Trying to open up a dialogue about race can be difficult. I learned this the hard way when, in a recent discussion with friends, I was told, “You’re not a victim. Stop playing one.”
My crime? Pointing out the marginalization of Asians in Hollywood.
For this, I was accused of “playing the victim card” and was shown a study that, according to my “friend,” if anything, Asians are overrepresented in Hollywood.
Never mind the fact that this same study showed that nearly half of the top 100 films of 2014 do not have a single speaking Asian character.
All of this happened on Facebook. After I was told by my “friend” that he had “humored me long enough” and mocked me for “playing a victim,” I removed him from my friends list.
Here’s where it gets ridiculous.
Shortly after un-friending him, a mutual friend showed me his latest status update:
“Getting an SJW [social justice warrior], who so desperately wants to be seen as oppressed even though they have an extremely privileged background economically and racially, to unfriend you is an amazing feeling.
Is that why Donald Trump acts that way?”
Let me tell you about my “racially privileged background.”
I’m so racially privileged that if my white father had married my Filipino mother a decade earlier, it would not have been legal in all 50 states. I’m so privileged that Donald Trump, who my former friend now sees as some sort of kindred spirit, warns people to be suspicious of people who come from the “terrorist nation” of the Philippines.
I’m so racially privileged to have been called a “philistine” growing up, to have been constantly asked why my eyes are so “chinky”, to have had my classmates make fun of me for eating rice and to have lost friends when their parents saw the color of my mother’s skin.
Growing up racially privileged means that you spend your childhood separated from half your family, praying this is the year their green cards are approved. It means that people pet your dog, say he’s cute, and then ask if you’re going to eat him.
My racial privilege means that people ask me to translate “Asian” for them and, when I explain for what feels like the hundredth time that there are many, many, languages in Asia, they ask, “But aren’t they pretty closely related? How many can you understand?” My racial privilege means that men offer me money for “happy ending” massages, expecting me to be a submissive geisha desperate for cash.
To be half white is a double whammy because people will use your European ancestors to invalidate your experiences as a minority. It’s difficult to feel your “racial privilege” when your white relatives make fun of the food your mother prepares and make jokes about how bad your driving record must be because “everyone knows Asians are bad drivers.”
But if I mention any of this, there will be someone who will accuse me of “playing the victim card.” People will tell me to “stop complaining”, and to “get out of America if it’s so bad here.”
They will hunt down statistics and studies to prove to me that I’m not marginalized and that any perceived racism I’ve experienced is all in my head or somehow my fault. Their facts and figures somehow carry more weight than my personal experiences.
There is no such thing as a privileged minority or a model minority. Success and wealth do not shield anyone from racism.