Feel however the f*ck you want to feel. Anger is good – it lets you express deep frustration. Crying is great – it lets you express sadness, frustration, empathy, sympathy. Nothing is a flag – nothing could mean you’re blocking emotion, avoiding emotion, or a combination of both. Feeling nothing is not bad or good, just something to be explored.
When you’re going through these feelings, it healthy to feel them and express and talk about them. It starts to become unhealthy when you feel you’re in a cycle, a never ending loop of that same feeling and saying the same things over and over again. Get your friends to call you out – “Hey you’ve said that three times already. How can we address it? What do you need?”
And underneath all these feelings, find your compassion. Compassion for yourself and compassion for others. Because we can’t forget our humanity.
After George Floyd was killed I felt a deep sadness for the way he was treated. And an upheaval of more buried sadness for the way so many other people have been killed or mistreated. I was silent for a long time because I just needed to be. I wanted to see how this even would be different than Ahmaud Arbery’s death. Or Trevon Martin’s death. I wanted to watch and learn and understand everything I could about what was going on and how the system worked. But mostly I wanted to just be sad about the state of the world.
But then I would see people post things like “If you’re silent, then you’re the problem.” “If you haven’t said anything, then unfollow us.” “If you’re not protesting, then you’re not anti-racist.” And those comments pissed me off. So I unfollowed them and let them go. Because for me, those comments aren’t true. I do care and I want to support the BLM movement, but I’m going through some sh*t right now. And I don’t want to share every BLM post I see on the internet.
I see now that they were too angry to have compassion for those that are silent. But that brings me to the point that I think people are starting to see. Why are we assuming that silence means someone doesn’t care? Why are we assuming at all? When people point fingers, the people on the other end get hurt. Whether the intention was to malicious or not. I think those posts were trying to incite action, but for me it didn’t work that way. It just pissed me off and pushed me away. Everyone is important and everyone deserves the space to be – no matter what side you’re on. In the end, we’re working towards creating a place where there are no sides right? So why are we choosing them now?
I think the whole movement has brought up feelings from my own experiences of racism and injustice. In Texas it’s common to be only one of a few Asian-Americans in school, in churches, at the mall…etc. Growing up in Houston, you were always one degree away from knowing another Asian. Because the community was small and just aware of each other. It was like this mutual understanding that we were all immigrants or children of immigrants and so we faced the same issues. We could tell each other our problems and be understood or met with a similar story. We looked similar and also faced the same problems going to all white schools or being a part of all white communities. Honestly I feel lucky that I wasn’t discriminated in high school or college and I felt safe. The main discomfort was being misunderstood. Most people were just ignorant about the differences between Asian cultures.
But really most Americans to this day, don’t understand that I’m American. When I travel through China, they can tell by my clothes and mannerisms even before I open my mouth, that I’m American. But here in America, I’m automatically labeled un-American because I look Chinese. I always found this ironic because there was some giant ad campaign about how America is proud to be this melting pot of cultures and people coming together. But really it’s not. And it wasn’t until the Trump administration that I really saw how many people were not part of this America I learned to idealize. It’s like my life turned backwards because I grew up learning to revere diversity and inclusion. But now I’m woke enough to see that the diversity and inclusion propaganda was necessary because of rampant racism.
Most people saw that great info-video about how blacks are oppressed in so many ways – real estate, jobs, education. I felt validated when I saw that video, because I lived it first hand – the separation of class and what it did for the success of those in privilege and those not. I lived in a middle class neighborhood growing up. Our school district had some great schools and some not so great schools. My brothers and I applied to transfer to the best high school (Memorial High) instead of going to the one we were zoned to. Most of my friends went over to that high school (Spring Woods), and I didn’t think much of it. I just knew my parents wanted us to go to the school with the best academics. Also it was actually closer in distance to our home which I thought was weird. Why did we have to transfer to the school that was closer to us?
But then there was a shooting at Spring Woods. And that’s when I noticed how different the two schools were. Now Memorial High is the epitome of academic prominence in that area of Houston. 90% of students went on to college and often to the Ivys. Their students didn’t have near the same percentage go to college much less get in. The friends I knew that went there faced teenage pregnancy, gangs, and drugs I’m sure. But I was going to school in my pristine bubble. No one at Memorial High got pregnant, the biggest problems my friends had were getting bad grades. Everyone got a car when they turned 16, most of them new. Majority of the student body was white. I was one of 6-10 Asian students in the whole school. When we had group projects I would go over to my classmates homes, which were typically gorgeous two story mansions. While my friends at Spring Woods had small one story homes like mine that were usually messy, old and sometimes even worse off. But what always confused me was why we weren’t zoned to Memorial when we were physically closer to this school. And then I realized – oppression. Keeping the poor poor.
I wouldn’t say my family was poor. But we definitely weren’t in the same economic status that Memorial kids were. I always felt out of place because I didn’t have rich kid problems. I couldn’t relate to their issues and they couldn’t relate to mine. But I did feel grateful that I was attending Memorial, because I didn’t want to face gangs and shootings. And so I was benefiting from white privilege, while my friends at Spring Woods would probably never go to college. It was a sad reality to live in. I didn’t know who to go to or how to deal with it. Once in college we got to talk to a local councilman and I asked about school zoning and why there was such a huge difference between schools in the same district. I don’t remember getting a good answer and I didn’t know what else to do. So it’s just always been in the back of my mind. Do I get down on myself for not doing anything? Sometimes, but I don’t see how I would have had time to get into politics. I had enough trouble maintaining my grades in school. But does this make me sad, yes. When America is supposed to be this equal opportunity place, and yet we have two schools in the same school district with completely opposite problems.
Maybe my ideals were too idealistic, and still are. I get depressed when I see inequality but actually, all life has ever taught me is that nothing is equal.
So fast forward to today, and more people are standing up. I’m seeing more and more new stories of inequality, racist brutality, and lots of anger. I want to do something. I’ve always wanted to do something, but its going to be on my own terms and in the way I want to do it. I don’t know what it is yet, but it will be true to me and what I want to contribute to the world.