Part I: Seriously, Where are you REALLY FROM?
In my last post – I’ll Have a Round-Eye Steak with a Dash of White Supremacy – the aim was to draw awareness to the daily discrimination Asians in North America face through a different approach: sharing my experience with racism and bigotry. Hate, racism, bigotry and discrimination of all types are a lot to unpack in a single article. I have no choice but to break the discussion up into tiny pieces, i.e. my blog posts. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of “what about…” type of questions which eventually deflects the topic being discussed. For example, in my last post, I discussed the constant hate and discrimination Asians face daily in North America, and the reaction by some was, “What about the Uyghur Muslims? Do you stand by the Chinese government then?” OK. Folks. I know most of you – like 95-99% of you – are more intelligent than this, but I have to spell this out for some: Are we seriously going to justify the murders and hate crimes against Asian Americans by asking, “What about the Uyghur Muslims?” Unbelievable. What makes this even more hilarious is how the same people attacking me with their What-about-Uyghur-Muslims? chant are the same people who typically don’t give two shits about Muslims in general. Don’t pretend as though you care about us Muslims now. You didn’t care about us when ISIS was slaughtering us by the thousands, you don’t care about Yemen being eviscerated as we speak, and you certainly don’t give a shit about Uyghur Muslims. The only reason this is somehow relevant to your argument is that your President (pick one) told you to hate China, and this is a convenient reason for you to hate them.
When talking about anti-Asian hate, we’re referring to ALL Asians. Do you know how offensive it is when a white person assumes all Asians to be Chinese, and when corrected, they reply with, “Whatever, they all look the same?” Same thing when said white person assumes all Arabs are Muslim; this irks some of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, for real! My point is, Uyghur Muslims are Asian, and when we advocate against anti-Asian hate, they are included. Stigmatizing groups of people based on their race or ethnicity and committing violent acts against them is actually a typical response for a (North) American who is ignorant, uncultured and uneducated:
- Black prejudice: Centuries of hate translating through a government system designed to exclude them from prospering (or work multiple times harder than the average white individual) led to people stereotyping them as lazy, dangerous thugs.
- The war on drugs (Latina/o): Government Official (1930-62), Harry Aslinger, pushed the narrative that Hispanic/Latinos were drug dealers and part of gangs and supported the narrative by pushing drugs into the streets to start a War on Drugs all to remain relevant after the alcohol prohibition was lifted.
- World War II, Japanese-Americans camps: Holding innocent Japanese-Americans in concentration camps because they weren’t “American” enough after Pearl Harbour
- Russian: “Down with the commies!” Said America, and so all Russians were assumed to be communists and must be eliminated.
- LGBT discrimination: Gay-bashing in the 80s was unofficially legal in the US because it was a God-fearing yet secular country.
- Arabs: 9/11 shown a light on all Arabs as white America assumed a) all Arabs were Muslim; and b) all Muslim were part of Al-Qaeda. Fast-forward to 2012: ISIS revived that narrative.
- COVID-19: Former President Trump said, China bad = Chinese people bad = all Asians look like Chinese ergo all Asians bad.
Please don’t misunderstand me: Americans are lovely, but much of the hate they harbour is fuelled by their politics and politicians, as you can see in the above examples. Politicians start the fire, and the media adds the fuel. For example, one of President Biden’s first order of business was sending missiles to Syria, and now he’s reinitiating the very Mexican-US wall he was flagrantly against during his ever-so quiet campaign.
So what are we talking about here? We’re talking about Asians being targeted for political gain; Trump called COVID-19 the China-Virus, and Biden is silent on the subject of increased anti-Asian hate crimes in his country. Neither Presidents nor media have even tried to highlight for their people the difference between criticizing a government body (i.e. country) and civilians belonging to a particular ethnic group. Let’s dive in.
My great-great-great-grandparents immigrated to America
America, home of the American dream, is a land that once welcomed immigrants, students, workers and visitors alike. Sure, becoming a Naturalized American is a long and arduous process, just as in any country, but Nationalism and Patriotism in the United States are so powerful and symbolic that when you do finally become American, you are AMERICAN, period. At least, that’s the idea, while reality is more complicated. There are layers to being American (and this applies to Canada too). To name a few in no particular order:
- Generation (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)
- Origins (Euro-centric vs everywhere else)
- Skin colour/physical appearance (absolutely, this is a factor)
- Your name (haha, oh yes, this plays a role)
- Accents/language proficiency
The above factors explain where But where are you really from came from. This common question only proves that people have a preconceived notion of what an American looks like and how they sound or act. We’re all guilty of assuming at least once in our lives that a true American (or Canadian) is white, speaks with that “eh” or “southern drawl” accent (I can’t describe it, but you know what I mean). When we see a person of colour, hear an accent or see physical features not typical to a “white” individual, we default to assume they’re not “really” from America; therefore, they can’t indeed be American; their “allegiance” is questionable. Here lies the main problem: as soon as one doubts another’s allegiance, this opens a door for indifference, mistrust, fear, bigotry, discrimination, anger, and eventually hate.
Asians have been living in North America for generations. Many of them have never lived or been outside of the country. They were born and raised in the middle of nowhere America, have the same names as most white people, and speak with the same accent. What more does one have to do to be accepted in this Godforsaken country?
I dress like you, speak like you, eat like you, laugh like you, and even changed my name for you so you wouldn’t be inconvenienced when pronouncing it.Seriously, Where are you REALLY FROM?
How many more generations have to be born for Asians and other people of colour to be viewed as American? Some have gone as far as denouncing their entire heritage, giving everything up for approval. Yet, none of these can protect you from a stranger with a rifle who – according to police – was having a bad day.
Love thy neighbour
Asians are not your enemy; White people are not your enemy; Arabs are not your enemy; Black people are not your enemy. Let’s just start with assuming you have no enemies. The beef you may have is with your incompetent and corrupt government and brown-nosing media outlets. There’s no easy way to fight hatred. The truth is that emotions are abstract and not easily quantifiable. Taking hate as an example: one minute, you can absolutely despise someone, and the next, they grow on you. Next thing you know, you’re best friends and laugh about how when you first met them, you thought they were a b!tch—true story for many of us. Hate, racism, bias, love, and other abstract feelings work on a meter. The first step and I say this often enough, is to start with checking in with yourself. Identify your bias, ask yourself if you harbour any hate for particular groups of people and why, and most importantly, choose kindness every day and pay it forward. The world gives back to you what you give out to the world.
Image from: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/20/opinions/where-are-you-really-from-vega-opinion/index.html
One thought on “OK, but Where the F* Are You REALLY From?”
RE: “World War II, Japanese-Americans camps: Holding innocent Japanese-Americans in concentration camps because they weren’t “American” enough after Pearl Harbour”
Damn Roosevelt …
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