This morning at work, I was contemplating what I should write about for my second blog, something I actually have passion for, something I genuinely want to share with this community.
My train of thought was interrupted when a lady came up to order a bubble tea. I was working with my Chinese coworker at the time, and she made a comment, “So, this is family owned?” Not even 10 minutes later, a passerby bowed to me – martial arts style.
During both of these instances that seemingly happened one after another, I did not speak up for myself. I didn’t say to the lady, “I know you didn’t mean any harm by that comment, but just because you see 2 East Asian people together, it does not mean they are related.” and I certainly didn’t yell out to the passerby, “That was insensitive, and also just kind of weird. Please don’t do that.” Instead, I just uncomfortably moved on.
A few minutes later, I was extremely agitated. I furiously texted my best friends to let them know what happened, and I sat back wondering why I didn’t speak up for myself. If you know me personally, you know that I am not a very timid person. So, why didn’t I say anything? I was angry at those people, and I was even angrier at myself.
I recalled a meeting I had a few weeks ago with HJ, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of KoreanAmericanStory.org, and Deborah, the Digital Marketing Director. We discussed ignorant interactions like these and our following reactions. I specifically remember a comment that HJ made, “It takes time for us to process these moments. Instead of saying something back, we are just shocked.”
He’s right. In both moments, I was just stunned. You can never really prepare for microaggressions or racist remarks. They just happen, and when they do, you’re kind of just like, “Did that really just happen?”
I guess if there is one message that I want to stick, it is that it is okay to be silent. It is okay to take time to process these moments, and it is okay if you are unable to stand up for yourself. It is not your sole responsibility to put an end to others’ ignorance.