- Season 1, Episode 8: Never Feeling at home with race
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Susan: And he is very happy about the model minority myth, you know, like he he’s, he, he feels comfortable in that because he knows where his places.
Susan: So in today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about something that is very timely at the moment and a very uncomfortable topic, which is racism. There have been on a number of anti-Asian hate crimes that have occurred in the past year, especially during the pandemic. And I think it’s just time that we should have a really honest conversation about it.
Susan: So to start us off, Jeanette, you were talking about growing up in LA during the Rodney King riots and the tension between black folks and Koreans. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Jeanette: Sure. I didn’t know we’re going to start there, but yeah, we can, we can start there. Yeah, I, I think our intention was to talk about episode, like our own experiences with racism, [00:01:00] how that differs from our parents’ perspective and what we hope for our kids.
Jeanette: Right. And so, in terms of my own experience, like thinking about race and racism as an Asian American, one of the big experiences was being a young girl in LA in the early 1990s, when the Rodney King riots exploded in Los Angeles. And I think it had only been a few years since my family had moved to LA.
Jeanette: And I just remember being holed up in our apartment and watching the news and not being allowed to go out because. You know, there were there are writers everywhere. My family at that time did not own any small businesses, but we had many family, friends who did. And I was hearing a lot of stories about people, you know, getting guns or being Watchmen on top of their liquor stores or convenience stores or dry cleaners.
Jeanette: I think [00:02:00] I was too young to really understand at the time what was going on, but it was scary. Right. And then , I look at my family then and kind of like, Oh yeah, okay. So you’re just this family from Korea who moved to the us, maybe a two or two to four years before.
Jeanette: And you know, this thing happens, this place that you’ve moved into where. There’s so much violence and so much anger and so many guns. I had never have talked to my parents directly about it, but, you know, I wonder if they thought if they had made a mistake really in moving to the U S to and I think coming from a very homogeneous country maybe it wasn’t really expected that they would have to deal with this type of dynamic.
Jeanette: And then many years later when I was in my early thirties, I watched the documentary OJ. I don’t know if you guys have watched it, but it was really eyeopening for me. Even into my thirties, I didn’t really understand all the dynamics of what [00:03:00] had happened around that time.
Jeanette: So I think that, that, that was like one big event. And growing up as a Korean-American in LA you know, you and having heavy witnessed, something like that happen you also are exposed to a lot of racism in your community, right?
Jeanette: Like I think the, this is Susan, as you alluded to, this is a hard topic to talk about. Right. But there is like, like as in any community there’s racism in the Korean-American community, right. Especially, I would say towards men towards many other cultures, but I would say the, the, the disproportionate amount of falls on black and Brown people.
Jeanette: Right. And I think we’ll get into this more as we talk about like how our views might differ from our parents, but. You know, I think my parents my parents, but also like many of their peers came to the country. They kind of saw that black and Brown [00:04:00] people occupy a lower social economic status than us.
Jeanette: And I think partly because of that, they attributed a lot of like negative stereotypes, right. Without having really the historical context of slavery and you know, oppression and really like very horrific things that have happened to those communities over generations. Right. And I think a bit of the irony for me, like, as I got older, is that actually Korean American share some of the history of being on the victim side of that kind of oppression, right.
Jeanette: With Japanese colonialism and even like different military pressures from neighboring countries and America. I mean, the Koreans are not strangers to being oppressed. But I think without that historical context at least the first generation, it was, it was hard for them to really put what they were seeing into historical context, even though I think it had, they known they [00:05:00] are some of the people that would have most understood what was going on.
Jeanette: And been able to see the results of that generations of oppression into more of a context.
Susan: Yeah. Part of me was thinking, this is a Janette that gave Jake the book, the history of bombing for, you know, like that you’re so into history and, and thinking about these issues. So I’m wondering when you were there in LA, did those events continue to carry on in your life experience? Did it color anything as you were growing up as a young woman?
Susan: Like, do you, did you ever think about them as you walk around in this world and how you experienced the world?
Jeanette: Yes and no. Like I said, I was probably a little too young to really understand what was going on. I just knew that something scary was happening and it seemed like. There was a lot of conflict between African-Americans and Korean-Americans in LA at that time. [00:06:00] And then like in elementary school and middle school, there were not very many black students at my schools, but when I went to high school, there weren’t that many black students, but I also became friends with a lot of the black students at my high school.
Jeanette: I may have alluded to this before, but I went to a boarding school in new England on a full scholarship. And I think just. Because maybe I came from a poor family, you know, I gravitate to, to towards like the other scholarship students, many of whom were students of color eight, both Asian, but many black and Brown students as well.
Jeanette: And I think that’s where I first had like more real relationships and friendships with with African-American and Latina students. And yeah, I think that that wasn’t really important experience, right. Plus like the experience of just learning more about him and you’re just like, fuck, [00:07:00] like this, this stuff is insane.
Jeanette: Like what happened here? Right? And then I started connecting it to what I know about my own family’s history about the dysfunction and trauma that’s in my family history and how that’s affected me. And I guess the conclusion that I came to is wow. Like the trauma that I experienced not to compare traumas, but the, but kind of right.
Jeanette: The trauma that I experienced in my family is, is bad. And it really has had a resounding effect on my life and have I’ve had to work through it a lot. But, it kind of pales in comparison with what has happened to many of these other people groups. Right. And so, and if you think about it, like slavery is not that distant of a memory for many African-American families.
Jeanette: And so you’re just kind of like, duh, like no wonder so many people are struggling with different issues in their lives. Not only like a social economic aspect, but emotionally and, you know, [00:08:00] their feelings about where they stand in society. Right. I mean, I think that’s kind of where I felt like, okay, there’s a real gap.
Jeanette: I think in. At least my parent’s understanding of what’s going on. But I think even in the public conversation at the time, I felt like there was just a total gap in saying like, yeah, I mean, something terrible has happened here and it’s having repercussions still. Right. And there wasn’t enough of an appreciation for that.
