Asian in America

What a week to choose to run for office.

We mourn the deaths of six Asian women in Georgia, murdered by a misogynist racist. We reflect on the countless* assaults on our elders as some have stoked racial hate in the wake of a global pandemic. It’s a brutal reminder that we’ll never be seen a fully American by some.

The experience being east Asian in America is full of contrasts. In many contexts, we’re seen as minorities-lite, not white, but choosing to fit in so well. We do well in school. We’re polite. We aren’t like those others… But at other times, we’re worst. Whether that was the threat of stealing manufacturing jobs in the 80s, the search for a new global bad guy government when the USSR fell, or today’s hate in the age of COVID-19, it feels like anti Asian sentiment is a fashion that comes and goes like high waisted pants.

When marginalized people run for office, the script expects us to tell you wise things about how who we are shapes what we’ll do. You expect us to bare our traumas and give you insight into all of this fits together, but we never expect that from straight white cis men candidates. The fact that whiteness is seen as a non-racialized objective default is the very base of white supremacy.** There’s a ton of writing and literature out there about race in America. Maybe you were part of the wave of people reading more about race after they murdered George Floyd, putting works on race at the top of best seller lists for weeks. What did you learn? Did you change how you live? Are you still mad?

Time and time again, we go through this cycle, asking the marginalized to teach, so that others can do something, rather than stepping aside to let those harmed lead us. This is the real value of diversity. We don’t strive for diverse workplaces so that white people can learn from our lived experiences, we seek them because those who live with racism know when a system furthers racism. We know how well meaning things can turn out oh so wrong. Having a diverse team can prevent an organization from making those mistakes if it is open enough to listen to everyone.

I didn’t decide to run for city council because of anti-Asian racism. I was hoping to defund some police and get some other nice things done along the way.

* Stop AAPI Hate reported more than 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians in the past year. I sincerely doubt that even catches a small fraction of them. Far too often, we don’t report, brushing it off as yet another clash with racism in America.

** If you haven’t read this piece in the Minnesota Spokemsman Recorder by Mary Moriarty, you need to.