In October this year, deputy Metro editor for The New York Times, Michael Luo, Lee wrote an open letter to a woman who told his family to ‘go back to China’.
The online open letter hit a nerve for many Asian-Americans and Asian people across the world. This sort of racism is not a rare occurrence and is often wiped off as not serious- by Asians, and by others. But, inevitably, these things tend to become worse the more they are ignored, and it has resulted in a feeling of being fed up.
The thing about racism to Asian people is that it is usually classified as accepted ignorance, and something not be offended by. But slowly we see the Western world becoming more aware that certain preconceptions are just that- preconceptions. Many questions Asians get asked, or comments that are thrown at us, are indeed, not meant with hurtful intent. And that is the problem- the ignorance is normalized.
It is 2016 and we need to ask ourselves, why is it still okay to ask an Asian if their peripheral vision is the same as a white person’s?
Mike’s letter inspired a Twitter hashtag and response video- #ThisIs2016. Pictured throughout are Bowdoin college ASA students, highlighting seemingly innocuous, as well as outright racist, statements they commonly face. You may be surprised that some are offensive, and likewise, you may be shocked that people get away with these statements.
Being a half Asian in South Africa, I commonly find myself sitting on a thin line when meeting new people between being accepted as biracial, and being told I am not white or Asian enough. As a mixed race person in SA (and I daresay around the world), you are often left out of the equation entirely, or worse, your race is dictated to you by other people.
My race identity is tied into what it means to be biracial in a world where ‘pure’ race is quickly becoming obsolete. Often there is a sense of a need to understand from others, but more regularly I am harassed for being assumed Asian.
From random people shouting ‘ching chong cha’ to me, to people coming up to me and saying ‘You look Asian, so you are Asian, not white’, to drunk men whispering into my ear ‘You know, I’ve never hooked up with an Asian. I heard you guys are really ‘tight’.’. This is not a joke. #ThisIs2016, and it’s not a moment too late.
See all the photos from the Bowdoin Asian Students Association here.