Jeanette: I felt. And that’s kind of where I landed.
Susan: I remember when I was nine, my grandma on my mom’s side lived with us and someone rang the doorbell. And she looks through the curtains and it’s kind of obvious cause she has to pull the curtains around. So like the person obviously saw her opening the curtains and she was like, she looked over at me and she was like, that’s a black person.
Susan: Don’t open the door and she lets the curtains go and I’m sitting there going like so confused [00:09:00] because prior to that I had gone to an elementary school where I was a minority. It was mostly black students. And so I grew up, I had black friends. I didn’t, I didn’t understand what that was about. But in the early nineties we were watching cops all the times.
Susan: I don’t know if he watched that TV show and it was, it was vilifying black people. And, and I remember I was like, wow, my grandma and I are really different, but I continue to see that sentiment over and over again of my parents’ generation. And, and I wasn’t sure if I was missing something. Or where the truth and what they were saying is, you know, is it because we come from Vietnam, which is homogenous, or was there something?
Susan: And I was so naive that I didn’t understand. And I would say I’ve been still becoming more educated on racism in America. And recently I watched the PBS documentary series, Asian Americans. It was so informative. Right. Cause it’s like oppression, whoever is being oppressed. It’s [00:10:00] like the same chapter over and over again.
Susan: We just have different fashion, you know? And I’m just sitting there going like, wow, like for my grandma to say that thing, she had to have experienced her own thing. And then how did that continue to perpetuate to me on an implicit kind of bias way? Right. Of, of how I interact with people? I would say like, I don’t feel like I’ve ever really been like.
Susan: Yelled at, or felt physically threatened for being Asian-American. I will say that there’s always been like very awkward instances where Vietnam vets who are American will come up to me and just like, apologize really profusely and like really want to talk about your time in Vietnam. And then I’m like, I don’t think you should use me for that.
Susan: Or like, I don’t know. I, at the time, I didn’t really fully understand what happened in the Vietnam war when I was a kid. And so that’s when I became really aware of my race and that I was Vietnamese, but I, I would say I’m [00:11:00] one of, I dunno, I just, I don’t have these crazy stories that I’ve been reading on social media about what people have been experiencing their entire lives.
Susan: Like some minimal stuff, you know, like school kids stuff where they’re making fun of my flat nose. Or that I’m different looking. And, and I know that’s like, it’s T it’s terrifying as a kid, but I just don’t think I’ve ever felt like physically threatened for being Asian-American. How about you, Kate?
Susan: Like, what’s your experience with racism in America for you like walking around as a Chinese American woman? Well,
Kate: I kind of want to address what we talked about with our parents and racism. I thought a lot about it when I was younger, I took a much more black and white view. Like how could my parents,
Susan: be so
Kate: racist against anybody with darks. And, but then as I got older and I read more about, you know, the history of racism, exclusion, like Ronald Takaki’s a different mirror was really life changing for me. It’s I think it’s very similar though. You probably portrays a lot of the things that are in the PBS series, which I haven’t watched yet.
Kate: [00:12:00] But it just made me realize, you know, the reason, I think a reason why our parents and the elders, Asian elders who come to the us are so biased against blacks and like Hispanics or Mexicans as they refer to my Chinese family, friends always referred to like any kind of Latino, Hispanic person as Mexican.
Kate: I think it’s because of, they bought into the white narrative. Right? Think about it. Who’s been constructing the narrative, like you’re saying the pops show who probably wrote that show white people like who’s constructing the social narrative around black people are bad. They steal things, right?
Kate: Like, you know, the stereotypes that our Asian elders have, right. Like I think about, you know, what my family in China told me about black people when I was much younger and it was just like, Oh, they just, they have dark skin. Oh, so bad. Kate you’re just like a black person. Right. But they didn’t mean it with any kind of like loaded social commentary.
Kate: It was just like black is bad because in China while your skin is prized, it was very simple. But then when it became, you know, in the U S our family friends would kind of make that assumption into Oh, black people or like [00:13:00] Mexicans are XYZ and extend that to behaviors. I realized as I got older, it’s definitely, they bought into the narrative.
Kate: Right. And a lot of us in our generation, we also buy into that in various ways. I don’t want
Kate: our elders. You know of anything, but I think just asking for us to understand that, and they came over, you know, at a different time in their lives, they suffered a lot respectively where they were. And so, you know, there’s also a certain self-justification too, right?
Kate: Like my parents, like they came here with almost nothing. And then, you know, because they were educated, they like, you know, became more successful. And so they feel like, well, if we can do that, why can’t walk people, but obviously it’s not that simple. Right. But, but in there, you know, in many people’s heads, that’s how they’re, that’s how they’re justifying things.
Kate: And then you add on the majority like white narrative and I’m actually not really surprised that that’s how they think about you know, people other than them and not, and not white people. Right. I mean, again, not to say they’re not guilty or not to say that it’s okay for them, but it’s just, I’ve now [00:14:00] come to a different understanding compared to when I was maybe in my twenties ,
Susan: Jeanette. Did you, did you talk to your mom about black lives matter?
Jeanette: Just on a very superficial way? I mean, I think that my mom, I’ve never sat down with my mom and said, Hey mom, you know, I feel like this black lives matter movement is, you know, like really like a reckoning of many centuries of racism in the United States.
Jeanette: And I really want you to understand that and the historical context for it. And I feel like you could sympathize because, you know, creating Koreans have also had a lot of oppression and trauma and how that’s like passed down through families. No, like we did not have that level of conversation. W
Susan: was it because your level of Korean it’s too direct of a conversation you knew she wasn’t going to be receptive.
Susan: Like [00:15:00] what, what, tell me.
