guys, I do not pass for white or hispanic white among white people. And … for those of you that know me, you may be laughing. Because you know my face and its features, and you know that it is Asianish.
So this week, that brought a brutal assault against Asian women in America: that shook me. Because I have that face. Because somebody else’s “bad day” might target me. For something that does not deserve targeting.
There have been so. many. feelings.
Fear. Being in public with a mask on means the only thing visible about my face are my eyes. My most Asian feature.
Confusion. Do I get to feel this way? I am only a quarter Japanese: does that count? Is it enough to be a part of this?
Outrage. That I am JUST NOW learning that this rise in violence against Asian Americans? Nearly 70 percent of it is targeted at Asian American women. Why has the media failed me? Why are they so hung up on 6 Dr. Seuss books that are no longer going to be printed?
Sorrow. For not really getting it before. Like really, really getting it, this fear that too many Americans have for existing non-whitely.
Loneliness. I am surrounded by whiteness. White people. Who feel outrage at the events that have been happening, but who don’t feel this fear.
Jealousy. That my siblings, who are just as Japanese as I am, don’t look it.
Shame. For wishing I could remove my non-whiteness, even if just for awhile, even just until this danger blows over. Because if I were completely white, I wouldn’t have to feel this way. If I were completely white: I would be safe from this.
Recognition. This desire for less otherness, for more whiteness: that is white supremacy at work in my own heart. I have been doing a lot of anti-racist learning these last 6 months and it is hard, at times, to see what living in a systemically racist world has done to me. Being steeped in something so insidious and pervasive, none of us are immune from it. I am glad I have the words now to describe what this is inside of me. I am glad I can understand it. Hold some space for it. But ultimately, get to work on rooting it out.
Anger. For being afraid. For wanting to undo such a rich part of myself. For wanting to be invisible. When being visible: has meant so many relationships that I would not have otherwise. Because existing non-whitely in white spaces can be a little bit scary. And, well, we kind of gravitate to each other (consciously and unconsciously). There is a safe harbor that we find together in our otherness.
Hope. For all of the outpouring of support to Stop Asian Hate.
Love. For my fellow Asianish and Asian friends and family. I see you. And I stand with you.
This week has been heavy and confusing and hard and hopeful. Change is possible and it is happening, and as for me: I plan to be a part of it.