There is no card that says "Sorry your country is racist and misogynist." My country is the United States of America, by the way. The hate towards Asian Americans doesn't get attention, it isn't trendy. No one defended us a year ago when we were blamed for the pandemic. Some people are completely unaware of what happened in Atlanta.
But I'm not racist, I love you Leeanne! Let me share a list of things that personally happened to me that I chose to forget about but came to the surface this week. Maybe you could put yourself in my shoes and understand why I so desperately want to be seen as a HUMAN. Because I often feel dehumanized by how I look. It's not just white males either. Some of these instances involve women, who are in fact my friends. In the times I choose to say something or be cheeky, I'm gaslit and told they're just joking. Well, read it for yourself.
- I dodged every popular sorority at SDSU who tried to get me to pledge because it felt like they wanted token Asians.
- My friends encouraged me to audition for some of the pro-sports dance teams because I had a good chance of making the team. I am not a dancer.
- I was told one of my co-workers I bartended with, told another friend "God, Leeanne is so hot. I just need to have sex with an Asian." I had to work closing bar shifts with him knowing he said this. I continued to be friendly. Every time this group wants to get together (even over chat) and I know he will be there, I don't engage.
- I bartended and waited tables at a seafood restaurant and everyone called me calamari because it was the popular appetizer "my family would order."
- I was asked to go survey the general public on a campaign for a restaurant's taglines. I had to ask people if they preferred "Fresh Asian Flavors" or "Fresh Asian Kitchen." Imagine what these men said, in front of their young children on camera. I didn't tell my boss or supervisor. My video editor told me he did as much as he could to edit those parts out so my white clients didn't see it. I just shrugged.
- My friend's boyfriend proudly announced he could never date an Asian woman because they don't have asses, in fact their asses are inverted.
- I am never considered to be promoted in managerial or leadership positions because I'm often told I'm too timid and don't speak up. So do I need to scream? If you never give me the opportunity, how could I show you?
- SO. MANY. COMMENTS. ON. FOOD. Do you eat dogs? Why do Asian markets smell so bad? Spam is gross. You know what else is pretty gross? Processed chicken nuggets and meatloaf and no one group has shame over it.
- I had to be friends with a sexual predator. In one of the first times I hung out with him, he told me if my boyfriend at the time didn't hurry up and date me, he would. I would later have to go to the beach with him, knowing he was leering. He would comment on my looks or weight nearly every time I saw him with my boyfriend. He would ask me if I had Asian family members or friends for him. He would get so drunk at our friend's wedding that he didn't realize he was feeling me up underneath a booth and not his Asian girlfriend on the other side of him. I punched him in the leg and told my boyfriend. Nothing changed. When we broke up he continued to harass me in Facebook messages and I finally was so tired of feeling triggered by any interaction with him- I chewed him out and blocked him. YOU NEVER HAD A CHANCE.
- I do not really like tiki culture. If I go to a tiki bar or tiki themed party, it is 100% an invitation for someone to say something inappropriate to me. I try to avoid the associations some fetish.
- At the start of the pandemic, I told my friend I got toilet paper at the Asian market and he asked if it was the same place you can get bats. I know this friend cares about me, he checks on me often. How do I separate that?
- People will tell me how they feel gross because they know someone who has a "mail order bride." Do I stop to tell them the very people who keep those industries in business are white males? And yet, Asians take the shame.
- You may think I decided to volunteer at a vaccination station because "I'm a good person." I did it because the insane messages guys send me on dating apps, drove me to delete my accounts entirely. Again. No, not all Asians look the same. No, I don't want to climb you to make up for the height difference. Do you think I look like Pocahontas because you think I have a pet raccoon? By the way, she's Native American. Volunteering seemed like a better use of my free time.
- I am often mistaken for another Filipino coworker. We look nothing alike. When I'm in the elevator with her and God forbid another Filipino, someone is going to ask if we are sisters. Guaranteed.
- A man I work with who likes to convey "if I'm being very honest" likes to use "my kimono is open" instead. This same man, at the start of the pandemic wore a robe to a Teams Meeting. Triggered much? I brought it up to two people above me and I was told "but you looked nice at that meeting." I hate every time I have to meet with this person, wondering what inappropriate thing he will say next.
- This very week I asked an Asian male to run something up to leadership because I knew if I did, it would go unheard. The flags at my workplace are at half-mast because of the President's proclamation and ME.
I'm not perfect, in a past life I hosted a Japanese themed birthday party because at the time, I was really wanting to go to Japan. Would someone find it offensive? Of course. I can admit it was wrong. I am certain there are other examples of things I have done that were clear mistakes. But I want to do and be better. Why is it so hard for people to come to terms with admitting they were wrong and doing better? I consider all the experiences I shared with you as "bad days." No one was murdered. Racism and misogyny will never validate a bad day. You don't get a box.
Writing this will mean some of you will part ways with my business and that's ok. I will not hold back on being an active voice moving forward. I will take it in the chin for the generations before me who didn't have a voice or have much time left to champion change. I will do it because the voice that told me, something was wrong- no longer wants to be silent. I will do it for them:
- Daoyou Feng, 44
- Hyun Jung Grant, 51
- Suncha Kim, 69
- Paul Andre Michels, 54
- Soon Chung Park, 74
- Xiaojie Tan, 49
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
- Yong Ae Yue, 63
My crowdfunding continues through April 8. I feel strongly more than ever to continue raising as much as possible through that date. I feel responsible to use my self-appointed leadership in the Asian American community, my visibility and, my voice so this kind of hate no longer exists. It matters that I am Leeanne and that I am more than what you see. It matters that I feel safe to exist, as myself.
Looking forward to better days,