When I was in high school in small town Iowa, a friend started telling me to go back to my homeland, and a group started to gather. She continued to make jokes about my race (“Do you know how they name Asian babies? Throw a pot down the steps. Ching Chang Chong”) and more…
My college was in a tiny but progressively liberal small town, and I continued experiencing racism in a milder, not knowing any better, form. “Where are you from,” and “no, where are you really from?” Came up much more often.
Since moving to KC, I think KC citizens are much more aware and sensitive to racial issues since there is more diversity in the city. It’s wonderful.
But I have one more point…
As a first generation American (ever notice how only ethnic groups have to classify themselves as _____- American, and whites get to say ‘American’ without a classifier?)… I struggled with my racial identity growing up in a town that had a 0.02% Asian population. For a while, I pushed against my heritage, trying to fit in and be “normal.”
Being told to go back to my country was a particularly hard insult to swallow. I was born here, in CA. I’m a citizen. I’ve spent my whole life here trying to figure out how to succeed. So it’s tough to hear fellow Americans, even friends, joke that I am not welcome here, that I don’t belong…
Then… I went to China recently, and visited relatives I haven’t seen for over 10 years. My cousin and other relatives frequently referred to China as my home. I didn’t have the heart to correct them, but it’s not. I don’t live in China. My whole life has been lived in the US. As a child visiting China, I actually heard “Go back to America!” from some sweet school kid bully who caught on to my not speaking Chinese. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.
It’s also interesting to consider how the Chinese (in China. Not the USA Chinese-Americans) treat other races. There is no diversity in China, or hardly any, especially in smaller cities and towns (of 1 million, more or less). My Caucasian husband was treated like a celebrity. People wanted to take pictures with him, with permission, and sometimes, without permission (looking at you, giggling schoolgirls). A shopgirl exclaimed, “too handsome!” and nearly died when she realized I could understand what she was saying.
I’m not advocating for that to happen here – that would be weird, and even inappropriate for US culture. In 99% Asian China, any other skin color person is almost guaranteed to be a foreigner. In the USA, it’s not.
In the USA, it can be hard to tell if an Asian person is a foreigner or an American because our skin color is the same. (An easy way to tell is by the accent FYI) Regardless, the US strives to treat everyone equally. It’s our golden rule to treat others as we would want to be treated.
In 2016, racial issues have come up again and again in events far worse than I have experienced. Yet, I know people who think these issues are overblown, and that racism doesn’t exist anymore.
We may all have voting rights, and equal rights on paper, things are not as bad as they were in the past (Japanese internment camps, anyone?), but racism still exists. If you are not a minority, you may not have had a direct, hurtful experience of racism, but that does not mean it doesn’t happen.
Please be aware.