Upon reflecting on racism in my life, a few key episodes stick out in my mind.
Denmark - My first encounter with racists was in high school when I stayed with a home stay family. They made me feel unwelcome for being an Asian American and kept saying they wish they got an American student, but in my mind I was an American study.
They kept inquiring where was I from & I said I’m from California. I complained to the group chaperone and was quickly switched to a more welcoming home stay family and able to have a better experience.
Denver - I was on a date with my boyfriend/now husband waiting for our table at a restaurant. I noticed subtle racist Behavior when a white couple who came in after us was seated first.
I brought it up to my boyfriend and he says don’t worry about it and we’ll get seated first. This restaurant is first come, first serve. In my mind, it made me sad that this was dismissed as normal behavior.
Irvine - Police officers thought I was suspicious because I was the only one working on a Saturday in an office .
I was programming and on a deadline for web dev project. I’m dressed in overalls and a tank top . I showed them My business card. They claimed the alarm was set off when I know I disabled it before
I went into the office. They soon leave the office so I can continue working.
I told my boss the next day at work and he wanted to write a letter to Irvine Police Department for their inappropriate behavior and I said no need to.
Tustin - It’s about 10pm at night as I am about to exit the freeway to go home after a long day at work. I hear police sirens and immediately pull over.
(As background, I was driving a black Camry with tinted windows. There was a time that if you drove a Foreign car with tinted windows, you would be profiled as an Asian gangster. )
I look in my rear view mirror and see two police cars by now. I’m asked by officer 1 “where I am going ?” I answer I am going home.
I am asked if I have been drinking . The answer is no.I tell him I haven’t even eaten all day after being in the office since 7am and need to go back to work at 7am again for another work deadline.
He asked if I knew the reason I was pulled over. I say no. He said the reason I was pulled over is because I didn’t make a full stop as I was turning left.I explain that I thought it was a green light and looked at the empty road and thought it was safe to proceed.
I continue explaining that I’m really tired and hungry and just want to go home from my tiring day . He says okay I’ll let you go home with a warning and let’s me go home.
I go home to call my husband who is on a business trip to recount my experience. To go to bed alone after a tiring work day and be questioned unnecessarily by police was a harrowing and scary experience I will never forget as an Asian American woman.
With what has been going on in the US this weekend, it made me realize that I was lucky with my encounters with police officers.
Would I have another story ending if I was Black? Would I still be here to share these racist episodes?
Racism is all around us. It can be the subtle micro transgressions to the overt encounters that in your face.
We need to share our experiences when we are not treated as equals in this society and have those tough conversations with one another.
We need to speak up and take a stand for what’s right. We can't dismiss our experiences as a one-off.
I encourage you to think about your own experiences and how that made you feel. Now, think about it we are any closer to racial equality and justice ?
(Photo: Taken in February 2020. I found this quote on a wall after a recent doctor's visit.)