Jeanette: that’s a good question. I think a part of it is we’re probably not actually good at having very deep conversation about sensitive topics, about some sensitive topics. I would say this is one of them. And then I think the other part is I feel like it’s always uncomfortable for me. And my mom to feel like I am trying to
Susan: teach her about
Jeanette: And maybe that’s part of like the immigrant dynamic. I don’t know if you guys feel like you encounter sometimes. Right. Which is that as a child of immigrant, an immigrant family, you’re often actually more knowledgeable about what’s like going on and the society that you’re operating in and your parents, and then you.
Jeanette: Put on top of that, like a very kind of rigid family hierarchy structure about who’s supposed to know
Susan: right. Then you’re being totally disrespectful. Right. If you were to yeah. Come [00:16:00] across
Jeanette: as like trying to quote unquote, teach my mom something. Right. And so I would say we’ve had very superficial conversations, but not really deep ones.
Jeanette: Right. So like, for example, when Trump kind of, this is a little tangential, but like when Trump started becoming super popular and ascendant, she was just like, Oh yeah, the white people are really mad. Right. And that was like pretty much the extent to which we had talked about the
Susan: whole Trump phenomenon.
Jeanette: That’s a very long answer to your question, which is no, not really.
Susan: It’s it’s so strange for me, because I feel like for me at Harvard, I was like social studies major. And like, it was all about justice and we’re, you know, and volunteered at PHA. And so I thought like, this is, yes, this is our time.
Susan: And I’m so excited and can talk to my father about it. And, and when I brought it up to him, I said, so, you know, what do you think about it? And he was like, Oh, you know, he had a counterfeit $20 bill. And I was like, [00:17:00] yeah, we’re talking about George Floyd. And I was like, okay. And he’s like, so he was a criminal.
Susan: And I was like, BA like for me, my level of Vietnamese is just, I’m going to give it second grader might not, might repeat second grade level, you know, like and, and I was just trying to explain to him like, Hey, that doesn’t even matter. Like, why, why? But I think. There’s such a wedge between the Asian and black communities for, for his generation.
Susan: And he is very happy about the model minority myth, you know, like he he’s, he, he feels comfortable in that because he knows where his places. And so it was just, I think it always an easier narrative for him to think that black people or someone, some, some group to be afraid of. You know, or somehow there, there was more of a justification to what is happening.
Susan: So we talked about it a little bit, [00:18:00] and then I remember with Seattle, with Capitol Hill you know, it was that, that free zone area where the police station was shut down. And my dad thought that was totally frightening and really scary. And he thought all hell broke loose in in Seattle. And he was afraid for me and I live in West Seattle.
Susan: It’s not very close to Capitol Hill. And I was trying to explain to him, like, I was like, Oh, I see what they’re doing. You know? And he just, he watches a lot of Fox news. And his era of generations, like very pro-Trump in the Vietnamese community. And he, and I just think the narrative that they have fed to them is like very extreme.
Susan: And so that’s kind of all I said, it was not a very easy conversation and we didn’t. Get that deep. And I, I just, I think I kind of got to a place of like, is it more effective for me to just fundraise and give, to causes that I believe in rather than like, try to convince my father over a certain point of view.
Susan: Like, [00:19:00] I, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be very helpful. But I I’ve never gone that deep on that level.
Jeanette: Wonder if it’s not strictly an Asian American thing. I mean, I just feel like for a lot of kid parent relationships, like in a lot of families, I think even a lot of white families, you don’t necessarily grow up talking about those issues, right.
Jeanette: They’re not directly impacting your relationships within your family. So I find it like sometimes like a little bit like a natural to bring it up, right. It’s not, it’s not in the normal discussion topic roster, right? Talking about social justice movement or. Institutional racism or, you know, all of those things, even though they totally shape, I think all of our lives and how we interact with other people, how we think about the world.
Kate: I do agree with Jeanette. That is not a topic I tend to address my parents just because I kind of know where they stand. And also there’s just the dynamic of, you know, you kind of [00:20:00] don’t really want to school your elders on certain things. Right. But I didn’t mention it to her more like asking her what she thought, like open-ended question.
Kate: And it was really interesting because at the time in her group of like Chinese friends, they were passing around a link to this. Have you guys heard of Candace Owens?
Jeanette: Yeah. Yeah. Why do I know that name? Yeah,
Kate: because she’s a conservative black conservative. Yes. Yeah,
Kate: Right, right. Yeah. She’s kind of infamous.
Kate: Right. And so she’s like that token black conservative person that ever be trots having like CE even black people think black people are out of line. Right. And so anyway, that was going around in all the Chinese, like circles and my mom’s friend circles. So she sent me the video and I watched it and I was like, I’ve had never heard of this person.
Kate: Let me go look her up and everything I found, it was like, Whoa, like giant red signs or which obviously my mom didn’t go Google her. Cause it’s not when my mom does race. Like just go Google stuff, if she has questions. Per se. And so I couldn’t explain to, I was like, Hey mom, like, because the whole premise of the video was like, basically George Floyd had it coming to him.
Kate: Cause he was like a drug addict and like did all [00:21:00] these other bad things in his life. Right. And so my mom’s Christian, so I kind of approached it to her from like the Christian perspective and like, mom, you know, even in the gospel, right? Like you, you don’t, we don’t have the right to judge whether somebody deserves to live or die based on what they did.
Kate: Right. Like, you know, Jesus hung out with, you know, people who were prostitutes and tax collectors, who had the lowest of the low at the time. I was like, this is no way to judge a person. You know, by, by basically you know, even if he did things that were wrong in the past, right. You can’t say, okay, so then he should die.
Kate: And actually I think it got through to her from that view, instead of trying to like, argue with her from you know, social, political or other like black lives matter view, because then I heard her on the phone a few days later talking to one of her Chinese friends. Well, you know, my daughter was saying this, so I think it’s just also, you know, I’ve learned.
