Lifestyle

It’s Time for Me to Do Better

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

– Nelson Mandela

Black Lives Matter

I hadn’t planned to wade into this topic. So much has already been said—in words more informed and eloquent than mine. 

But I know now that silence is compliance. By not speaking out and not changing what I can, I’m allowing racism and prejudice to fester. 

I cannot allow that anymore.

Do better, be better

I may not have the power to address systemic racism on my own. But I can be part of the change.

I can support people and organizations who are making a difference. I can also tell my story, own up to my wrongdoings, and share how I’ll do better and be better.

This post will be my first step out of the role of bystander, and into the role of helper.

Admitting to my wrongdoings

This is hard to admit, but I’ve been a perpetrator of racism more often than I’ve been a victim.

It’s true—I’m a visible minority myself, but I’ve experienced very little racism in my life. And yet, I’ve wrongly judged and inflicted pain on others. 

As a child, I remember teasing my brown-skinned friends, calling them ‘burnt toast’. At the time, I didn’t register the pain on their faces as being caused by me.

In high school, my friends often referred to indigenous people using a derogatory name. I did nothing to stop them and simply laughed along. 

I cringe at these horrible memories. My parents, victims of racism themselves, didn’t raise us to be racists. Why was I so cruel and ignorant?

I still don’t know why I did what I did, and I’m so sorry for the pain I caused. I wish I could go back, apologize to my friends, and right my wrongs.

Better, but still not enough

Since overcoming my racist actions in childhood, I’ve come to see myself as staunchly anti-racism. 

I take great offence and call people out when they use racial slurs or stereotypes. I celebrate and share success stories of immigrants and other marginalized groups.

I learn about the stories and struggles of our indigenous people. (And I’ll continue to learn and find ways to help them heal and restore their communities.)

I teach our kids about equality and issues of race by discussing current events and modelling tolerance and respect for others.

But even as I list these things, I know it’s not nearly enough. I still have a lot of work to do. I’ve been unknowingly racist in several ways, and it’s time for me to face and change these issues in myself:

1) Implicit biases

As much as I’d like to believe I’m anti-racist, I’ve unknowingly contributed to systemic racism through the implicit biases that I hold. If this term is new to you, you’re not alone—I only learned about it recently. 

Implicit biases are unconsciously-held beliefs about specific groups of people. An article on Vox describes implicit biases as, “thoughts about people you didn’t know you had.”

The problem with implicit biases is they’re a very subtle form of racism. In fact, some even sound like compliments. (For example: Asians are good at math; Black people are good at sports.) 

This is why implicit biases are so damaging. Since they don’t seem racist, it’s easy for us to overlook them. But if we are to end systemic racism, we need to become aware of and shift these harmful beliefs.

If you’d like to find out if you hold implicit biases, complete the tests at Project Implicit from Harvard. You may discover something uncomfortable about yourself, but this is how we will all improve. Only when we face our own harmful beliefs can we start to change.

2) The model minority myth

As a person of Asian descent, one set of implicit biases that I’m very aware of is what’s known as the ‘model minority’. It implies that Asians are successful because they’re polite, hard-working, and law-abiding. 

According to those who believe in the model minority myth, this is why Asians were able to overcome issues that plague other minority groups. (For example, the income wage gap and university acceptance rates.)

While the model minority myth may seem to be complimentary to Asians, it actually feeds inaccurate stereotypes and is harmful to Asians. Additionally, I didn’t realize until recently that the model minority myth is just as damaging to other minorities, including Blacks.

You see, the model minority myth lets us off the hook. We can say, “Look—if Asians can do well, that means racism isn’t what holds Blacks down. It’s that they don’t do the things Asians (or whites) do.”

This is so, so wrong. I had no idea that a myth about Asians could contribute to the oppression of Black people. It’s an insidious form of racism, and I intend to help stamp it out.

3) Not recognizing the privilege of my race

I’d always believed that Tiger Mom parenting, multi-generational familial support, and the hard-working nature of our immigrant elders helped Asians succeed. 

While these things may have helped Asians do well in white-dominated cultures, that’s not the whole story. The truth is: Asians have been able to overcome racial barriers because others became less racist towards us

For various reasons, Asians were more readily accepted and favoured by non-Asians. This led to us being given advantages over other minorities, but most notably, Blacks and Hispanics.

Over many decades, these advantages compounded positively for Asians. Unfortunately, at the same time, prejudices and harmful beliefs compounded negatively for Blacks and Hispanics.

If I am to understand the struggles of Blacks, Hispanics, and other marginalized groups, I need to first recognize that I, as an Asian, have had some privileges that they did not.

