“Go back to where you came from.”
Such a vile statement.
Such a statement that I thought would maybe be phased out of our dialogue.
Such a statement that has sadly made a resurgence lately.
Let me first say my intention is not to pit whites against minorities here. If you have never had this phrase spat upon you, you have no way of understanding. I think we can all agree on that.
My intention is to explain how a lot of us are feeling after this election and even more so after the inauguration of a man I currently view as one of the worst human beings in the world. To truly understand racism or prejudice, you need to experience it firsthand.
Case in point:
Throughout our time together, the husband and I have talked about race from time to time. He has always said, “I don’t see you as Asian. I see you as you. You’re just… you.”
And while you may want to go, “Aw, that’s sweet.” or “That’s how it should be, dammit.” (It’s not, but that’s for another time.) or what have you. I have always thought, “Huh, that’s kind of weird.”
Because you see, when you grow up in a small town in southern Ohio and how the fact that your appearance is different from most everyone else is brought to your attention on an almost daily basis, it is difficult to not think of yourself as a minority. To not be consciously aware of it most of your waking moments.
But, I get it. With me at least, the husband is looking past my flat nose and the slight inner slant of my eyes to perceive who I am as a human being. That’s nice. That’s love.
But… this is the kicker. I am not your stereotypical Asian woman, and that’s because I didn’t grow up “Asian”. I am half Caucasian. I grew up with my white mother, my white stepfather, and my white grandmother in white rural America. Being a quiet, meek little girl who was good at math throughout my childhood is probably as “Asian” as I have ever been.
So basically, you could say the husband truly sees me as a white woman, and that’s OK. I am what I am. Which goes to show you can’t judge based on appearance.
However, soon after moving to Seattle, the husband had an eye-opening experience. We were walking in downtown Seattle, and a very drunk, Native American, homeless man threw this my way: “Go back to where you came from, you Japanese crusader!”
1. I ignored him because here was a Native American suffering (so much of that visible on the streets of Seattle) and clearly drunk. And, I usually ignore insults from drunkards.
2. Not that I think this type of behavior is OK at all… we were once known as a great country, a welcoming country. (Yeah, I’m putting that in past tense. Because really, I don’t believe we are a great country, at least not under this current administration.) But, if anyone has the right to tell me to go back to where I came from, it would be a Native American. Enough said.
3. I have never been called a Japanese crusader, and I thought the slur was quite original and creatively specific. Who wouldn’t want to be a crusader!? Ya know, as long as you’re doing good with your uh… crusadin’.
4. The insult was spewed out quite nonchalantly as we walked by that I kind of wasn’t sure if he was directing it at me. It was downtown Seattle, and there is quite a decent Asian population living here and visiting.
5. Although I was shocked because it had been a while since I have personally experienced any outright racism, I shrugged it off. It was not a new experience for me.
It was indeed a little surprising because I thought, “This is Seattle. What the fuck?”, but I have since learned Seattle has some serious issues with racial inequality. More so than in any other major city it seems and amazingly, seemingly more so than what we witnessed in Columbus, Ohio. I assume it’s because of the booming tech industry, and let’s face it, white folks dominate technology more than Black Americans or Native Americans. The city of Seattle, in general, is pretty damn white. It just so happens that it is a very liberal city full of white people who all want to just do their thang and get along with their fellow neighbors no matter the color of their skin. However, I would be so bold to venture in saying there is an undercurrent of polite liberalism and denial in this city, but that’s a whole other blog post or two.
Back to me being a Japanese crusader though… the husband, on the other hand, was livid for about a week afterwards. Not a complete exaggeration as he holds on to things that irk him a lot longer than I do. I think this may have been his first encounter with racism and bigotry, at least in a way that personally affected him so much. This slur was a dart that hit him square in the heart.
So, what’s the moral of the story here? Really, I don’t fucking know. It’s mentally exhausting to think about how to tackle this. Be kind to one another. Be patient. Befriend someone different than you. Acquire the knowledge and experiences to help you understand the plight of a culturally and economically group different from your own. Ya know, if you care. If you’re at all a compassionate and decent human being in any respect, you will open your eyes and see the complex beauty of our country and our world.
The racial and cultural division in our country is so vast, and each and everyone else will most likely experience it differently. We are all different, and that’s OK. We should embrace those differences. Learn from each other. Because when we learn from each other, we may realize we have more in common than we previously thought. ♥
*Image: old Instagram selfie