A Stop Asian Hate sign (Ricky Weekly #62)

This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.

A picture from my life:

My boy Jun is in Taiwan, so I sent him on a mission to bring flowers to my mom for Mother’s Day. It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen her, and I don’t think I’ll be able to until end of the year? We don’t talk much at all, so Jun bringing flowers to her and turning on video chat was one of the few times we’ve video-chatted. That was nice.

Some of you may know that Taiwan handled the pandemic really well, but it feels like a reversal of fortunes is about to happen. As Americans get rid of masks, Taiwan just raised its alert level due to a spike of 180 local transmission cases this week, which is more than the 164 local transmission cases they’ve confirmed during the ENTIRE pandemic period. Problem is that like lots of non-US/EU countries, it’s difficult for Taiwan to get enough vaccines, and its ambiguous “country” status does not help. Only 0.1% of the population is vaccinated in Taiwan compared to 56.3% in Israel and 19% in Singapore. Fortunately, healthcare is one of the core competencies and a homegrown vaccine is slated to roll out this summer. Hoping for the best.

A thing on my mind:

I try to take a walk everyday to get out of the house. A few weeks ago I noticed this “Stop Asian Hate” sign and it made me uncomfortable, and I’ve been trying to examine that feeling. There are lots of BLM signs in my neighborhood, but now here’s one that’s about me. I’m an Asian American guy and an immigrant who succeeded in learning to speak English with an American accent, embracing the culture, attending a prestigious school and building startup companies. I’ve been largely able to delude myself that I’m just like everyone else. Yeah, I encounter micro-aggression and racism, but real aggression is rare in my tech bro lifestyle living in the SF bubble. I’m also my own boss working on a software company from behind a computer screen, so I don’t have to deal with anything material. My friend Helen likes to remind me that I’m a (tech) bubble boy.

So seeing the sign was a rude awakening of sorts. Suddenly my neighbors are looking out for me? Do I need to be looked out for? The male instinct in me is also saying shouldn’t I be the one protecting y’all? I don’t want to be the weak one. The sign is like a sharp reminder right up in my face that I’m different. It reminds me of all the times when I’d get picked on for being Asian or left out for being Asian. It zooms in on the slight discomfort that marks every interaction with someone outside my race. The more you call out my race, the more it feels like we’re different tribes, creating a riff that feels much less comforting than pretending we’re the same.

Then I think about the people who work in industries where they are perceived as Asian, first and foremost, and then everything else. I think about my Asian sisters and how they find it harder to maintain the illusion since living in America has always been much more dangerous and unequal for them. I think about the Asian elders that are getting preyed upon, and I get really angry. It takes a lot for Asian people to get angry because we were taught to just suck it up and keep our head down, but picking on our elders and getting caught on camera? That’d do it. So the sign, it’s for them more than it’s for me, but it also reminds me that I’m in this privileged state as an Asian man because I have a choice. How should I act? Should I invite more of the discomfort or can I go on maintaining this illusion?

A piece of content I recommend:

Eat The Rich - Invisibilia

I found this episode when Planet Money played it, and the alternate title they gave it was “DIY Reparations” which was what caught my attention. The rest of Invisibilia’s latest season also looks really good. They’re doing a series on the media hit job on former mayor (and friend) Michael Tubbs of Stockton and I just listened to part 1 of the series. Great stuff.

🤗

As always, you can find out what I’m thinking in more real-time on Twitter and my essays are on my website. My primary focus (and where I focus) is on Flow Club.