Let's Talk About Casual Racism

Alternately: yes, she's talking about it again.
  1. As I was walking to the subway after work today, a man selling hot dogs said to me: "Ni hao."
  2. The white coworker whom I was with was shocked, taken aback.
  3. Now, I am Chinese. But my family is descendent from Hong Kong, and I am not full Chinese (half Korean), nor do I really look Chinese at all. More just, ambiguously Asian.
  4. As we walked away, she asked me, "What was that all about?"
  5. I pretended not to hear her. Here's why:
  6. For me, this behavior is normalized.
  7. For me, this behavior is not shocking, nor is it out of the ordinary. It has simply become part of my existence and experience in this city.
  8. But that's dangerous.
  9. When we normalize and internalize this behavior, we justify it to those who perpetrate it as okay or acceptable, which it isn't.
  10. New York City has the highest Asian American population of any city in the United States.
    It is greater than San Francisco and Los Angeles combined.
  11. New York City is about 7.5% East Asian. And 12.1% Asian overall.
  12. This city of 8.4 million people houses over 1 million Asian Americans.
  13. That's a lot of people who this man marginalized in a single two syllable statement.
  14. This kind of behavior is othering, it implies that I do not belong here, that somehow, I, an American born citizen, is less than.
    A chilling realization considering Asian Americans are often to grapple with being not Asian enough and not American enough at all times.
  15. Like large scale forms of racism, this behavior marginalizes, denigrates, and humiliates, regardless of intention.
    I do not believe that this man meant to do these things and yet they are the after affect of his words.
  16. Racism is as much about impact as it is about intention.
    Just because you didn't mean it that way, doesn't mean it want felt that way.
  17. Studies show that racism can affect people's physical and mental health causing anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and high blood pressure.
  18. Casual racism reinforces social divides, it attacks my very identity, makes me unequal and undermines civility and social cohesion.
  19. "But, well this statement wasn't really racist with a capital R was it?"
  20. No, it was.
  21. When you tell me this statement wasn't racist, it delegitimizes my experience as a person of color.
  22. I can very nearly guarantee that this man did not know that I was Chinese. He picked the first Asian language he could think of and perhaps the only word of an Asian language he knows.
    Not to mention, that there are dozens of dialects which fall under the Chinese umbrella.
  23. But statistically, yes there are more Chinese in the world.
    But this is a tacit admission that the perpetrator believes that all Asians look the same, which they do not.
  24. And no, I don't believe this man was a racist.
  25. Casual racism shows up everywhere and especially in jokes. Take care in thinking about the affect that your words have and the ways in which they may target an individual or a group.
    Joking about race matters.
  26. I believe he did not think before he spoke.
  27. I believe he did not understand the aftereffects of his words.
  28. And perhaps I should have said something, but I did not.
  29. It didn't even occur to me until the friend asked me after.
  30. This kind of behavior, to me, did not make him seem friendlier or more intelligent. It made this man seem ignorant and unintelligent.
  31. And that I, at the ripe age of 20, have normalized this behavior to be normal and unsurprising and even acceptable is dangerous and reinforces the barriers that even I, myself try so hard to tear down.