Op-Ed: Racial Marginalization is Not a Contest

Looking back at my adolescent memories, I can easily say that growing up Korean-American was one of the toughest experiences of my life that I can vividly recall. It wasn’t just about being Korean-American. It was the fact that I had to deal with my peers calling me slanty-eyed and presuming I was good at math when it was never my strength to begin with. While quietly laughing off their ignorance as if it didn’t affect me, I had to balance their individualistic culture to fit in with my parent’s collectivistic Korean culture. The most difficult thing was knowing that I suffered just as much as I benefitted from being a “model minority” American-- yet, no one understood the burdens that I carried with this identity.

Being considered a “model minority” meant that I had to watch my Lantinx and Black friends suffer from racial stereotypes while I benefited from the very stereotypes that made me supposedly better than other minoritized races. Although I’ve always been offended by these stereotypes, they were never, and probably never will be enough to get me incarcerated for the way I look. Being a “model minority” meant that it was expected of other racially marginalized groups to “look up to me” and become “better people.” Of course, this didn't mean that I was safe from racial prejudice. In fact, it meant that I suffered from tacit racism that made it okay for others to continue treating me poorly.

It might seem like I haven’t suffered from racism, but that’s just the thing-- I definitely have. All my life. People assume that Eastern Asian-Americans aren’t as affected by racism as other racially marginalized individuals. Being Eastern Asian-American, it was always understood that I would be a pushover and never defend myself if anyone wanted to ask me if I ate my dog for dinner. Being casually called the “dumb Asian” once people discovered that I was horrible at math was always discouraging, because no one would recognize me for my other skills and talents. Once my friend asked me to give her a massage for a quarter because her mom told her that all Asians were good at it, but that’s beside the point. I’m not here to tell you all of the times I’ve suffered from racist ideologies by my closest friends. I’m here to point out that Eastern Asians are just as affected by racism, which is becoming more commonly seen this election week.

These past few days, I’ve been seeing a lot of comments saying, “Hey Asians, do you see what it feels like to suffer from institutionalized racism like the rest of us?” It’s not that we haven’t before. Remember Vincent Chin? He was brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat a week before his wedding for being Japanese-American in 1982.

The world isn’t a contest to see who suffers more than another from systemic prejudice. Though some of use are more privileged than others, we all bleed the same at the end of the day. A lot of us are in pain right now, but that gives us more reason to turn to each other. We need to make use of our privileges and experiences to support one another during this time where racism and misogyny seems to currently prevail.

What I really want to say is that I’m here for you. I only ask that you do the same for me. If you need to express your fears and worries, there will be a post-election gathering in 3201 Hart Hall on Monday, November 14 from 3:30-5 P.M. And remember, Obama said, “No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.”

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