I’ve debated on if I should write something on Asian-American hate crimes that have happened since the pandemic started and I hesitated. Some of the thoughts running through my head were:
“There are other big issues…”
“No one cares…”
“People are just going to say it’s not happening…”
So I paused on writing it. I’ve started and stopped this so many times in the past couple of months.
Then I realized that I was doing what I’ve always been taught to do, what the Asian culture has taught me to do. Be quiet..it will go away..don’t make trouble…
I grew up in a semi-traditional Vietnamese family. I say semi because my parents wanted us to grow up knowing we were American and we could do anything we wanted. They taught me to be an independent woman, which for a lot of very traditional Asian cultures, was not a thing. I’m thankful for how they raised me and what they taught me about parenting. But I’m also realizing there were still a great deal of traditional Asian values steeped into my growing up years. Values I used to think as absolutes that I am still trying to process as an adult as I find myself asking if they makes sense for my family.
Avoid conflict… Growing up, if someone said something to me that made me feel uncomfortable, I’d ignore it and walk away. I was taught that I’d be in more trouble if I spoke up or tried to argue with that person, and avoiding any kind of conflict would be the safer route. However, I don’t feel like that is actually the case. More and more, I hear so many stories of people speaking up about their experiences. The truth is you can be minding your own business and someone else – oftentimes a stranger even – is taking out their anger on YOU. Simply for being of Asian descent. It seems like elderly, women, and children are being targeted the most. Being assaulted, and in some cases killed, even as they tried to avoid the conflict.
It’s not okay…
I get anxious when leaving the house whether I’m alone or with my kids. Even if it’s just doing regular errands, like grocery shopping. What if I run into the wrong person today? Is today the day something terrible happens because of my race? Most of these attacks are unprovoked, these people are getting hurt doing what they normally do.
How do you explain this to your kids?
My four beautiful boys don’t get it. They don’t understand why someone would hurt them for how they look. We recently had to have a talk with our oldest son due to an incident we learned about at a business he has frequented with friends before. A 10 year old boy, the same age as Davis, was approached and attacked by another boy of the same age. Racial slurs were said and it got physical.
We had to talk to our son about what to do if someone ever comes up to him and says something horrible, or tries to hurt him. I never thought I’d have to worry about this for him at the age of 10.
What bothered me the most was that this was a young child attacking another child for their race. The fact that at a young age, this child knew so much hate was what bothered me the most. I don’t know where this child learned it from. Yes, it could most likely be a parent, but what other influences did this child have? Any adult or older sibling could have taught him this hate.
Children are impressionable. We’ve tried to show and reiterate to our kids what is right and wrong when it comes to how we treat people and how we talk to people. But what about how they are treated?
I am home. How easy it has been for people to automatically assume we aren’t from here because we are Asian. I think this has been the hardest one to explain to the boys. They were born and raised in Minnesota, just like me. What home are they supposed to go to? And further still, why does it matter? Aren’t we a country of immigrants?
“You are all the same…”
There is an assumption that since Covid-19 started in China, that Chinese-American people are part of the issue. The hate crimes have been happening to those who look Chinese even if they are from a different Asian country, because the attackers can’t tell what ethnicity we are. Just like any other race, there are many countries that our families’ ancestors come from. My boys are half Vietnamese and Laotian, and each background comes with its differences. All Asian individuals are not the same. Similar exteriors do not make someone the same. It’s hard to believe we continue to have to explain and battle this now.
Stop the hate and violence
We are not the scapegoat, we are not the problem, and we are not the cause of this pandemic. Like everyone else, we have lost loved ones, we’ve struggled with loss of jobs and income, we are navigating kids in and out of school, and masks. We’ve gone through it too and we understand the frustration and the need for this to end. To single out someone like me, to single out a child and think it’s okay to hurt them physically or verbally is not right.
Enough is Enough
What makes my heart hurt the most is that children are being taught that hate is okay. If we change, we can be the model for future generations. I can’t say it enough: It starts at home with me. I know I can’t make or force decisions on any family, but maybe I can continue to provide awareness of the fact Asian-American hate crimes do happen and hopefully get someone to recognize that just one conversation with their child might help change a perception in the future.