all autocompletes were screenshots of actual searches on 12/3/2013

photo credit: Mike Allen

This Photoshoot

The idea was inspired by the UN Women campaign by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai. 

Racism from Absence

In my 19 years in America, I’ve never been stopped and frisked. Cops are always nice to me. People have no problems sitting next to me on the bus. No one’s scared of me no matter what direction I pointed my cap. 

The kind of Asian racism that makes headlines is cultural misappropriation -when some “insensitive” entertainer wears silk kimonos and painted faces to look exotic.

This never bothered me.

It’s the subtle, slippery racism that’s far more sinister. The absence of Asian leads in a non-martial arts movie or TV shows means I grew up knowing only non-Asian celebrities and role models. And if you’re an Asian guy, you are not the stuff of fantasies girls grew up dreaming about.

The absence of Asians from politics and upper management means that Asians can be hard workers and geniuses but never leaders.

Above all, there seems to be some perma-foreignness about Asians. It’s not unusual to be told to “go back to China” and to be mocked for an accent we don’t have. The manifestations of this viewpoint range from the seemingly harmless to the outright hostile. But the underlying message is the same. Asians are not real Americans.

Inspirational Racism

I vividly remember seeing this racism first-hand in a conversation with one of my former business partners. I wanted to create a mentoring program in a predominantly Asian school organization.

He flat out told me he had no interest in helping Asians succeed in America. I asked him, “Are you serious?” He said, “Yeah.” He laughed a little.

He was serious.

It was a wtf moment for many reasons and was a major factor behind my decision to leave my position as a co-founder. I eventually heard from a mutual friend that he said I was a follower not a leader.

In retrospect, I’m fortunate to have heard him verbalize something that others keep to themselves. It allowed me to move on to bigger and better things instead of wasting time working with someone who never saw me as a partner. 

Confessions of an ABC Banana Twinky

I’ve been uncomfortable being Asian since the 2nd grade. Back then I was the foreign kid who didn’t speak any English who became the butt of every joke.

This bullying motivated me to learn English fast. By 3rd grade, I was nearly fluent and huge chunk of my vocabulary were insults and comebacks.

In 4th grade I started seeing my race as a handicap. I thought the only way to be accepted is to break every Asian stereotype. As a result, I avoided the other Asian kids. I stopped caring about my grades. Then there was the denial. For a period of my life I was Chinese Clayton Bigsby. I actually felt like I was white. 

In the 6th grade one of my friends picked a fight with me for no reason and told me to go back to China. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have taken it so hard. But I did. I couldn’t look past the fact he was just some 12-year old taking medication for hyperactive aggression. At the time I felt the full weight of my racial identity and caused me to stray further away.

—-

When I moved to a better school district in the 8th grade, a lot of the overt forms of bullying disappeared. Despite this, I still scoffed at Asian cliques and was embarrassed to speak Chinese in public or do anything which reminded people of who I really was. 

The only time I referenced my race was through self-deprecating humor. 

—-

In college, I became “ok” with being Asian. I didn’t feel embarrassed to speak Chinese in public anymore. I also started to see some value in Asian culture and re-developed interest in the history.

I was also in a serious relationship with someone who accepted me fully. I also joined a business fraternity that was predominantly Asian.

I took a lot of steps in the right direction, but I still felt divided. It wasn’t until  my second time meditating with a Shaman that I finally confronted the self-loathing I built up through the years. 

—-

I learned that by acting opposite to my stereotypes, I’m still letting ignorance control my life. Instead, the only thing that matters is figuring out who I want to be, and seeing if my actions are consistent with that version of myself.

The challenge is being honest with myself and admitting when my actions come from a place of insecurity and defensiveness. Committing to change that behavior is one of the purest expression of “self” stripped of delusion and denial.

—-

Note: I’m just a guy with a Finance background who rescues cats and makes videos. I’ve never had diversity and sensitivity training. I just know my own experience and how it shaped the way I think today.

But, I do hope some parts of this resonates. 

If you have any comments, agreements, or disagreements please drop me a line via the confirm/deny link on the upper left corner. I’m also reachable by email here. Or tweet @stevesdrop. 

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