Hate is a Virus. Mind Your Microaggressions

Hate is a virus

To say the worldwide health crisis is taking its toll on our collective mental health is a gross understatement!

But the added stress doesn’t give anyone the right to take out their anger and frustration on others.

Stop Asian Hate

It has taken me a long time to speak out and condemn the recent increase in violence, racially-motivated attacks, and discrimination against Asian Americans because, frankly, it hurts. As an American of Filipino descent, it hits too close to home.

The crimes are not only racist, they are ageist and misogynistic.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, there has been a surge in hate crimes against Asian people, many of whom are elderly, as well.

And, although it hasn’t officially been called a hate crime, the mass shootings at three spas/massage parlors on March 16, 2021 in Atlanta — where six of the eight people killed were Asian women — brought widespread attention to the increase in violent attacks against the Asian community.

It doesn’t help when you hear defense attorneys for suspected attackers claim that their clients have mental illness or did not know the race of their victim(s) or did not intend to kill! All of these statements only serve to minimize and undermine the severity of the crimes. We need to call it what it is: Asian hate.

Like many people, I was shocked to see the disturbing images on TV and social media, but I’m not surprised. There’s a long history of bigotry against Asians in the United States.

In my post where I share the results of my DNA test, I talk about the word “Oriental” that was used to describe people of Asian descent.

from my birth certificate issued in San Francisco (1973)

Although the word basically refers to something “from the East” (relative to Europe), it historically had pejorative, offensive, and derogatory connotations when used to describe people.

The term was replaced with “Asian American” in 2016 (yes, only five years ago!) when a bill was signed to eliminate the term “Oriental” from federal law.

Microaggressions

Many acts of hate and discrimination are often violent and physical, but not always. Most of the time, acts of hate and discrimination aren’t obvious or dramatic. In fact, these daily occurrences rarely make the nightly news.

The term, microaggression, was coined in 1970 by Harvard professor, Chester M. Pierce, MD. Subtle and often unintentional, microaggressions communicate negative bias against marginalized groups.

For example, mispronouncing or misspelling someone’s name is a microaggression. It may not seem like a big deal, but doing so sends the message that you don’t respect the person enough to learn the correct pronunciation or spelling.

Growing up, my maiden name was butchered so often that I grew accustomed to knowing they meant me whenever they called out, “Darleeeene,” extending the vowel as a way to stall while figuring out how to say my maiden name. Before they could mangle its pronunciation, I’d let them off the hook by saying my own name to save us both the embarrassment. I’ve also endured getting teased for having a name that “sounds like a disease.”

Simply put, microaggressions are low-key acts of exclusion. They make you feel like you don’t belong.

my kindergarten picture

The first time I felt like I didn’t belong was in elementary school when I was placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) class separate from my friends. It was only after my college-educated and English-speaking parents told the school administrators that English was the primary language spoken at home that I was put back in the non-ESL class. At the time, I was happy just to be back with my friends! I can only guess why the school put me in ESL class.

Sometimes microaggressions make you feel special, but not in a good way. Instead, you feel like “other.”

While I was browsing eyeglass display stands for a new pair of frames, an optometrist suggested I try on a particular pair because it had a wider bridge. He said it was “Asian fit” then blurted out, “Oh, we don’t say that anymore.” (Was that comment supposed to be… an apology?!) The incident made me switch to wearing contact lenses.

How I wish I had been quicker to react and asked a simple question like, “What makes you say that?”

How I wish I could tell you that these things really didn’t happen. But I’d be lying because I experienced them all. I still do sometimes. I’ve also witnessed similar (and worse) things happen to other people.

So, whether you’ve been on the receiving end or you’ve unintentionally committed a microaggression, the good news is that we can heal, we can learn, and we can change!

Hate comes from fear of the unknown. We can overcome ignorance with education. There are hundreds of books and articles on how to be anti-racist.

A couple of resources I turn to again and again are tools compiled by UC Santa Cruz:

Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send

Interrupting Microaggressions

I encourage you to read these resources and share them with everyone you know. Let’s have the difficult conversations!

I’ll be doing the same as I always strive to keep learning.

Together we can stop the hate. ❤️

5 Comments

  1. I really appreciate you bringing attention to this current issue. I’ve been following the news of the hate crimes since COVID started, when the US saw a drastic increase in violence towards Asians. I am Taiwanese-American, and like you, I’ve had my fair share of racism and microaggression living in both the US and France, which hasn’t been easy to deal with, to say the least. What makes me particularly upset isn’t just the fact that six people of Asian descent were killed in Atlanta, but also the fact that it had to take something so egregious (i.e. mass murder) for people to actually care about our plight. I’ve consistently been voicing my frustrations with racism towards Asian-Americans YEARS prior to it all, yet now people want to finally stop and listen?? I believe the #StopAsianHate campaign is a good cause, and while I appreciate the support that my non-Asian peers are posting on social media, it’s all but fruitless if we don’t take real action to combat this. From this perspective, it’s nothing but performance allyship just for social media means, and I don’t really see lawmakers (*ahem our own US president) do anything to change this. That said, I do not believe that this movement will gain much traction (similar to BLM last year), and within another week or so, it’ll all be forgotten. Pessimistic as it sounds, I believe that, since those with power really don’t care about improving the conditions for Asian-Americans, I’m just hoping that, with time and caution, this will all pass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking exactly the same thing! It’s truly sad and tragic that people started noticing and talking about the hate and discrimination that Asians face each day in the U.S. only after that heinous mass shooting in Atlanta! When people post their support for #StopAsianHate on social media, I think it’s a good start, but you’re right, so much more needs to be done. I’ve had to call out a couple of friends on Facebook for posting memes with anti-Asian sentiment. They’ve since taken them down and apologized, but it was disappointing. It made me question whether I really knew my friends. I want you to know that I see you and hear your frustration because I feel the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it is absurd that many Asian people can suffer from racism and micro-aggression. I sincerely thought that the new generation, having grown up in classes full of foreigners, was freer from certain prejudices. Instead I saw that many young people also make differences, even if the Asian culture of manga and anime is now very widespread. For example, I have my best friend married to a Japanese girl but for me this has never been a strange thing. I have always had an open mind and have had friends from all over the world. But I realize that many people still think by making distinctions between races. After the covid this thing got worse but it seems absurd to me. But I believe that for those who have experienced these differences they are very painful and I am sorry for you that you have had so much suffering from this.😟

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting and following my blog. I appreciate your comment and kind words. 🙂

      I agree, there is a disconnect. Some people enjoy certain aspects of a culture, like their food, customs, clothing, and so on (for example, manga or anime, like you mentioned), but then disrespect or mistreat the people.

      That’s the thing about microaggressions — they are often unintentional. But if everyone (myself included) just takes a moment to learn and think before acting or speaking sometimes, there would be fewer instances of inadvertent slights because those just add up over time. If people felt comfortable enough to ask/be asked questions for clarification (example: “how do you pronounce your name?”), it would make a big difference. I’m glad that these conversations are happening!

      Liked by 1 person

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