After having had walked around the Smack Mellon loft and finished viewing the entirety of their exhibit “Race to Revolution,” I couldn’t help but go back to this one art installation that I found especially intriguing: the big, black, chalkboard wall. It was an invitation for everyone, from all walks of life, to write on the wall and to share bits and pieces of the oppression they’ve faced due to their race or class.
And so the invitation was accepted by many. A myriad of anecdotes were written— some were at different angles, sizes. Some were messy, some were neat. Some were faded, and some were freshly written over the old ones by fellow my TRaC members.
It painted a picture of the sweeping generalizations made in society about a multitude of races, as well as the stereotypes that are so commonly tethered to their image. The wall was a collection of voices that forced us to listen, and while doing so, we attempted to recognize other people’s struggles, sympathize, relate, connect, or even feel a pang of shame for the racist or classist moments that we may have ignorantly took part of. Standing there in front of the wall, I recalled the times I’ve been targeted because of my Asian identity, such as when I was called “ching chong” over and over by my classmates in middle school, and my teacher ultimately being okay with it. Or the time my grandpa was taunted at the beach for being shirtless, because he was just “an old Chinese man who didn’t speak English.” Or all times throughout my life when I was seen nothing more than “a shy Asian girl.”
I then think back to late December, when the hashtag “#thisis2016” circulated like a frenzy all over Twitter. It was all started by Michael Luo, a Chinese American NYT reporter who’d experienced an unsettling, markedly racist, encounter that is not only common for people of his race, but for all people of color. In his open letter, he writes that a woman on the streets angrily screamed at him to “go back to [his] f—ing country.” Deeply perturbed by what had happened, he implored all Asian Americans to share similar experiences of racism on Twitter.
For this project, I decided to compile a list of tweets with the hashtag “#thisis2016” that especially resonated with as an Asian American. This is to shed light on the blatant racism in a community that is too often overlooked and ignored by the general public. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for #thisis2017 this coming December.
“My history teacher asked in class ‘Is your Chinese name Ching Chang Wang? I heard all Chinese names sound like that’ #thisis2016.” – @TimCLau
“Too many for 1 tweet. In sum, living in NYC, I still regularly get: go back to China, hello China doll, konichiwa #thisis2016” – @dj
“Once asked, ‘Is your peripherical vision as good as mine, or better? Cuz you know, the eyes.” – @KMarcChoi
“Is it just me or do people with Down syndrome look Asian?” – @saywhatkoala
“ ‘You’re a good driver for an Asian woman.’ #thisis2016” – @425suzanne
“On a date w/ my bf a guy congratulated him for “catching an Asian.” I wasn’t acknowledged any further than that. #thisis2016” – @keysmashconnor
“dating as an asian male, seeing profiles listing preference as “all-american,” getting replies like “no chinks” #thisis2016” – @carl_cheng
“You’re creative for an Asian. Most Asians are only technically good” #thisis2016 messed up part: in my youth I took this as a compliment” – @chr1shuang
“ ‘You’re not Viet? I just lost a bet’
‘You’d be prettier if you smiled more’
‘You dance pretty good for an Asian’#thisis2016″ -@meems012
From various students attending Bowdoin College:
“Do Chinese parents kill their second child if they have one? #thisis2016”
“To the doorman: ‘No, I’m not here for a delivery. This is my lunch…’ #thisis2016”
“Please don’t laugh at my name #thisis2016”
“Do you speak Muslim? #thisis2016”
“Say something Asian for me. #thisis2016”
“You’re so exotic #thisis2016”
“Of course you play violin #thisis2016”
“ ‘I bet nobody in your family speaks good English’ – A literature teacher #thisis2016”