i write for inner peace.
My response was to engage these types of opponents in a guessing game. I'd let them rattle off as many countries as they can think of to answer their own question: where are you from, so I can see and treat you appropriately? Their lists would probably go three countries deep, revealing how small their worlds were: China, Japan, Korea, and then stop, as if they'd sailed off the edge of the world on a ship built from their own ignorance.
Forget guessing which of the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines my parents immigrated from or what shards of Indo-Malay culture still fertilize the soil on which its Spanish colonial military forts were built. In their eyes, I was not even on the map. My father, in deflecting racial slurs on his route as a mailman in early 90's South Florida, used to tell people he was from North Vietnam and that we "kicked your ass in the war", indulging their ignorance while expanding their worldview by one more Asian country.
The trick, I've learned, is to let opponents knock themselves out with what they don't see. It's not passive silence: it's poised strategy.
At age 18, suddenly, I saw thousands of Asians. My own stereotype was confirmed: our parents really DID make sure we went to college. And there, I was introduced to Asian-American activism. Imagine: now, there were all these people who finally looked just like me, speaking out against a lifetime of being the odd ones out. However, I saw this solidarity backfire into self-induced segregation. And with that, its own shade of ignorance. People wanted to be my friend BECAUSE I was Asian. It was the same question from childhood: tell me where you're from, so I can see and treat you appropriately.
As a person of color, I learned that the color of my skin is what it is: skin-deep. I broke away from that monochromatic social scene to organize a student-run group based on a universal language: magic. The House of Flying Cards was my passive-aggressive statement to clubs that congregated based on skin color in a crusade against inequality. There, we created our own equality, people of all colors, united under one common cause: make people happy through magic. We had a black Hare Krishna, a Gothic white guy with black nail polish, a Puerto Rican barber who played the guitar, a six foot nine Jamaican DJ, and somehow, a bunch of overly dexterous Asians. Everyone was a minority. And that's where boarders were broken for me and probably the others in that eclectic coalition. It wasn't colorblindness: it was light. I saw and learned about so many different experiences, backgrounds and beliefs beyond my own.
Racism is a glass wall. And I believe there's a wiser way forward than casting stones at our reflections in the window to break the silence. Black lives matter. But don't burn down the neighborhoods - where people of color like my daughter and I live - to get that message across and spread fear in the process. If we see all white cops as bastards, how are we any better than the cops that see all black people as threats? Acts of hate do not defeat acts of hate.
We live in a country where "an eye for an eye" traditions lead to hands thrown and black eyes swollen shut, a chronic blindness that has led us to where we are today (which is no different than where we were yesterday). In that trashing duel, ignorance is undefeated. Another black man looses his breath. Or another schoolyard gets shot up. As a person of color, it is my responsibility to transcend the blade-bearing methods my ancestors used to drive Magellan's ships off the shores of Mactan Island all those centuries ago, to look for a solution above the tear gas and the torches.
So, my stance isn't so much one of lips sealed shut in model minority fashion as it is of slanted eyes open. I see the cop car in New York plowing into an unarmed crowd. I see the fires being set in a corner store beneath a building where unarmed people live. I see the unarmed Asian-American couple in Seattle assaulted in broad daylight as an outlet for misplaced anger about the pandemic. And I see the unarmed black man in Minneapolis being choked to death by the weight of 400+ years worth of misplaced hate. I see my unarmed daughter, who will undoubtedly inherit this fight as a second generation person of color in godless America.
I realize that we're ensared in an age-old color war against this type of hate. And I will fight for what I believe. Just not with a pitchfork and a Molotov cocktail. Racism is the lovechild of hate and ignorance. It will be defeated only by evolving past the hate and ignorance that created it.
The murder of George Floyd was as much a psychological and emotional attack on me as much as it was on the black community. As a kid with a built-in target on his back because of how I looked, I studied Kenpo Karate, as a way to respond to potential attacks. And I learned that an open palm not only hits harder than a closed fist. It also keeps your own hands from breaking.
I want them to hear us: not by what we break apart with our hands, but by what we build together.
Three ways to fight with palms open:
1) Speak with non-violent actions: www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
2) Connect with the Black community: www.facebook.com/events/260040241745627/
3) Arm yourself with knowledge: www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/books/review/antiracist-reading-list-ibram-x-kendi.html
And if you insist on taking the war to the streets, please wear a mask. Not only does it respect those fighting to stop the spread of the virus that has murdered over 100,000 unarmed people and counting (and made people of my color look bad), but it also makes you look like a ninja.
Your Asian Friend With An Opinion
#blacklivesmatter #fightwithlight #staysafe
The Move Unseen
A blog for magic.