Kate: To find better ways to approach things in a way that at least my mom would be willing to understand my dad is a little less, like he’s very stubborn. But yeah, I [00:22:00] mean, and just to give you an example, right. Of what’s passing around in the Chinese community, I don’t know about the via in like Korean communities.
Kate: Cause you don’t want to reach had there’s so many of these like crazy viral links and like lots of fake news, some of which are provided by the Chinese government. And it just kind of goes crazy and no one bothers to fact check. Right. And so it is kind of hard to have a discussion when the news that they’re consuming is like, just what?
Kate: Right. But there’s some hope I think, yeah, in the Vietnamese community, there’s a website called Vietnamese fact check and it was coming out They were developing it because of the presidential election, like so much around the beliefs around Trump versus Biden. And so they would take any myth and talk about the facts about each one.
Susan: I think the thing is, is who’s actually consuming these articles. You know, it’s not people like super earnest about thinking, am I believing a whole bunch of fake news? You know, it’s it’s so it’s yeah. I [00:23:00] think part of it is trying to like gently direct our parents to other resources, but at the same time, for me personally, I’m just kind of like, okay, do I just want to preserve the relationship that we sort of have now instead of like, I’m going to be the one to let you know this information, you know, I just, for me that the cost benefit is like, no, don’t don’t participate.
Kate: Yeah. I totally agree with you, Susan. I think in my twenties, I would have been, like, I remember one time I had a huge blowout with my dad after oyster. We went to an oyster shucking festival and it was ridiculous. Right. Cause it was like, who could Chuck the oysters, the fastest. And of course, like most people participating were they were either Latino or Hispanic.
Kate: I couldn’t tell. Right. But you know and then I dunno somehow, like the whole conversation afterwards was like devolve down, just like racial thing. And my dad was like, Oh, people need to like East, cause he didn’t work hard enough, all this stuff. And I was like, well, if you had a drug, like, you know a drug addict, mom and your grandma was a drug addict and all these things.
Kate: And he’s like, well, they weren’t anyway. It just always like a shouting match on the parking in the parking lot. And I [00:24:00] was like, that was my twenties. And now I’m just like, you know, like you said, Susan, like. You know, I want to have a good relationship with my parents also for the sake of my daughter. And I also understand now that it’s not that they don’t want to absorb certain information or other opinions, it’s how it’s presented.
Kate: Right. And I think, especially, again, goes back to what Jeanette said earlier about the L you know, like the dynamic of your elders right. Where it’s just awkward, depending on like school them on some things. So, yeah, I dunno. It’s hard. Cause I remember remember at the time, like last year there was a website where there was offering in different languages, how to speak to your family members in their language about black lives matter.
Kate: Right. So I read through it, I read the Chinese version. I was like, okay. I mean, I think it’s great that they went into like links to do this. And it’s like, I don’t think I can have the conversation as Britain with my parents. At least. I don’t know if you, if you, if you ever. Saw that resource, or if you tried to, I
Susan: saw it, the, some of the Vietnamese kind [00:25:00] of complex for me, but I was just so exhausted the entire, just everything that was happening.
Susan: Just, I didn’t have any energy to say, like, I want to explain this to my dad, you know, I just was too depleted,
Susan: Okay, so we’re talking about race and all of us didn’t marry into our own ethnicities. And so did you have a conversation about race with your parents when you started dating outside of your ethnicity or about when you were specifically getting married to your partner?
Susan: That loaded, huh? Like how
Jeanette: much should I share?
Kate: I’m thinking, how much should I share? Is my mom
Susan: going to disown me afterwards? We don’t have to talk about it, but I just think that that’s, that’s like a real way to, we, you know, when we are, when we were essentially othering our, when we talking about black lives matter too, our parents were othering black people.
Susan: Right? [00:26:00] We say, we look at these black people and their experiences what’s justified. What’s not, should all lives matter. You know? And it’s like, it’s, it’s so loaded. But like when it’s about our own marriage and our own kids, it’s like, was there, is there still tension around that? Is, was there a flip when your kids came out and they’re like, Oh, we’re all family, you know, or does, is there still a separation of some sort.
Kate: I can offer some anecdotes, Paul Jeanette muses, over what to review over the interwebs. You know, definitely braces there, right. Because like my husband’s Indian American and what was really interesting. So I was living in Beijing at the time.
Kate: And well, first of all, my, my, my dad is interesting. So my dad was like, his first question is we’re like, okay, what does he do? What do his parents do? You know, the typical, like Asian parent questions, like, is this like a reputable person? You know, so then he like, wasn’t bothered by the whole, you know, my husband’s Indian or whatever.
Kate: My mom though, you know, was [00:27:00] bothered by the combination. I think it was like the ethnicity also, like religion, because my in-laws are Jane. It was all like wrapped up together. Right. And she’s definitely since come around and kudos to my mom. What was interesting is the reaction I got from family and then all the taxi drivers in Beijing when they asked them, cause they always ask you, Oh, are you married?
Kate: Like, do you have a boyfriend? And then if I said, Oh my boyfriend’s like Indian-American or whatever. Literally the first question would be, Oh, so what does he look like? What it really meant was what color is he? So instead of replying, I just showed them a photo and then here are the responses. Oh, wow. Oh wow.
Kate: He said, it’s such a nice note. It’s like basically all this stuff. Right. So it’s definitely interesting.
Susan: Cause that
Kate: was sort of what shaped our early, like what people were saying around in early on in the relationship. And so definitely race has always been present, but also present in that, you know, it, hasn’t shared with me a lot of his experiences as a Brown person, not like Indian because he’s like, he looks kind of ambiguous.
Kate: He’s been mistaken for Arabic and like Turkish and various other you know, [00:28:00] nationalities and ethnicities. And he’s definitely encountered as a Brown man, a lot more racism and including aggressed like aggression, you know, the kind of aggression that Susan mentioned that she’d never necessarily felt physical aggression.
Kate: And so I think it was just always there hovering in the background in our relationship. And I became very aware that I actually did the privileged one. In, in our relationship in terms of my experience of race.
