“We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation_ and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately.”
The book: Race Matters by Dr. Cornel West
I contemplated this post for a long time, because I always hesitate to bring up the issue of race in most conversations. It’s such a complex, embedded issue in almost every facet of our society – in addition to being one of our primary methods of identification. And forget race as an institutionalized factor – but we take for granted how evident it is in our everyday lives.
Just a few days ago, someone threw out the term “banana” in reference to an Asian person who’s been “whitewashed.” I’m rolling my eyes, because I don’t like either of those terms for various reasons. I remember being called those terms while I was growing up. I went from being accused of having not enough Asian friends (it was a point of concern for my family way back when) to having too many? These fears and accusations are rooted in the inherent inclusivity/exclusivity of “us” and the “other” – and of course, it’s never as simple as that. For my parents, I’m sure, being immigrants in a foreign land meant holding onto pieces of their culture and looking to find solace in a larger community. I get that.
But what characteristics, then, made me an outlier of my Asian community? Do I belong now? Who set the scale of “whiteness” or “Asian-ness”? Scratches head. Is assimilating to “American culture” mean “becoming white?” I mean, those terms are not rooted in vitriol or violence, but they were an omnipresent force when I was growing up as I was trying to navigate the arbitrary lines of identification. The funny thing is, we exist in this self-perpetuating culture of stereotypes. Other people of Vietnamese descent called me “whitewashed.” Did that mean you were somehow more “Vietnamese” than I was? I may have more questions than I do conclusions, and my questions may be extremely simplistic ones, but I still haven’t found satisfactory answers for any of those.
I guess, I bring it up now because as I was reading Race Matters while house-sitting in Harlem, NY – I was reminded all over again that race still plays such a pivotal role in our beliefs and interactions. Even with something as innocuous as a passerby greeting me with a “Ni hao” – it reminds me that someone is judging me by the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes. And to be fair, I’m probably judging someone else for those same things. Just because we don’t witness outright blatant racism doesn’t mean it’s not racism.
Hmm -___-. I know, I’m not making much of a statement, but the point is – I don’t know what I’m saying.
End, Memory Seventeen.
Next week: The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries