An Asian-American’s perspective on the United Airlines incident

Why is it that an Asian guy gets dragged out of a plane?

Why not anyone from a different race?

Is it outright racism? I don’t know. But, from my experience, I do think that people consider Asians as weak and lesser than the other races. And, the decision for United Airlines to select a Chinese guy only reinforces that idea.

Sure, other races see us as smart, good at math, professional. But, they also think us passive, easy to intimidate, and not as leadership material. This NPR piece highlights that Asians make up over a quarter of the professional workforce, but a fraction of them are in leadership positions. Race certainly plays a role.

Asians face racism. That is a fact. But the problem is that whites, African-Americans, and other ethnicities consider it a lesser racism. It’s not spoken outright, but as an Asian-American that’s what I experience. Here are a few examples.

I’ve sat through church Bible studies where a group full of whites told me that they didn’t think diversity was a good thing. It was said, “Why doesn’t each race just worship with their respective groups? Why do we need to be diverse?”

I’m thinking, “Hello! I’m in the room with you, and I’m not white.” These people weren’t just regular congregants. We had an elder from our church in the group with us. Yes, he was an older white male, and he didn’t say anything contrary to the group.

There was another time when I was on a radio show, promoting a video we did on racism, when the host said to me “If you’re not black, you’re white.” I was stunned at the statement. Here we were on the radio, and he is openly telling an Asian guy that there’s no difference between you and me.

I was thinking what about all of those times I heard people call me a chink, slant-eye, or gook? But, I told him there have been times that people told me to go back to my country. He said that he’s heard the same thing. But, I doubt it.

Here’s a link to the a video of the recording. If all Asians are white, then we are white without the white privilege.

Then, there was a different meeting at a different church, where I was supposed to help interview an African-American pastor for a position in this congregation. During our time, he said “China-man” several times. To be fair, he said it in the context of how he grew up with people who would use that term, stating that it was just a part of his culture.

But, I was baffled at his inability to realize that saying a racial slur in the presence of a Chinese person might come off as offensive.

In that meeting, I was the only Asian-American and the rest Caucasian and African-American, somehow a racial slur used against Chinese people didn’t seem to affect anyone else except me. And, noone mentioned how it could have been offensive.

I find that it’s not just that people see racism against Asians as a lesser issue, they see us as a lesser race. One that it’s ok to turn down for leadership roles in business. One that it’s ok to drag out of planes that they purchased a ticket for. One that it’s ok to use racial slurs around.

“Why bother, they’re only Asian, right? What are they going to do about it?”

Being judged and treated poorly because you look different, speak with an accent, eat different food is terrible and wrong. At the heart of racism is condescension. It’s the posture of looking down on a whole people group. It ranges from making jokes to genocide.

The other way of looking at it is that a person from a different group thinks they are better than another ethnic group. They express it through words and possibly actions. That is racism.

That leads us to a deeper issue of racism. It’s a characteristic deeply woven into the fabric of our being. What is it? Pride. It makes us want to feel better than other people. It extends to nations, ethnicities and race.

But, the fact of the matter is that we are all humans. That is our race. I don’t mean to get all kumbaya on everyone, but it’s a fact. We are all made of the same flesh and bones no matter what color our skin is.

Racism is racism. It doesn’t matter which people group you denigrate. We are all humans and deserve the same rights, privileges, and respect.

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