Jeanette: Yeah. I think for me, you know, having married a white person, frankly, like it’s different, right? Because had I told my parents I was seriously dating and intending to marry somebody who was black or Brown. I could very well see my parents’ reaction being different. My parents were never, you know, against me being with Jake.
Jeanette: And you know, they made some, like, I don’t know, I don’t know how to feel about these comments or how it will be perceived, but they were just like, Oh yeah. Like we thought that, you know, you might not end up with a Korean guy [00:29:00] because you are too outspoken and headstrong. And I’m like, okay, well, we can unpack that for days.
Jeanette: I think all of us know Asian American women who have married darker skin people, right. Or like African-American folks or , people who are Latino or Hispanic. And I think in a lot of those cases, the reaction from the families is very different and it’s like, it’s kind of a harder journey towards getting acceptance.
Susan: I think I have the, the easiest story, which is like, I married Korean. So for Vietnamese people, they see that as marrying up, which I will write a chapter about in my book. But I think it goes back into socioeconomic. Issues that have happened for, you know, certain countries to be having more resources and have war behind them, you know a longer period of time.
Susan: So, yeah. So I’m curious. How often are you, like [00:30:00] aware of your Asian woman is as you walk in this world, like, do you ever feel like actively oppressed or do you like maybe at the workplace or just your daily lives or do you ever not really think that you look different? Cause you just see out of your eyes, see out of your own eyes?
Kate: Longest time. I didn’t think I was like oppressed or whatever, but you know, what’s interesting is that I’ve been revisiting a lot of incidents from my youth in college days, like early professional days. And I was like, sure, I may not have been overtly oppressed. But I turned a blind eye to really uncomfortable situations and, and myself to be in situations where people use, leverage their whiteness over me, which is very different from like, Oh, somebody threw like a rock at me or like called me like a chink.
Kate: Right. I mean, I’m not saying one’s better than the other. It’s very different. And I realized, I kind of like bought myself into the system. Right. Because most of [00:31:00] my, you know, a lot of my bosses in the U S have been white men. Like I worked with older white people who have made comments to me that were very like, seemingly like parental, but really, you know, condescending.
Kate: And also I’m using my position as a younger and short, petite Asian-American woman. I’ve been rethinking that I’m like, wow, did I just. Try not to think about it at the
Susan: time. You know, sometimes
Kate: I’m wondering am I overblowing it now in my mind because of you know, what’s been happening recently with Asian lives matter.
Kate: I don’t know. Maybe it’s a combination of both, but I definitely feel like while I don’t have this giant cloud hanging over my head and I feel targeted, but I do feel like my life is not been as maybe smooth. As I thought it was because, you know, you always create a narrative to justify, right.
Kate: And you don’t want to think about certain things because then it just takes up a lot of space. So I don’t know if any of you have tried like looked at retroactively some of the things in the past, that’s sort of a new lens and realize that, Oh, actually I did have [00:32:00] some of these experiences, but I just brushed it
Susan: off at the time.
Jeanette: think most of the time I feel like my Mo more salient characteristic. Or like what people, you know, if I’m experiencing discrimination or different treatment, it’s like more because I’m a woman. I feel it then by race, it’s like at least the one that I think about more and I’m more conscious about.
Jeanette: But there are, you know, those few instances where it’s like, yeah, this is about race. I remember one time in my mid twenties Jake and I were driving somewhere with another couple. They were, they’re also Korean. Girl Korean woman. And the guy is white and we’re driving together to church actually.
Jeanette: And we got stopped because there was a the street was blocked because our town, Cambridge, Massachusetts was having a road race. And I got out of the car. We were like five cars into this like block street. And I got [00:33:00] out and I walked to where the race was, you know, where the runners were. And I asked somebody there, Hey, like, do you know when this is going to be over?
Jeanette: Like, are we going to be allowed to go through? And just like, just with that question, this guy just started going off on me. He’s like, go back to your car, go back to your country. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And like, in hindsight, like this guy probably had some mental health issues and just happened to be standing there.
Jeanette: And I just somehow set him off by asking this question. And this was like way before COVID or is, and stuff like that and way before Trump. Right. So there was no kind of. Environmental triggers more than more than normal times. And this kind of broad went on for maybe like 15 minutes. And then there was like a younger guy I’m standing beside him.
Jeanette: And I think I was in such shock. And by the end of it, when I realized I should probably just walk away, I told, I managed to eke out to the younger guys, standing there who was just observing. I was like, you should be [00:34:00] ashamed of yourself for not saying anything. And I think this guy new, this older gentleman who was Performing this verbal barrage on me.
Jeanette: And and then I walked back to the car and I got in and I just started sobbing. Like I just couldn’t stop crying for like 20 minutes. And you know, I didn’t feel like this guy was necessarily going to attack me, but I think I just felt it was one of those times when it just became, becomes really salient.
Jeanette: Like like kind of like this question of like, where is home, right. Whereas home for me. I think even though
Susan: it was,
Jeanette: it should have been clear that this person had some mental health issue. Just the whole experience like left. We really
Susan: shaken. And I think feeling
Jeanette: you know even though I’ve built my life here, my whole life is here.
Jeanette: My whole identity is here. It’s like, I still don’t feel accepted and this is not my home. And I think that’s another way. I think the experience is different between [00:35:00] like my parents’ generation and our generation, which is, it somehow feels like our parents’ generation just doesn’t have as much of an expectation of being accepted in the U S whereas I think our generation, like we grew up here, we identify as Americans, we have children here, you know, so it just hurts in a different way.
Jeanette: Right. When it feels like we are otherized and we’re not accepted in a way that I think our it’s either our parents can’t don’t understand, or almost sometimes it feels like they don’t even want to understand because they brought us here. Right. And they it’s like almost too painful for them to acknowledge that they’ve brought us to this place where maybe in some ways, like we were not accepted as being home here.
