Michael Luo, an editor at the New York Times, published an open letter to a woman that told his family to go back to China exactly one week ago on the streets of New York. You can read it here. It received an enormous outpouring of responses from Asian Americans online. Michael was overwhelmed and surprised by how many people responded to his open letter. As a result, he decided to do an open call and ask for responses from fellow Asian Americans about their own encounters with racism.
Early Tuesday morning, I'd just woken up and opened up Twitter on my phone. Still in bed, Michael's tweet was the first thing that popped up on my newsfeed. I had read his piece the day before and felt compelled to join the active conversation. I tweeted four recent encounters that I could remember off the top of my head.
I was just one of many individuals that responded to the prompt. The conversation on Twitter got really active over the next hours after I had tweeted that morning. When I got home in the evening, I realized I hadn't checked my personal inbox yet. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a message in my inbox from the New York Times. They explained they had seen my tweets and that they were looking for New Yorkers who'd responded to the hashtag and open call to be in a video. Could I be on camera in the morning? Fourteen hours later, I found myself taking a deep breath in front of two NYT producers and their camera in a small quiet room at their Manhattan headquarters.
Overall, this was a very vulnerable experience for me and for all the other wonderful souls that ended up coming out to share their encounters with microagression and racism. While reading my tweets, I actually cried. (Hahaha) Thankful they used the cut before it happened. I know that it was a moment of exposure not just because of the filming, but because I was oddly shaken up by it for the rest of the day. I feel like some kind of shell that I hadn't been aware of was cracked that morning.
For the most part, I'd say that the video was somewhat successful. It sparked a larger conversation online and offline. Sure, there are trolls and haters that STILL try to downplay all of the stories shared on the video. My feelings about these types of responses was summed up in a caption I put on Instagram along with a screenshot:
"Put yourself in the other person's shoes. We're not being sensitive. It's the repeated little hits that ultimately break people's souls/spirits. 25+ AsAm read our tweets sharing some of these hits we've experienced in some way. It made me real sad. It's not OK. It's not just homes and bodies that make up community. Our words, small actions, and assumptions are part of community too. Let's be more thoughtful and anchor some love in our interactions. #thisis2016"
On an ending note, I'd like to thank my brother for being so real and understanding of me sharing something that had actually happened to him directly. It wasn't my intention, but it's the one that ultimately made the cut. We had a long phone conversation today about it and it was a big relief to me that he said, "I understand." This nod from him was important to me. He's still friends with all those kids that ignorantly said those things to him a while back. I know them and still love them for being lifelong friends to him. But... if any of you are reading this, I hope that you'll understand where this is coming from too. It's not OK. Don't start saying historically racist and hurtful words just because someone else does it. Don't give in so easily. You can do better that. We can do better than this.
After all... it's 2016.