Why I'm Reclaiming My Asian Racial Identity in Trump's America


In the past week, people who identify as Women, Muslims, Disabled, LGBTQ+, Immigrants, Black, Asian, Latinx, and anyone else in between have faced a startling rise in hate threats, visual statements, and actual assault. Insanul Ahmed, a Brooklyn-based music editor, collected an ongoing Twitter list of racist accounts towards people of color in the first day following the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center launched a #ReportHate portal for citizens and witnesses to submit incidences of hateful harassment and intimidation. As of November 11, over 200 incidences were directly reported. That number is bound to rise. Not that these threats didn’t exist before, but the reactionary nature and hyper-visibility of these recent incidents are directly tied to the election of Trump.

 

Image source: http://nextshark.com/asian-americans-now-targeted-harassment-donald-trumps-victory/

I feel generally secure living in Massachusetts, the only state other than Hawaii in which every county voted Democrat. It’s a predominantly white, liberal, and progressive community. Yet as an Asian woman, I have remain on guard. As a transracial adoptee, I didn’t always consider race at the forefront of my identity.

My premise for writing this blog series, Adopted Identities, was that transracial adoptees--generally children of color raised in white families--are caught in between races, and thus, caught in between worlds. Being raised in a predominantly white family and community. Being socialized with the norms of white privilege. You know how to operate in a white world… but you’re still not white. Your non-white physical features will never allow you to be white. You don’t relate socially and culturally with the race society defines you as. You don’t even feel comfortable taking the role of “token [race] friend” because you feel similar to the white people around you, but you have to accept it.

As a transracial Asian adoptee, I don’t fear and experience the constant threat of prejudice and discrimination because I live in the halo of whiteness. From how I was raised, to where I went to school, to my current location--generally speaking, 90% of my interactions are with white people. It is a level of comfort I was socialized into. I was the only Asian person, the only Chinese, I knew in rural, western New York. I didn’t know what being “fresh off the boat” was, or harbor any intergenerational guilt to follow a cultural set of values and language, as many first- and second-generation children of Asian immigrants experience.

For many years, I accepted this racial blindness just like the rest of my social circle. I was just another white friend who looked Chinese. I was unwilling to check the “Asian/Asian Americans” demographics box. Being hesitatant to engage with Asian activists because I don’t feel “Asian enough.” I was called a “chink” once to my face in high school. Racist encounters, to my relief, seemed rare and localized. Until now. In the United States, you cannot be blind to your race. In Trump’s America, your safety and security may depend on it.

You don’t see me the way I see me, and this makes me a target. If you just saw me on the street, you would likely assume I’m “another” Chinese person. Maybe I work at one of the local Asian restaurants. Maybe I’m an exchange student learning about American culture. Maybe I know that Vietnamese woman you talk to once at a bar because, oh, that’s in Asia right (this has happened to me)? And maybe, you hate me because I’m stealing your jobs and your livelihood.

In Trump’s America, I can no longer be racially colorblind--nor allow others to regard me that way. I’m claiming my Asian identity. With this, I will use my in-between privilege of identity to influence white communities. People that know me may hardly consider that I’m Asian due to that white halo, and I will use that avenue to start conversations. I will not claim experiences that aren’t mine, but I will amplify those that may not reach white eyes and ears otherwise. We need to protect and denounce hate towards the most vulnerable now, more than ever.

My ask to you: please do not tell me what to feel about Trump’s America. Do not tell me, or anyone whose identity intersects with one of the above, that it’s going to be okay. Do not tell me Trump’s hate speech was “just talk” for the election. Tuesday, November 8 the United States of America chose its leader of whiteness, sexism, misogyny, racism, ableism, and bigotry: Donald Trump. Do not shrug this statement off as hyperbole.  He has stoked the 240 year-old flame of institutional oppression. He has encouraged and emboldened intimidation and violence towards people who may not be able to protect themselves.

In Trump’s America, this may be the greatest threat that I and other adoptees face: you don’t see me the way I see me. But I will use this as a strength. When I talk about fear, it’s real. My halo of whiteness won’t protect me from those who don’t know me. I need your support, as do millions of others. So my most important ask to you is: please listen, and don’t dismiss me as just another white friend.

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