Kate: No, it was rebelled against this idea of feeling at home in the U S now that you mentioned it, Jeanette, like as a child and up through college, I never really felt American. Like, you know, people would try to force that on [00:36:00] me. And I felt always more comfortable as an ex-pat living abroad. I still do, actually.
Kate: I lived abroad in France and I’ve lived abroad in China. And just coming back to the U S it feels foreign to me. It still does, actually, even though I’ve been living here now since 2016 and I wonder now how much of that is really what I was made to feel, you know, growing up a lot of it is this environment where I, at first I thought it was me, like, you know, for longest time, I was like, Oh, it’s.
Kate: Cause I don’t feel super American. I feel more like Chinese origin that I grew up in
Jeanette: America. But yeah, I don’t know how much
Kate: of it is that. You know, unconsciously, I just kind of now it was like rejected this idea of feeling American, because I just have been made to feel very much like, in other words, almost abroad, I kind of escape the sort of labels and the categorizations that are kind of I’m put into in the United States as an Asian-American woman.
Kate: Right. I don’t know. It’s like an open question for me, but I wonder yeah,
Jeanette: or maybe it’s [00:37:00] also because, sorry, this is kind of maybe over analyzing this. Right. But it’s like, when you are abroad, you don’t have the expectation of being at home. Right. And so it hurts less when you’re treated as other, because you also have the expectation that you were other, but when you’re home and then the people at home treat you like other that cuts in a whole different way.
Jeanette: Yeah, that’s
Kate: probably part of it too, right. Or I think for the longest time in my twenties, I just didn’t live in most of the time in the U S and I it felt like, you know, I was elsewhere, but again, you know, I had different expectations, like, Oh, I’m in another place. Like I have different feelings. If people treat me a certain way, I’m not going to be offended.
Kate: And yeah, but maybe you’re right. Coming back here. I do have different expectations. I do have different standards right. Of being in the U S and as an American. And I guess they’re not really being
Susan: fulfilled. Totally. I mean, it’s like when we were in grade school, we all know Martin Luther King’s. I have a dream speech.
Susan: We all [00:38:00] celebrate his holiday. We, we all pay taxes. We all are participating in the social fabric and we expect us to be equal because we treat everyone else equally. But. They don’t treat us equally. I remember with the rise of all these anti-Asian hate crimes, someone had posted a quote about, I think his name was, was it Justin, but it was saying like being Asian-American in America is like being concerned about everybody else and realizing that no, one’s concerned about you, you know, it’s like that we are putting forth so much effort to care and be concerned.
Susan: I’m talking about our generation, not necessarily our parents. And like, who’s even thinking about us,
Kate: you know,
Kate: I wonder if it’s, again, you know, this model minority myth, rail, the Asians will be fine because they were like smart and they’re high achieving. And you know, like then like nobody is like, Oh, let’s not worry about [00:39:00] them. Right. And so, meanwhile though, It seems to really not be the case. It’s more the case of people’s suffering in silence or you know, and even with an Asian-American, right.
Kate: Like I think we haven’t touched this, like the giant elephant in the room for me, I realized after I started reading more about race and the history of Asian Americans and even in the current composition of Asian Americans, the U S I mean, Asian American is like very broad. Right. And what’s really interesting is when, when I met my husband, who’s Indian American, and he’s like, I don’t consider myself to be Asian-American.
Kate: And I was like, what?
Susan: Marvin doesn’t either. Yeah. So he was like,
Kate: yeah, I feel like Asian American refers to like you East Asian people. He’s like, I’m like, I guess I’m South Asian. And I was like, it’s South Asians, also Asian Americans, like, man, he’s like Asian American, like this political identity. And it’s like more with East Asians.
Kate: I was like, Oh. And I had already known before, too. Right. That like, you know, Asian Americans also encompass, I mean, They’re Hmong populations, right? Who are kind of like displaced, who come from Cambodia, et cetera. There are you know, [00:40:00] groups that who come to the U S as immigrants who are not as resourced as like a lot of Chinese Americans, or even within the Chinese American community.
Kate: I have a friend from Harvard who was amazing . Her dad came here and he like works in Chinatown. And he said, I think he did, he like organized and delivers produce. Right? So he had a very different experience in the United States, but my parents who came here as graduate students. So in a way it’s almost like when people lump Asian-Americans together as model minorities are now, I’m just going off on a tangent, but like it’s dehumanizing and just generalizing across groups that are so different socioeconomically and otherwise, or even how they want to self identify.
Kate: Right. I mean, it’s crazy. And we don’t really talk about that very much even unite under this like Asian-American flag, but sometimes, sometimes it strikes me as a little hollow. Right. I dunno, maybe controversial,
Susan: but. I mean, it needs to be said more like we’re just lumped into one category where, I mean, especially for the Southeast Asian community, the poverty rates and education completion [00:41:00] rates are really different across the different ethnic groups.
Susan: Like even though the Vietnamese American, the Vietnamese community has like really gravitated around nail salons and some will say, Oh, they’re achieving the American dream. It’s the, like the rate of gangs and going to prison is just, we don’t talk about that enough.
Susan: I mean, Kate, you were talking about just dehumanizing Asian people. And I think for me, I’ve been really emotionally exhausted from the Atlanta spa shootings because we didn’t really talk about the victims and their lives. We just really focused on the white shooter and that he was having a bad day.
Susan: And then a week later with the Colorado shootings, like almost immediately that day, I was reading profiles on the New York times of all the different victims and who they were in their communities and all that. And I’m sitting there going like, what, like, it was just too obvious for me that [00:42:00] just one week later you can just see a different response.
Susan: And I know, you know, we can talk about it until the cows come home about massage parlors and how that’s a different location than a grocery store and understand that. But that’s then a conversation about class and immigration status and all these other things. But it was just really disheartening to see that just within a week, you can just see that we talk about that our country wants to be better about race, and it was just too obvious of evidence that we’re still kind of in the same place.
