Hello readers, family, friends, whoever you are…Chrissy here – I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. And honestly, right now, thoughts and feelings are overflowing and yet words seem hard to come by. But I felt the need to put this out there, to share this part of my journey, in hopes of inviting others into the work, the journey, the process. At the same time, I do not want to draw away from the voices and the people who we need to be listening to the most right now. Black voices. So if your time and capacity is limited (I know it’s an overwhelming season), if it is a choice of whether to read this or something from a Black person, please go and watch, read, listen to and learn from Black people and Black stories. I will be here; this post will be here. You can come back to this another time. That’s okay.
With all that said, what I hope to share here is a glimpse into my journey of learning what it means for me to be a person of color. And as someone who is neither black nor white, I’ve been struggling to figure out what my place is in all of this.
To be quite honest, I have never felt comfortable describing myself as a person of color and have wondered if my experience really counts. I am learning, however, that I am not alone in this, and that there are people of color from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences who are also trying to figure out where they fit in this conversation that is often framed in binary terms. Perhaps it is because of this binary that it often feels like I have to choose a side. Asian Americans in particular are often cast as the “model minority”. And while I used to think this term was a compliment, I am realizing that it is actually quite problematic.
Let me back up a bit.
For those who don’t already know, I am a second generation Chinese American. My parents were born and raised in San Francisco and I was born and raised just across the bay in Oakland, California. And while I was raised with an appreciation for the diversity of the Bay Area, I now realize that this did not necessarily equate to an embrace of my own culture and ethnicity. In fact, it wasn’t until this past year that I was made aware of how I habitually try to minimize my otherness. You see, I have been on a journey of re-examining my ethnic experience, and I realized that becoming the model minority for me, meant learning to adapt and achieve according to (white) American standards. To become the model minority was to assimilate and (albeit unconsciously) to defend, uphold, and strive towards whiteness – which, in reality, is ultimately unattainable for people of color..but I digress.
My point is this: I am learning that no matter what, I am caught in the in-between. And although I have spent most of my life adapting to white culture, I don’t want to be a buffer or wedge, unconsciously defending whiteness, proving I can rise above other (darker) minorities.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the image of former Minneapolis police officer Tuo Thao impacted me deeply. A man of Asian descent with his back turned to the murder being committed, standing in between, defending Chauvin’s actions to the witnesses.
Something broke deep down in the core of my being because I realized that too often I’ve turned a blind eye to the struggle of my Black sisters and brothers. Too often I have remained silent and hesitated to speak up or come to their defense. Too often, I have failed to truly engage and do the work because it felt too difficult, too overwhelming, too uncomfortable.
And so while I know that what happened with George Floyd is sadly not new, I became starkly aware of my place in all of this.
For too long, I have been stuck in neutral. And it is evident to me now more than ever that this neutrality is, in actuality, anything but neutral. My silence and inaction contributes to the continued suffering of the Black community. I must do the work of turning around and commit to actively engaging in the process of listening, learning and leaning into the discomfort, that I may be moved into action. Moreover, I am learning that this is a choice that I must make every single day.
Black people don’t get a day off from being Black. Their everyday experiences reflect the realities of injustice that for too long has been accepted as the norm, just the way things are. But for those who are not Black, we must make a conscious effort to pull back the veil of privilege and learn to see things through the eyes of those whom society has pushed to the margins. Yes, this is going to be difficult and uncomfortable, but we must not give up or check out. How can we look away? How can we turn a blind eye? Lives are literally at stake.
I know this is an overwhelming time. I know that there is a lot to take in and process. And I know there is a sense of urgency to respond and act now. But friends, we must commit ourselves to doing the work for the long haul.
I also recognize that people reading this may be coming from a variety of different points along this journey. Perhaps, if you are newer to these conversations, there are things I’ve written here that caught you off guard or caused you to feel defensive. Perhaps you are further along this journey and feel like I haven’t said enough. I now know that I will always find myself in a space of in-betweeness. And so my hope is that from this space I might become more of a bridge rather than a buffer.
That being said, no matter where you are in this journey – whether you are well versed or newer to the conversation, whether you think we agree or not – if you have any thoughts, questions, feelings, reactions, whatever, and would like someone to process with, I would be more than happy to talk and process with you. Especially those who know me personally, please don’t hesitate to reach out, drop a comment or message me personally. We need to dig in and do the work and have tough conversations together. I don’t have this all figured out and I’m certainly not an expert in this, but I am trying my best to listen, learn, and show up. I hope that others may walk this journey with me.