I admit that I cringe whenever I see or hear of an Asian Pacific Islander (API) doing something stupid, embarrassing, or downright immoral and unlawful. I always feel as though it reflects badly on myself.
Like when that kid shot up his college in Virginia. Or that guy that was involved in the Barry Bonds homerun baseball lawsuit (too obscure?). Or even something smaller, the bad driver or the tourist taking photos of everything. Or more recently, the guy that shot up the school in Oakland.
After any of these kinds of public moments of humiliation or confirmation of long standing stereotypes, I always feel that non-Asians will look at me and connect me to them. Think less of me because of something someone else has done. Confirm in their minds who I am or how I drive my car or solve math problems.
Do other people feel like this? I heard Chris Rock talk about it once (in reference to African Americans), so I know I’m not totally alone on this one. But do Latinos feel like that too? What about women? Gays/Lesbians? And what about Caucasians? Do they wince when they hear about ANOTHER white serial killer?
Most likely, this is a uniquely people of color/minority phenomenon. But I wonder if this is just because our social status is so fragile that a little thing here or there could push us one way or another – at least in the minds of everyone else.
Some of you are probably thinking I’m overreacting. But when I heard about the shooting in Oakland, my first thought wasn’t, “How horrible!” Instead it was, “Please don’t be Asian.”
I think it’s just a matter of time before ignorant non-Asians parents tell their ignorant kids to be careful of the Asian students. As though we carry some kind of crazy murder gene – which needless to say is worse than being considered a nerdy perverted ninja.
I know I shouldn’t feel this way. Just because one person is crazy or stupid or rude, shouldn’t say anything about me or anyone else for that matter. It should only speak about that one person. But until that day comes, I think we should all make a strong verbal commitment not to do anything that might cause other APIs embarrassment. So if you are willing to make such a commitment, repeat after me:
I (your name) promise not to do anything that will bring shame or cause people to look warily at APIs now and forever more.
A good rule of thumb here is that if you have to ask if something will break your vow, it probably will. So please please please refrain from doing it. I know it can be difficult at times, but for a moment consider what the rest of us will have to go through.