Kate: For sure. I mean, I have a friend of mine who’s a journalist she’s Korean American. She wrote an article. I forget for which major publication, but about how the Korean news language coverage was totally different. It humanized right. The victims and wrote their names correctly, obviously.
Kate: And then she contrasted that with the American news characterization, even from like liberal media, like the New York times, which was, I think [00:43:00] coverage was terrible. I’m sorry, but like, it’s the truth. Right. And we’re even, you know, the crazy, the craziest thing to me, I don’t know if you guys saw this, but like on Instagram there’d be like, you know, people would be like, Oh yeah, we’re donating our
Susan: proceeds to
Kate: speak to whatever this like sex worker like nonprofit or something.
Kate: I’m like, excuse me, what is the assumption that they were sex workers? Right. Like, that was a crazy thing to me in that people were trying to show sympathy or empathy for the situation, but instead they. I immediately assumed that these massage parlors that like employees were sex workers, not that being a sex worker is anything bad by any means, but, you know, it’s just sort of that lumping together.
Kate: And then they’re like, well, we’re donating the money to it. That just really struck me as gross and like wrong.
Jeanette: Right. Yeah. I think I, my perspective is a little bit different. I mean, I think that it’s just been a problem overall, right? In these mass shootings where there’s such a fixation on the shooter.
Jeanette: Right. And not enough of a focus on the victims. I felt like, [00:44:00] I mean, I was reading the New York times Cape, I think for me, I, I did feel like there was an effort to be more conscious about making the news. About the victims. I know that there was like a period of time when they were not releasing the names of the Korean victims because their families tend to have been notified because it was taking a while because most of their family was in Korea.
Jeanette: I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t perfect. I felt like there was, I, what my perception was like, there was an effort, but, you know, but yeah, I guess what I’m saying is it feels like, we could have multiple perspectives.
Susan: Yeah. But I mean, yes. And the man who had gone to the massage parlor with his girlfriend for a date. He was handcuffed and detained for four hours. And he wasn’t informed that his wife had died. You know what I mean? Like I’m just saying like [00:45:00] how the police was operating that day was very stark in terms of revealing how our institutions are responding.
Susan: So in addition to media, so, okay. I understand like identifying their family in Korea and maybe either immigration status or if people are going to release, you know, that kind of information is very sensitive, fine, but it’s just, I felt overall just how the police was responding to was just like, it was just another blow.
Susan: You know, it was a day, I was not proud to be an American. It was a day I was tired. I’m really glad that race is at top of mind in America. And I F I feel like even quote unquote, woke Seattle that tries really hard to be very progressive. Like I felt like. A new awareness was happening. But at the same time, I was like, Oh my God, I felt like more noticed, you know, walking around, like usually I am, I’m always the only person in the grocery store or an event or whatever, where I’m like, [00:46:00] I’m very aware that I’m the only Asian person.
Susan: And so now I’m like very aware that I’m still the only Asian person, but like there’s still this limited form of connection. You know, like I think allyship with Asian Americans is, is still strange. Like I still feel like we’re noticed, but not noticed. Do you, do you know what I’m talking about?
Kate: Yeah, no, no, no.
Kate: I know what you mean. Like, you know, it’s funny because it reminds me of an incident that happened, not an incident, sorry. A conversation I had with my husband last week, where I was opining about how, where we used to live in Seattle was much more diverse, like beacon Hill, you know, super diverse. But then I would encounter all these like crazy microaggressions.
Kate: They’re just like the most insane microaggressions ever in my life. Right. But then we’ve moved to Mercer Island, which is people who don’t know is like, Super white. Although, did you know that it’s 20% not white, which I just found out today. Wow. Who knew anyway, but on the surface it looks like super white, you know, fairly affluent community.
Kate: And I haven’t felt any like no microaggressions. I feel like, like I don’t really stand out necessarily. [00:47:00] But then my husband’s like, Oh, it’s probably because like, you know, all the people here, they work at like Microsoft or Amazon or whatever. And they’re used to seeing Asian people in the workplace.
Kate: So, you know, I was like, Oh, okay. Like, I guess they’re used to seeing me, but then do they really. I dunno, I guess it’s just seeing a lot of Asian people around you. Like, you know, if you were like, at least nice to them, but like, what about, what are you actually thinking? And also where are the 20% of not white people on this Island?
Kate: Are they like hiding in their houses or what? Because
Susan: clearly I don’t really see them going out
Kate: and being out. So I’m not like super, super aware of being Asian necessarily, but it’s like, I’m starting to think about it being here after almost a year. And like, I dunno, it’s yeah. Sorry. That was very rambling, but it’s just a very, it’s a little bit of a strange dynamic where I feel safer here, but then at the same time, it’s like much wider.
Kate: So should I think more about being Asian? Is it more obvious that I’m Asian? I don’t know. Yeah.
Susan: That, and I think, I feel like I bring this up in every [00:48:00] episode is just like still recognizing our privilege.
Jeanette: Oh, yeah, totally. I think that, that’s a really important thing that I, at least I want to include. Right. Which is that I mean, I it’s complicated, right. Because that’s part of the model minority myth.
Jeanette: Right. Which is that, Oh yeah. Like Asian-Americans are fine. Maybe they don’t experience as much discrimination as some other minority groups. I don’t know. It, the complicated thing is I feel like in the public sphere is like, you can only have very simplistic conversations. Right. So if you say that, Oh, you know, actually Asian Americans, we do have maybe some privileges that are not afforded to black Americans or Brown Americans, but, you know, then you feel hesitant about saying that because apparently people can hold only one idea in their head, but, but I think it’s true.
Jeanette: I do think that Asian Americans we do have some [00:49:00] privileges that some other the groups don’t right. So for example, like one time I was running this business and we had just started. And so you know, I want it to develop more awareness. So I had a free afternoon, so I decided to grab like a bunch of postcards and I walked around an affluent neighborhood in Boston and I just like dropped them off on porches and like stuck them on cars.