How I’m going to do and be better

For all of my adult life, I’ve opposed all forms of overt racism. I wrongly believed that was enough. It’s not. By not recognizing my implicit biases and privilege, I’ve unknowingly engaged in covert racism.

It’s time for me to end that. I wish it hadn’t taken me this long. But here I am, in June 2020, and I’m ready and committed to change. This will be a continuous journey for me, but here is where I’m going to start:

1) Acknowledge my privilege

As an Asian woman, I never get the side-eye when I go into a store. I don’t have to teach my kids how to safely talk to the police

I can wear a facemask into a bank without causing a stir. If I was peacefully bird watching in Central Park, I’d never get the cops called on me. 

I’m privileged to be treated with basic human decency. And I’m infuriated that all humans do not receive the same fair treatment.

By acknowledging my privilege, I can recognize how much more work we need to do. Until everyone feels as safe and accepted as I do, I need to keep fighting.

2) Understand the issues

I’ve assigned myself some homework, which includes educating myself through documentaries, videos, and books. Here are some that I’ll get started with:

*Thanks to Jim from Route to Retire for sharing these and other helpful resources in his post, Racism and Privilege—My Naivety is Astounding!

3) Amplify Black (and other minority) voices

I plan to make more of an effort to share content from Black and other minority voices. To start, here’s some recent content that I found particularly insightful:

4) Fight racism of all kinds

Wherever I encounter racism (including in myself) I will do what I can to speak up and fight. Some current areas of concern for me include:

Indigenous people

The indigenous people of Canada are the rightful heirs of the land that we live on. And yet, we continue to prolong their suffering with repeated injustices and indignities. I intend to learn more about their struggles and how I can help.

#WashTheHate

Recently, racist acts against Asians have been on the rise—largely due to a certain leader’s ignorant comments. This is unacceptable. We need to fight the misconceptions and #WashTheHate.

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

– Ijeoma Oluo

Let’s fight this together

Let’s not allow this to become another forgotten moment in time. This time, let’s make it count. 

It wasn’t easy to reveal my shortcomings and admit to the pain I’ve caused. But I hope that my honesty will show others how they might also do better and be better.

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Judy
    June 12, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Chrissy. Thanks so much for putting all this information out for us to look up. I know that I have a lot to learn.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 12, 2020 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Judy—thank you for reading and for your comment. Knowing that I have the power to change things in myself makes me feel less helpless when I hear about all the horrible incidents that keep happening. Let’s all learn and grow together. ♥

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    June 12, 2020 at 6:42 am

    Thank you Chrissy for your honesty. Like you I always considered myself to not be a racist but never considered all the covert racism that exists.

    The current global events have caused me to pause, reflect on my own actions and to educate myself. I’m committed to learn more and to do continue to be an ally. It’s not enough to not be racist. It’s time to be anti-racist.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 12, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Maria—until recently, I didn’t realize how naive I was about covert racism. I believe many of us are finally seeing things through more enlightened eyes. This is one of the good things that will come of George Floyd’s and so many other’s suffering.

      You’re absolutely right—anti-racist is what we need to work towards. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    June 12, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Such a good post Chrissy. Love how you shared so many resources, thank you for that. I really enjoyed Jamila’s Black Tax podcast episode. I too am very interested in how I (a white female) can help and you’re right, the first step is a deep inner look at myself. We ALL need to do a better job at fighting all forms of racism.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 12, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Court—starting with ourselves is an important first step. If we can shift our own thinking, it helps us understand what it takes for others to shift their thinking as well. I hope in our lifetimes to see a major revolution in the way all humans treat each other. If we work together, we’ll eventually get there.

  • Reply
    Joe
    June 12, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for speaking out Chrissy. The system is broken and it needs to change. I always knew POC has a harder life in America but didn’t understand the extent of it. The problem is systemic. They have to work a lot harder to get ahead and police brutality is very real for them.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 12, 2020 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Joe—the system is very much broken. Canada isn’t a whole lot better (especially if you look at how we treat our indigenous people). We also have a lot of work to do up here. I hope that, by all of us uniting, we will eventually defeat the hate that still exists.

  • Reply
    Latestarterfire
    June 12, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks, Chrissy for including my link. It was hard for me to write it too. As someone who experienced racism, it’s confounding why I keep quiet and just want to move on.
    It’s time we all confront racism head on. Thanks for writing this – will be busy reading the articles above that I haven’t read yet

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 13, 2020 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Late Starter FIRE—it’s not easy to speak up and put ourselves out there. But it can make a difference, so it’s worth doing! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Reply
    drplasticpicker
    June 13, 2020 at 5:01 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful and honest post. I think self reflection can be so difficult and painful, but meaningful change can only happen with that tough and real work. You know what gives me hope? That you are a mother. And now we teach our children differently and will demand for them a better world. There is definitely no environmental justice without racial justice.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 13, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      Hi drplasticpicker—I love how you treasure and champion children (your own, and those you care for in your practice). Your belief in their ability to be good stewards for our Earth fills me with hope and inspiration. There’s still a lot of work to do, but you’re right—we are teaching our children differently. I’m an eternal optimist, and I do think our world will become kinder and more educated with each passing generation.

