Especially in the U.S., mainstream coverage of racism tends to focus on the black-white divide. I can assure you that Asians are also discriminated against, though perhaps more subtly (and I can't speak for any other group, or even for Asians as a whole); but that's a topic for another time. This post is about racism committed by
minority groups upon other minority groups.
I want to specifically present an incident from my own life, a few weeks ago. I was at a Chinese card party, playing a variation of Tractor
(with three decks, tons of fun); the other players consisted of adult family friends and one other teenager. In case you didn't know, Chinese card parties are a time both to play cards and to gossip until your throat is parched--that's what the tea is for. Somehow, the table began discussing a time when one woman had been approached by a (white) man at a gas station in a poor neighborhood. This digressed logically into a discussion of African-Americans/blacks and how "luan" (rough) they were, predominately in poor neighborhoods and thus responsible for the majority of crimes in such areas.
Slow down and reread that sentence. "Logically," I wrote. For many Chinese (perhaps extending to Asians in general, but I don't have any personal experience), especially the older immigrant generation, black people automatically connotate "luan." The educated like to think of themselves as tolerant, and when the topic comes up, so will inevitably the "exceptions"--for example, there's a perfectly nice black family on our drive. One of the kids even goes to the same daycare as my sister. This family is a "good black family," one of the minority. Whereas, if I were to bring home a black boyfriend? Interracial yellow-white relationships are still frowned upon, let alone yellow-black. When I posed it as a hypothetical situation, one card player--a man known for his strong and rarely PC views--derided such a possibility as only
for Chinese women seeking green cards. Another (female) said, no wonder, black men will scare you to death.
At this card party, I got into a heated argument with the mother of a very good friend--a debate made all the more difficult by her constant assertions that she knew what was best (i.e. her opinion was automatically correct) due to her age. Likewise, my continued outspokenness--compared to the other teenager, who agreed with me but remained silent--was because my parents coddled me too much and allowed me to have a dissenting opinion. Gee, dissent; what an un-Communist novelty. (There are pros and cons to both Communism and capitalism; regardless, the former is generally not conducive to free thinking.)
And I think that were it not for IBARW, for what it taught and reminded me about the importance of activism (however small and local), I would have been silent too. Throughout my life, I have been raised with this subtle and pervasive prejudice. When I hear people around me casually make insulting and incorrect generalizations about another race, I wince inside but have largely given up the fight. When I see a dark-skinned African-American on the street, I unconsciously shied away. This is something to be ashamed of
. Unconscious prejudices can
be overcome through conscious effort. Furthermore, I am guilty of secondhand racism every time I let a racist comment slide by. I may not be able to commit to blogging against racism all year long, but I can
speak out against it when an opportunity smiles at me.
There are other stories I could tell; one man I know has an irrational, intense hatred of Indian people. But I'm sure that I'm not the only one encountering multicultural racism; for today, I am content to point out that just because someone is being racist towards you, doesn't mean you aren't being racist towards someone else in a different context. The oppressed are also the oppressors. Belonging to a minority group doesn't give you a free gold star.