Jeanette: This was several years ago. Right. But like my, my feeling after, even while doing that, I’m like, Oh, well, if I was like black, I would, I could not be doing this. Right. Like somebody would stop me or it would be like highly uncomfortable at best. And so there are like, things like that, right. Where I th that’s a very small example, but I think that there are ways in which, you know, we, we do experience privilege for sure.
Kate: Or that the, you know, bias comes in different ways. Like the librarian on this Island told me today that in the past few years, two black [00:50:00] families have left the Island town Island, whatever. Not because anybody like aggressed them or was overtly discriminatory. Right. But because the whiteness was basically was two, one, and she’s white.
Kate: Right. She was just saying, it was, they felt like implicitly excluded. No one was mean to them. Right. No one was catcalling them, but there were just so few people of color, especially. So few blacks on the Island, they just kind of left. Right. And so I think this happens, or she was saying crazy, crazy statistic.
Kate: She was saying the, in the elementary schools here they’re over 40% who are not white. Of the students. Right. But, but that time you get to the high school, they’re only 20%, maybe less than 20% who are not white. So what happened to those, like not white kids, right. And some of it is because of, you know, the age at which people move to the Island and whatnot.
Kate: But she was like saying, it’s definitely somewhat of it. Some of it is people moving away because for whatever reason, they don’t feel comfortable. Even though the schools on the Island are like the best in the state. Right. So can you imagine, what is it about this like even implicit [00:51:00] privilege that we as Asians have that maybe other like non-Asian minorities don’t have, and that’s sort of informing how they feel every day living where they live.
Kate: Right. And this is like a privileged town that I live in. So there’s just a lot that we, we, you know, we’re very lucky to have that we don’t necessarily experience.
Susan: Yeah. I mean, I. I wonder what it’s like to be white. You know, I wonder what it’s like to always be the dominant majority in these situations.
Susan: Marvin was born in the us and then spent some time growing up in Hong Kong. So he has this experience where everyone around him appears Asian. And so he doesn’t have any of these Asian American complexes that I talked to him about. He’s like, he doesn’t understand what that’s like. And so with raising art, I’m thinking like, Oh, like, do I want art to be in a dominant POC [00:52:00] environment for elementary school?
Susan: You know, like, will that actually help develop his psyche in terms of feeling like a sense of belonging and a sense of like equal stature with others? You know, like there’s this bilingual immersion Vietnamese school that is a 15 minute drive from my house, or I can walk one block away to the elementary school.
Susan: Like, which 1:00 AM I going to do? Right. Because I think all of this happens. So young of wondering what is my position in society? What is my worth and what characters do I get to play? What kind of roles can, can I be the leader? Can I not be the leader? And, and I think now as parents, it’s like, I’m starting to realize how important these questions are and it’s scary.
Kate: Yeah, no, absolutely. I completely agree with you, Susan. I think it’s like a nice note for us to kind of like start wrapping up on is how does this, you know, impact what we see, but we want to do for our kids. And I think about that all the time. Like I think about, you know, I’m enrolling my daughter into a bilingual [00:53:00] Chinese English daycare in the fall.
Kate: And actually it’s a daycare that has mostly like Asian kids. Right. And then I actually,
Kate: we’re thinking about going to Singapore because there are you know, there are a lot of people who look like her half Indian, half Chinese, although there’s still a lot of racism and classism in Singapore, but still that should be in a place where she looks normal.
Kate: She’s not out of the, you know, in her identity is not like is, is, is the norm
Susan: right? When you, when you said the word normal, it just like put a knife through my heart. You know where it’s like, Oh, there’s normal and not normal. And that’s how kids think Jeanette, you have physically yeah. Biracial kids, right.
Susan: They look mixed. How, how are you thinking about race in the experience that they’ll be going through? Or how does that influence your parenting and your choices?
Jeanette: [00:54:00] I think Jake and I try to ascribe to a more kind of let things roll type of parenting. We both went to public school for most of our lives. Like I don’t think our parents were particularly like, extremely thoughtful about what kind of environments we were in, but I think we both feel like we got the different things out of a environment where our parents just let us loose and we encountered whatever we encountered in the environment and we dealt with it.
Jeanette: And I think that’s kind of what some that figures into our aspired, like style of parenting I think that there are certain things that I am like thinking more about them. Just like even the way we talk about how they look like. Sometimes it’s very natural for, especially my parents, my mom, to be like, Oh, you know, he looks like his, his nose is becoming more like a white person.
Jeanette: Right. Or like my husband’s parents don’t really make comments like that because I think they’re more [00:55:00] aware of how that sounds. But, you know, I think I’m more, I’m more concerned about them, like at home, how they feel right. That they belong at home in this kind of mixed race family that not one part of their family has always tell talking about how they look or don’t look like, or they fit in or don’t fit in with this part of the family.
Jeanette: Right. And I think I worry because you know, I look, I am fully Korean. Jake is a hundred percent white. And so even though I experienced some otherness in the U S my kids are going to experience it in a completely different way. Right. Where they don’t really look like one group or another. And I’m, I feel like, especially when they’re young, I want them to feel like they belong and that, that belonging is not questioned.
Jeanette: And so that’s something I’m more sensitive to than their school environment. I feel, [00:56:00] I don’t know. I guess I, I hope that if they feel rooted and belong, like, and have a strong sense of belonging at home, that that will equip them more to deal with whatever’s out there.
Susan: Yeah. I think that was just really beautiful, that word of belonging.
Susan: If we could extend that word to our parents and perhaps some of their beliefs is in defense of their own belongingness, you know, and. And what we experienced in the workplace or on our day-to-day lives is just like everyone wants to belong. It’s just how we get there is very complicated by how we were raised and in the cards that we were dealt.