As an Asian American, who was adopted and raised by a white family in a privileged culture, I’ve always naturally struggled with my identity. I’ve quite literally always been in the minority, racially, in all of my circles, and honestly, I have trouble imagining what it’d be like if it were otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had an incredible life, and I have little to complain about. But I wish I could say that I’ve always felt understood by others, including close friends and even family, or that I’ve always felt fully appreciated and viewed as equal when it comes to my race. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, at least not yet.
I’ve had more conversations about issues pertaining to race and ethnicity in the past year than I’ve had in probably my entire life, and aside from being exhausting, it’s been both encouraging and freeing. I don’t mean that each conversation has incited a breakthrough, but rather I think the barrage of conversations has been a breakthrough in itself.
If you’re like me, and in this case I hope you are, you’re longing for our culture to make some big strides toward racial reconciliation. But you also know that we have a long way to go (probably farther than we realize). This reality is, admittedly, daunting, but I think we can and still must start somewhere. In the last 6 months or so, I’ve also read and watched dozens of articles, books, shows, movies, and ads pertaining to race and ethnicity, but one simple thing has truly stuck with me throughout these endeavors: the need to explore my own ignorance by seeking out conversations with people unlike myself.
Like I said, this seems daunting, but it’s got to be the first step. Why? Because in seeking something as arduous as racial reconciliation, there’s an indispensable need to level the playing field from the beginning. What I’m not saying is that we need to go out and talk to everyone we know that’s different than us so that we can reach a point where we can say “I know how you feel.” I think you’ll find out, if you haven’t already, that that approach only perpetuates the issue. No. I’m saying that we need to seek to learn about issues that we’ve been conditioned to marginalize. Issues that we actually can’t relate to but are now choosing to care about.
This is going to look different for everyone, and it’s certainly difficult to know where to begin. How do we pursue something like this without offending people or risk being offended ourselves? My answer: I don’t know. But I think the following scenario is one that levels that playing field and allows us to think outside of ourselves a little bit.
In addition to being Asian American, I’ve also always been right-handed; and I can’t imagine not being right-handed. If you’re right-handed, you might be wondering where this is going. But if you’re left-handed, your ears are probably starting to perk up.
Right-handers, we’ve got it made, and if you’re like me, you really haven’t spent much time acknowledging this. When you go out looking for a new set of golf clubs, you don’t go out hoping to find a set made for a right-hander. To you, they’re just golf clubs. You don’t find and cherish that pair of right-handed scissors you found on the shelf. To you, they’re just scissors. You don’t breathe a sigh of relief when you realize you’re sitting next to another right-hander at the dinner table or in the classroom and neither of you will have to worry about bumping elbows. You’ve never had to search a store for a right-handed notebook or had to learn and watch things backwards and upside down from your teachers and coaches growing up. No. The Right-handed way has just always been THE way.
So, what way(s) in your life have you always just viewed as THE way in life? We’ve all got them and I can already think of a bunch for myself; however, I’m going to rely on those who are different than me to fill me in on the rest.