  • Reply
    Ryan Myricks
    June 13, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Wow, this article went a completely different direction than I thought (a good thing!). Very insightful to acknowledge racism within yourself and the stereotypes/covert racism you listed. Racism is a lot like money – nobody feels all that comfortable talking about it, let alone revealing one’s own thoughts or account balances. I feel like I know you a lot more after this one, Chrissy. Keep it up.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 17, 2020 at 11:25 am

      Hi Ryan—I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world in recent weeks. At 41 years of age, I’ve realized that the only one I have the power to change is myself.

      And so, that’s the best place to look if I want to see change in the world. I appreciate your comment, Ryan. And thanks for your own post on the topic as well.

      The more we speak up, the more likely we’ll see the changes we’re hoping for.

  • Reply
    Ana
    June 17, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I think we’re all doing our fair share of reflecting and wondering what role we’ll play in the much needed changes. As a Hispanic immigrant, I was fortunate to grow up in Miami known as a cultural melting pot. I didn’t realize that I was a minority in the U.S. until I went away to college!

    I see kindness and tolerance in my kids as well as in their friends. That gives me a lot of hope. Glad we’re having this conversation.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 18, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Ana—you and I are both lucky to have grown up in places where being a minority didn’t hurt us (and in fact, was probably celebrated!) If only everyone was as lucky as we’ve been.

      It is heartwarming to hear about the younger generation, like your kids and many I’ve heard about on social media. They’re far more aware than previous generations, and want to be kinder and more tolerant of everyone.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Teresa (Chrissy's mom in law)
    June 22, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    I faced racism in my childhood in Hong Kong because my parents were mixed race. I am 1/4 Portuguese (from Macau) & 3/4 Chinese. Neither side of the family accepted us. Moving to Vancouver in 1968 opened my eyes – the Canadians I met were THE KINDEST people I had ever come across. I was 17 and it was the first time in my life someone paid me a compliment and it was genuine. Now I hear about the horrible attacks on Asians because of Covid 19 & it makes me worried. Where is it coming from? Who are the attackers? Now I understand that some races have suffered throughout the period that I had my head in the sand. I was shown such kindness but I neglected to see that others have not been shown the same kindness. It is time to make a change in myself and after reading Chrissy’s blog and the comments from the readers, I feel there is definitely hope for the future.

    • Reply
      drplastickpicker
      June 23, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Hello Teresa. I am so sorry you had to suffer that racism. That is eye opening to me as I’ve never really thought about the racism in what we would think of as more homogenous countries, and that someone would be discriminated at for being partially European. In the end we are all human. We are Asian and when I married Mr. Plastic Picker who is Korean, I remember my paternal grandfather saying that it was fine. But he said seomthing odd, he said “your father already married a Southerner. He already married someone different.” My parents are from the same country, same ethnic group, same native language. That struck me as so odd.

      • Chrissy
        June 23, 2020 at 9:49 pm

        Hi Dr. Plastic Picker—it really is eye-opening to hear about racism in other countries. I also find your grandfather’s comment odd and interesting. Prejudice runs deep.

        Thankfully, each passing generation is slightly more educated, kind and just. I have so much hope for our children’s generation. As you mentioned in your article about Teenage TikTok users sending Trump a message, I know their generation will change things for good. They’re passionate, they’re aware, they can access the truth that’s out there, and they’re not afraid to act.

        Let’s keep doing our part and raising these mini humans to one day right all the wrongs we’re battling.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 23, 2020 at 9:28 pm

      Hi Mom—you’ve told me of the racism you faced growing up. It’s horrible that others can be judged for the blood that runs in their veins and the colour of their skin. Why? It makes no sense to me.

      We are very lucky in Vancouver to face relatively little racism, but you’re right that we must keep ourselves aware of what others face.

      You are one of the most progressive Baby Boomers I know! I’m proud of you for always learning and striving to be a better human. 🙂

  • Reply
    M
    July 4, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you for writing this article.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      July 4, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      Hello Maisal—thank you for coming by to read and comment. One good thing that has come out of all this strife is that people like me are becoming even more awakened to the issues that Blacks, Hispanics, and indigenous people face. I have learned so much in the last month, and continue to learn every day.

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