I Lack the Courage
Several days ago my friend Mohammad encouraged me to weigh in on #thisis2016.
If you had not heard, a New York Times editor, Michael Luo was abruptly faced with a racist remark that was directed towards him and his family. He wrote an open letter which you can read here.
I only read the opening sections before I closed my tab and went on my day, choosing to not engage in this one. Or at least, not until Mohammad got a hold of me on Twitter.
I responded to him with a pretty vague line:
It certainly felt true at the time. I was tired. I had just vocally engaged and expressed my outrage over Jesse Water’s overtly racist “light piece” for Bill O’Reilly and I certainly was not ready go to war again.
The New York Times kept covering the situation and picked up Asian American voices who responded on Twitter and compiled a video of their experiences of racism in America.
I still have not watched it.
I’ve told myself countless times that I’m tired and I don’t have the energy, but when I finally had the time and space to really sort out what was going on inside my heart, the truth is, I don’t have the courage to.
I suspect that Mohammad reached out to me because, despite our differing religious points of view, he experiences me as someone who cares for people’s sufferings and pains. I have been vocal about letting Syrian refugees into the country, treatment of Muslims in America, LGBT rights and I’ve declared myself to be a feminist, so it’s no wonder people were waiting for me to speak out here.
But, sadly, I can’t. I don’t have the courage.
I couldn’t finish the open letter because it hurt and I don’t have the strength, at least for right now, to press into my pain. The story that Michael Luo shared wasn’t just his story, it’s also my story, my parents’ story and God forbid, it may be my daughters’ stories too.
I followed the #thisis2016 hashtag for a little bit and nothing anyone shared was new to me. Either I experienced it or I know someone close to me who as. The pain just hurts too much.
Even as I’m writing this, I know that deep down, I should watch the video and I should finish reading the open letter. But if I have to be completely honest, I’m not brave enough to face the pains of my past and I’m certainly not ready to face down this problem.
With Jesse Watters, there was a face, a singular entity that I could pin point the problem. (Well, there was him, Bill O’Reilly, the producers, the editors, the directors and Fox News, but you get my point.) Watters, for both right and wrong reasons, was where I could direct my outrage. But how do you address outrage and engage when the issue of racism is culturally pervasive and also systemic? There’s no face to that. There’s no one man or solitary entity to point the finger.
The depressing thing is knowing that #thisis2016, will soon just become #thisis2017 and then #thisis2018 and so forth. This will not be the last incident of racism towards the Asian American community. I know I’ll have more opportunities to engage in the future, and hopefully by then I’ll have found my courage.