Stop Asian Hate

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Michelle Phillips

When Donald Trump was running for office and began hateful rhetoric about immigration, immigrants and migrants, I became worried. When it looked like was going to win, I called my brother in Des Moines and insisted he get a passport. You see, my brother is Asian and a naturalized citizen. While I was expecting Trump to start banning migrants from the country, I also worried that he might turn on naturalized citizens as well if he didn’t like their race.

My brother thought I was overreacting, but with no parents, I feel the need to look out for him. Once he secured the passport, I was a little more at ease. If necessary, he could flee the country until Trump was gone, I thought.

I am not a person prone to paranoia, but over the years I have watched as my brother was the target with both micro and macro aggressions. Everything from a seemingly subtle thing, like someone calling him Bruce Lee when he was dressed up in his karate outfit for a competition, to being followed around stores and having racial slurs yelled at him.

To be honest, I have always feared for his safety and that of my other family members. You see, several people in my extended family are also Asian and the subject of similar treatment. They all have stories of both childhood and adult bullying and racially fueled confrontations.

My mom was a hippie and had some pretty rosy and altruistic views of the world. She tried educating people about racism and hate, but eventually even she tired of that approached. After extreme bullying at a small town, Iowa school that my brother attended, my mom sued the school for discrimination. Her attorney contended that the school was allowing the discrimination and failing to keep my brother safe. 

While the lawsuit was underway, the small town also turned on my Caucasian mother. Someone did donuts in her yard, tearing up the vegetable garden. Her cat disappeared and was left dead on her front porch, someone spray painted a racial slur on her garage, and no one would go near her, even people she had thought were her friends. 

She ended up moving from the little town, back to Des Moines. Although she won the lawsuit, she would tell you that a lot of other things had been lost by living in that small town–her faith in humanity, my brother’s self-esteem and countless hours consoling him.

Now, 25 years later that hatred and racism has become even more pervasive in our society. I worry about my brother every, single day. I worry about him simply walking down the street because attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have skyrocketed in the last year. This is the direct result of unchecked racism in our country, and the rise of white supremacy over the past four years. Things like calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” or “China virus” directly contribute to that hateful vitriol and racism. Blaming China for our manufacturing woes, making fun of Asian people’s appearance, and perversely, sexualizing Asian woman have perpetuate this rise in attacks on our AAPI community.

In order for this to change, white people have to speak out when we hear racist language, I want you to stop laughing at racist jokes and comments, I want you to step in if you see a confrontation, I want you to offer to stand beside your friends that feel too scared to walk around in public, and most of all, I want you to listen to and really hear their stories, feel their pain and empathize with them.

I know what it is like to hold a crying boy who has just been called names, been shunned by playmates or straight up beaten up because of his race, because he looks different, and I really, truly want everyone to think about what that means for someone to face that challenge every day of their lives, especially children.

If the Trump presidency taught me anything, it taught me that bullying does not stop into adulthood, for either the bullied or the bully. My mother would be so sad and appalled to see what this country has become and what it has come to tolerate. Please teach your babies to love one another, and stop hate before it starts.

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