My focus is on the right wing because there is no “free speech” movement being supported and pushed by the left wing. Many of today’s free speech advocates call themselves progressives, even though their talking points often align with the white-supremacist ideals pushed by many supporters of the GOP. The right-wing focus on the oppression of free speech is disingenuous at best and, at worst, insidious. This is an invented oppression. Many of these self-proclaimed free speech advocates are solely advocates for the right to say hateful things unfettered. Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist organizations and sympathizers already have the right to say hateful things, because hate speech, however you define it, is protected by the First Amendment. What today’s right-wing free speech advocates are truly advocating is for Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacist organizations and sympathizers to have additional, special rights the rest of us do not have: the right to say whatever they want without dissent, argument, pushback, or consequence.
Growing up in America as an Asian American is not a monolithic experience. In addition to the large number of cultures the term actually encompasses (see the graphic below), each individual person has their own lived experience. An Asian American from the east coast is going to have different experiences from one from the west coast. Growing up in the south is going to be extremely different from growing up in the north. Each region has a different set of tolerance towards Asian cultures and different communities. Depending on just the location, an individual can experience either extreme racism or none. With my example about yoga earlier, some people told me that they have had no issues practicing yoga while others claimed they will never visit a yoga studio again. There are also intricacies involved with colorism that I won’t mention, but are present and do play a role in shaping experiences. Consider that your home may play a role in your lived experiences and how much racism you have faced.
Feminism has more cultural power than ever before. We are hearing from men about how they want to do better, how they didn’t know the extent of the anguish women feel due to sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. But in this moment, reading Goldberg defend hiring a man who not only wrote that women who have abortions should be executed, but that his “very serious animus” towards these women made him think they should die painfully, I realized the truth: Too many men in power don’t care. To them, our lives and freedom are just abstract concepts — things to be debated rather than understood as a given.
In conversations like the one we had with my Dad, empathy matters — but it’s not about you. Instead of turning a conversation into an opportunity for you to prove you “get it,” use moments of empathy to listen. Then do something with what you learn.
My friend Ryan is a professional dogwalker. Dude loves dogs. Which I totally get because at our best, our goal should be to be the people our dogs think we are. Before Ryan could become a professional dogwalker he had to get a license. He had to pass a test. As someone who loves my dog more than I should, I’m glad he had to do that. It reassures me that my dog is in good hands. I know that if my dog does something stupid, which he does plenty, Ryan will know how to handle it.