Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You've got to admit it's getting better, Part 2

I met the Indian last night. His arms were nicely tatted up, and he told me a story about meeting his girlfriend's grandfather. The two men hit it off quite well, yet the grandfather later shared these words with the family: "He's nice, but don't let her go over to that side." He could have been referring to one of many things (marriage, India, tattoo parlors), but we all know it is every minority's wish to kidnap a white woman and take her to the country his parents were born, where he has never lived. We call it the American dream.

The Indian also mentioned saying "Merry Christmas" to his girlfriend's mother, who replied "Thanks for saying that," as if he had really put in the effort. Way to go, champ. You're one step closer to becoming America's Next Top American.

The conversation turned to comparing ignorance and racism, whether the grandfather's 87-year-old ideas would pass with his passing. Are we continuing to breed racism in America?

I'm unequipped to answer such a question, but it's not as if I haven't done the field work. Every human interaction I have could be viewed with a racial relations magnifying glass, but I try very hard not to do that. The best analogy I can make is of the recent hot button issue of athletes carrying guns. After the Plaxico Burress shooting, a former NFL player revealed that he carried a gun during his first two years in the league. He said that it only added to his problems because he started to see every person approaching him as a potential danger. Would he have to reach for his gun? What if he had to use it? After two years of going nuts, he tossed the gun over a bridge. In a matter of speaking, I try not to carry the gun.

My sister has a great story about an Asian girl who walked up to her in a bar. I believe the two of them were the only Asians in the bar, and the other girl said something to her about solidarity. She then said, "What's your authenticity?" I'm no statistician, but I'd have to go with 100%. My sister is a completely real human. Now I wouldn't deem her question racist or ignorant, but the girl was definitely of our generation. So the ball keeps rolling. The apples keep falling close to the tree.

I recently spent some time in San Francisco, a city that I was shocked to discover still boasts one of the highest percentages of race-related crimes in the country. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that every type of person lives in SF, so the chances are higher. An entirely homogenous community isn't having many race-related crimes in its boundaries.

I quite like San Francisco, though I get very introspective when I'm there. Chinatown, for one, is a real Chinatown. There are old men spitting tobacco in courtyards, and they're unlikely to know any English. Everything they need is within that community, and so the live the way they want. And though I like the vast number of cultures all living within the same space, I must admit that I lose a little of my identity in SF. I'm suddenly far from the only Asian in the room, the only one with square glasses and a mullet haircut. I'm suddenly in tune to the fact that maybe I'm not so unique. I'm terrified of talking to the other square glass mullets. In college I met a fourth generation Asian-American, and his existence blew my mind. His family has been here for a long time.

A friend recently went on a date with a guy with a French name. I asked if he was French, and the friend said no. His parents are from France, but he grew up here. So he's American. And how am I different from him? How is he more American than Mr. Fourth Generation? Why isn't he French-American? It sounds odd, I know.

I will never have the answers. I've come to accept this. As I mentioned in Part 1, the best I can do is keep learning. I try to keep the right people close, and I try to live up to my own principles. 100%, baby.

1 comment:

  1. Sad, and worth pointing out that the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree." But I've seen reasons to be hopeful. Clearly it's a slow process in a young country.