The video above is an Op-Doc from New York Times named “A Conversation With Asian-Americans on Race” that chronicles the racial discrimination experienced by Asian-Americans in their childhood. I would prefer to refer to the people in the video by their names, but their names are not given. A few of them, however, reveal their ethnicity, so that is what I will refer to them by for dialogue logging purposes. I do not cover all the stories in the video, but below are 4 of the stories that moved me the most.
“I think the conversations that I had about race with my family was primarily led by my dad. And it would just be little lessons. Like, I’d pick up the phone and I’d say “hello?” and he goes “I can tell you’re Korean over the phone.” And I was like “Cause I am Korean, and I’m on the phone with you.” And he goes, “No. No one should be able to tell you’re Korean on the phone. People should just think you’re American.”
“My first experience with race was when I was six-years-old, and I fell in love with this girl named Janice. And I went up to her in the sandbox and I was like “Janice, I love you!” And she was like “You’re the color of poop!” And that was memory number 1 with racism. And I didn’t know what that was. I just took that literally, I was like, “What no, ah, it’s not rubbing off!” Like, it was very terrifying.”
“When I was in second grade, I used to walk a little bit to the bus stop away from my school. And there was a boy who used to beat me up. And when he used to beat me up, he used to call me the “N-word,” which I didn’t quite know what it meant, but I knew that it was something negative. People who evoke the most fear in me are like 10 year old white boys. Like, I will cross the street.”
“My dad, he grew up during a very interesting time in India’s development and growth. So he grew up when the partition happened. And during the time of partition there was a lot of aggression. So for him to hear my stories of micro-aggression, he just didn’t have a whole lot of room or empathy to understand what it meant. Cause he’s like, I’m dealing with full on aggression. I’ve seen full on riots, people being killed… You know, fine, kids call you Sadam Hussein, just deal with it. We have an amazing opportunity here. We have free-ways, wifi, and jobs – you better go be president, no excuses.”
Final thoughts: Wearing this skin color is a big deal to me, you know? Which is why I don’t say I’m just American anymore. Because I’m not. Because America doesn’t see me as just American.