My daughter came home last night from her first job as a barista for a local Boba Tea eatery, crying.
“They don’t like me, mom! I’m doing the exact same level of work that all the new kids are, and they keep calling ME out cuz I’m not Asian.”
Several other barista type jobs at various locally businesses to which she applied told her flat out they only hire Asians (which, at least in my neighborhood, includes Indians, from India). Since most of the fast food and convenience stores here are owned by Asians, this has severely limited her choices for simple, flexible, part-time work.
The first day of this job, a month back, she came home and said, “My manager called me their ‘diversity hire,’ since I’m the only White person who works there. It hurt my feelings. He made me feel like I didn’t get the job cuz I deserved it.” Every day since, she’s come home with other racist comments most of her managers continue to make.
Our daughter has a 4.3 gpa, is a hard worker academically, and socially. She is the only White person in her group of friends. She’s worked very hard, and continues to do so, to be a part of this Asian crowd, that is now well over 75% of her high school in an East Bay suburb of the San Francisco Bay area.
My son wasn’t so lucky. Boys going through puberty are all about bravado, one-upping each other. Girls are about connecting, communicating, building their community. Our son was excluded and bullied for not being “A”sian, throughout middle and high school. He had no friends at all, though he tried again and again to ‘fit in’ with them, from Karate to Robotics to Chess clubs and more. It broke his heart daily, and mine as well, watching my beautiful, open, kind kid ostracized for being White. He will likely struggle with a damaged self-image the rest of his life because of these formative experiences.
Yet, neither of my children are racists, like so many of their Asian friends and associates. My daughter gets bullied often, even from her ‘friends’ with thoughtless comments: “I only date Asians. I don’t find White girls attractive,” from the 4 out of 5 boys in her group. My daughter would love to get asked to proms, on dates. She watches her Asian girlfriends get asked out. She does not.*
These are REALITIES for all of us, Asians and Whites, here in the global melting pot of the San Francisco Bay Area, and yet my children are still not racists. Why, when so many are?
My husband is a software architect. He’s been creating and deploying SaaS offerings for over 25 years here in Silicon Valley. Every job he’s ever had in the software industry, and trust me, he’s had a lot of jobs, he’s worked almost exclusively with Asians. While offshore H1B labor has been brought here by the tech industry since 1990, this massive Asian influx globally was not anticipated. In the last five yrs, the companies he’s worked for, whether the staff is 30 or 3000, in IT, or any other department now—close to 60% are of Asian descent. And yet, my husband is not racist, though he’s been passed up for many position by Asians on work visas and H1Bs.**
I invited my daughter’s best friend and her family to our Thanksgiving dinner last year. I’d met Yi, the mom, only once before, but my daughter spoke of her often when she’d visited her BF’s home: “Her mom is really nice. And she says the same stuff you do. She jokes that you must really be Asian, the way you get on me about homework.” I was grateful my daughter found the humor in her comment, instead of the likely unintended slight. “You guys should get together. You can make a new girl friend, mom.”
The girls arranged a late January lunch, and the four of us went out for Thai food. Yi and I eased into a smooth dialog. Fifteen yrs my junior, she was quite express, articulate when I asked her questions, but she rarely turned my interest around, which I’d say goes for most people I’ve met. A tech-visa transplant from China in her early 20s, she’d been a single mom since divorcing her White husband a decade before. And while I did not feel a personal connection, with few common interests, a profound one existed between us. Raising two kids, a boy my son’s age, and a girl, my daughter’s best friend, Yi loves her children the exact same way, with the same intensity as I do mine.
She suggested we get together again at the end of our luncheon, but I did not pursue it, and neither did she. Thanksgiving came around eleven month later. The girls were having a school vacation sleepover celebration the weekend before the holiday, and my daughter’s BF told us her family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But she confessed she’d like to, as I served breakfast the next morning. Well, of course I invited her, her mom and brother right then. She was so excited she texted them, and the girls were jumping up and down, cheering, moments later with her mom’s response.
The seven of us ate turkey, and stuffing, and shared stories of thanks around the table that night. We played Pictionary after dinner, and laughed and laughed. When the kids exited the scene to play video games, Yi, my husband and I spoke of politics, religion, crossing all social lines of decorum. I was pleasantly surprised how open she was to dialog beyond the surface. And though we have radically different perspectives, the exchange was engaging, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable for all three of us. Even better, the kids bonded that Thanksgiving, and since have established a once-a-month excursion.
Globalization is a REALITY. It’s happening, right now. Most first world nations are being inundated with immigrants looking for that illusive ‘better life.’ Like it, or not, global integration is here, and, as my husband, and our kids know, it is mandatory, simply must happen, for humanity, and our very small planet to survive us.
“One wish,” my mom asked my sister and me on our drive home from elementary school back in the old days. “Anything you want, what would it be.”
“World peace,” I’d said. It was the mid-1970s, and a common catch phrase, but I meant it. Without war, or economic disparity, I believed in our creative potential to problem solve, and our unique ability to work together to realize our fantastical visions. I didn’t know about the hunger of greed then, insatiable, and colorblind.
It has been particularly hard on my kids, this globalization process. It deeply saddens me that they must suffer the slights of blind prejudice, just as the Asians in past generations had to suffer the racism of the ignorant Whites here. It terrifies me—the global competition for fewer jobs my kids will be competing for after college. Yet, I still advocate for globalization. This very small planet must integrate, or we will perish, and likely take much of the life here with us, with the destructive technology we’ve already invented.
My daughter worries she’ll never meet anyone to date, yet alone marry, but I assure her she likely will. And it’s even likely that man will be Asian, since 36.4% of the global population are Asian*** and more than half of them are men. “It doesn’t matter where someone came from, what their heritage, or place of origin on the planet,” I’ve preached to my kids. “Choose to be with someone kind.”
A border wall surrounding the U.S. entirely will not stop Asians from flying in from China and India, Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia and other emerging Asian nations. Nor will it stop the Middle East, South Americans, Cubans from coming here. Seeking to keep us separate is a fool’s play. Communication is key to build bridges over our differences, allowing us to meet in the middle and mutually benefit from our strengths. Ignorance and mistrust breed with distance. Nationalism is just thinly disguised racism.
Asians, Latinos, Syrian’s, and Palestinians, are all different cultures, not separate races from Caucasian. We are one race, the human race. Globalization—the blending of cultures—is hard for everyone, scary, new, threatening to our social structure, but a must if humanity is to survive, even thrive. The beauty of interracial marriage is the same thing that bonds Yi and I, as parents. We both passionately love our kids. She can’t possible hate Whites, since her children are Asian/White. Combine two cultures, at least on a localize level, defeats racism, as most every parent loves their kids with intensity Yi and I do. It’s one of our best bits about being human—the magnificent, spectacular, all-encompassing love we get to feel for our children.
*Regardless of the sociology, it is unusual in the extreme to see an Asian man partner with a White women (though common the other way around), both here in the States and abroad.
**Hiring offshore for less money, now being exploited by every social network from Facebook to YouTube, to Mr. Trump’s summer staff at his Mar-a-Lago estate, lowers the pay rate for all of us. It’s no wonder U.S. income levels have been stagnant for years.
***As of July, 2019, there are approx. 1.43+ billion Chinese (in China), or 18.41% of the global population. Indians (in India) are a close second, with approx. 1.37+ billion, or 17.4% of the total world population. Combining just these two Asian cultures, their world population is 4.1 billion people, or 36.14% of the world population, and that is just within their respective countries, not actual global numbers including visa work-holders and undocumented immigrants abroad.