Terror

Writing has always been cathartic for me. I’ve always believed in the power of getting words down on paper and letting the emotions out. Blogging and sharing my thoughts helped me with my anxieties, and I hoped that my anxiety-induced writing would put another voice on the table in regards to the MIT experience.
I took a long hiatus.
Today, I am blogging again. After all, I am now more anxious than ever, and I have a voice that begs to be heard.
On Monday night, my 7 year old sister called me and told me about how she “cannot wait for Hillary to win.”
On Tuesday night, amidst a bar filled with New Yorkers, I watched as my sister’s hopes were shattered. I watched as the states were called. I watched as sexism and racism won out, again. I watched as half the country told me and my friends and many of the people around me that we did not matter to them.
I spent the entirety of Wednesday crying. My hands didn’t stop shaking all day. I got drunk with my company as they attempted to console me at our happy hour in Manhattan. If I hadn’t had to get back to Crown Heights on my own, I would’ve probably tried to drown myself in tequila. 
I am still scared to call my family because I don’t want to have to help rationalize what happened to my baby sister. I don’t know if I can.
The thing is, I lived in China during some of my most formative years. I was a resident in a country that still has a repressive regime. My parents shielded me from most realities when I was little, but as I grew older and distanced myself from China, my dad began to tell me more and more about the country.
As a child, I didn’t really notice many differences between life in America and life in China. When I moved back to the States at 13, I wasn’t taking advantage of American healthcare; I didn’t understand the realities of women’s rights and the hurdles Americans had overcome; I didn’t know how valuable it was to be able to speak your thoughts without fear. 
Life didn’t seem that different.
I take advantage now. I understand now. I know now.
Life seems very different now.
I am a woman. I am ethnically Chinese. I am an alien resident of Brooklyn, New York. I am a user experience designer in Manhattan. Being all those things in a city like New York, as of right now, isn’t too bad.
But I’ve had traumatic experiences here regardless. 
A few years ago, I was given death threats on the subway at 11 pm by a white man. He told me that “my people” were taking jobs away from people like him. He told me he had a knife in his jacket. He rambled a lot under his breath so I couldn’t understand everything he said, but I assume it was in the same vein. 
At the time, I was not alone – I was with a friend, who happens to be a white woman. Her whiteness did not shield me. We got off the train as soon as we could.
A few months ago, I was on the train home from work. It was maybe 7 pm at night, because I worked late that day. A black man jacked off under his shorts while standing next to me, continuously attempting to push his crotch towards my face.
I hyperventilated on my walk home.
A few weeks ago, also on the train home, I accidentally got in the way of a black woman around my age while attempting to take my seat. She stuck her phone in my face so her white boyfriend could see what I looked like, while complaining about Asians. She used her elbows to push me against the edge of the seat.
Instead of fighting back, I made myself as small as possible. She texted her friend saying I was being aggressive.
I get catcalled on a near-weekly basis, by men of all colors and all ages. It never fails to make me feel nauseous and dirty. 
This is my reality. This is my reality under one of the most progressive presidencies America has known. This is my reality in a world that is theoretically more open and accepting than America has ever been before. 
Right now, this reality is about as safe as I can be.
This is why I am scared.
I’m not necessarily scared of Donald Trump himself. I have to recognize that on his own, despite being President-elect, he does not wield that much power. While I do not have that much faith in our Republican-majority Senate and House, I must force myself to believe that they will keep him in check. I know that I live in a blue state, and that in itself is already a safety net that many other people do not have.
I recognize that even if he repeals NAFTA, the trade treaty that I am legally here on, my company will help me obtain the appropriate paperwork to stay here. I recognize that even if he forces women to start paying for their contraception again, I make enough that I am able to pay for it. I am very, very lucky in that regard.
But I am scared of the rhetoric that has followed his campaign, and the extreme sexism and racism that has made itself known in these past two days. You know what my current reality is. I am now being forced to prepare myself for it to get much, much worse.
Growing up in China, I have seen what happens to people when your government doesn’t care for you. I have seen what happens when you are afraid of your neighbors. I have seen what happens when you are too scared to talk openly about the government, and I have seen what happens when you overstep your bounds. There is no unity – it becomes every man and woman for himself. I know of people who embezzled money from their classmates. I know of family members who have embezzled money from other family members.
It’s not pretty.
And that’s in a country that’s only Chinese.
So I am scared. I am scared that people will not be able to unite. I am scared that people will begin to be scared of their neighbors, the ones with different levels of melanin in their skin, the ones who might have a slightly different opinion from themselves.
On Tuesday night, at 10:30 pm, when nothing was definite yet, my dad texted me to stay calm. He said, “It’s very strange that [Trump] could win (probably by quite a lot of votes). Also, I heard that the majority of old generation Chinese Americans voted for him, which is even more strange.”
I don’t find it strange.
That scares me too.
My parents told me when I was little that I could be whatever I wanted to be, as long as I worked hard. Many Chinese people, particularly ones that survived the past regimes of Mao and Deng Xiaoping, hold that same sentiment – after all, they all managed to survive and succeed and bring their children to a better place. 
But they survived and succeeded in a country that is only Chinese. When you don’t have systemic odds stacked against you based on the color of your skin, surviving and succeeding is easier.
Chinese people have feared for their lives in China. But they know how to avoid getting into trouble.
In America, people of color can’t avoid getting into trouble. Trouble comes and finds them, and that’s the difference.
But that’s not something that a lot of people understand. I have had many an argument with my mother about this very topic, because she has trouble understanding why in general, people of color are lower income.
She voiced racist notions to explain it. I disagreed. I still disagree, and I hope that she has reformed her opinions. But I am compassionate in a way that she is not – compassionate because I grew up comfortably and because I know and love people who are of different colors from me. She fought tooth and nail for everything she has, and she might have lost much of her compassion on the way.
Plus, as Asians, we have the luxury of being the “model minority”. I’m on the receiving end of micro-aggressions regularly, sure, but I still have it a lot better than thousands of people. 
At the very least, the worst that happens to me more often than not is getting my accomplishments erased because I’m Asian, so of course I must be doing well.
So older Chinese Americans, voting for Trump? Sure. They see a guy who seems successful and has made quite a bit of money – sounds good for the country.
What’s ironic to me, though, is that the anti-immigrant rhetoric Trump and many of his supporters spout has happened very specifically to us before. 
It was called the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was passed in 1882, and wasn’t repealed until 1943. Asians – not just Chinese Americans – still deal with those repercussions today.
People have short memories.
What I’m scared of is that if older Chinese Americans couldn’t come out for other people of color, who’s to say the rest of us will stay united? I hope that we will. I saw the protests across America happening last night, that I’m sure will continue to happen in following weeks. Despite the circumstances, it warms my heart to see such unity among people of different colors, different genders, different sexualities. 
I stand with you all.
At a time like this, when people are scared because their basic human rights are being threatened, when this country seems more divided than ever, your coming together gives me hope. I am scared, but your protests give me courage to hope for a better future.
I hope that we can come together and heal. I hope that, despite the atrocity that will be happening in the American government starting on January 20, 2017, we can come together and listen to each other and try to see how we can make it better for everyone.
I cannot let myself believe that everyone who voted for Trump was a bigot. So, I want to understand. 

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 14.0px}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

If you voted for him but you don’t believe yourself to be racist or sexist, I want to know what you think it is you traded my safety and my friends’ safeties for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *