This Is My Country

****No editing here. Getting this written down quickly because I am still angry, shaken, sad. You never get used to everyday racism.

No, I wasn’t wearing this shirt today, but the image fits. And if you don’t know about AngryAsianMan.com now you know.****

The older man walked up to the closed register next to me and looked at the wretched KFC/Pizza Hut menu at the travel oasis/rest stop near Elkhart, IN. He asked about the fried chicken hiding behind the greasy cough-guard. I wondered if he was going to do what I thought it looked like he was going to do, and I wrestled with what I would do if he tried to cut in front of the line. He stands with a curve in his back, pants hemmed too short and hair disheveled. He is older, if not elderly, with white, thinning hair. I can’t take the Korean out of me. We respect our elders. Should I just let him go? I just want to feed my sons terrible fast food, get back on the road and get home.

But he goes on, putting in his order and pulling out some money, and the cashier tells him there is line that he will have to join. The line is now about 8 people deep, not including me and my two teenage sons.

The older man, let’s call him Gerald, looks back at the line, looks at me and asks, “What do you need food for?”

I’m hoping he is joking, though he isn’t cracking a smile, so I respond as kindly as I can with a smile (I have now listened to Hamilton five times on this road trip and I can’t stop thinking “talk less, smile more”), “I need food to eat, just like you do.”

Gerald looks at me and my sons and says, “You don’t need food. Go back to your country and eat the food there.”

By the way, Gerald is white. I am not.

Oh, FFS.

My first instinct is to put myself in between Gerald and my sons who are 17 and 14 and both taller and bigger than I am, but I am their mother and I will always put myself between them and perceived danger.

Remember. There are at least eight people watching this unfold.

What would you hope you would have done if you were behind me in the line??? W??hat would you hope others would have done or said as they watched this unfold?

I wrote briefly about this encounter on my Facebook page, and everyone wants to know what I said, but I want to know if you have ever seen anything like this happen to someone else? And if so, what did you do? Did you say anything?

Because that is part of why I am still upset, unnerved, angry, sad, and exhausted. I am not told to “go back” every day in the literal sense, but many Asian Americans, American-born and immigrants, will tell you that we experience this “othering” often, especially here in the Midwest.

Non-Asian Americans of all shades often seem unable to “place” me in discussions on race because I do not fit neatly into the Black/White binary and Asian American history, art, literature, etc. are not always taught in American history even though “we” have been around for centuries here in the United States.

Which brings me back to Gerald and the silent line.

My response was to first step in between my sons and Gerald. My second response was to whip out my phone camera, but I didn’t catch him. What I caught was his face getting closer to mine as I told him, “I have money. This is my country, and there is a line.”

Eventually a younger white man, let’s call him Brad, steps in between me and Gerald and de-escalates the situation.

I am exhausted. In that 90-second exchange I went through the mental gymnastics of wondering what I could do to de-escalate the situation, how I could show the man Christ-like grace, if Gerald was some how mentally challenged, allowing age to be an excuse for his racist comment, wondering if anyone else was going to step in, hoping it didn’t escalate but not ready to stand down and behave whatever behaving means at that point, wondering what my sons were taking away from this experience, hoping they weren’t too embarrassed, embarrassed as we then had to stand there and wait for our food, angry that I felt embarrassed, tired that this was nothing new because it has happened to me since I was a child.

So here is a lesson for all of you, my dear readers, who have never been told to “go back to your country”. Now that you know this really happens here in the United States, how will you prepare yourself to step in? What will you do when something like this happens in front of you?

Remember, there were at least eight other adults in that line who said nothing.

 

124 Comments

  1. Jeanette Yep September 5, 2016

    I’m so sorry this happened to you Kathy. Obviously, this man is battling other “demons” in his life. So sorry he took this out on you. TOTALLY UNNCESSARY! Thank God for the younger white man who stepped in and I’m sad for the woosy others in the queue who chose to be silent. But then again maybe they were visiting from Serbia or Moldova and they didn’t speak English as well as you… I’m glad the boys saw the whole 90 second incident unfold. This will help shape their characters as they continue to develop into the men God has called them to be.

    Reply
  2. JANA MONJI September 5, 2016

    I always try to say something. It is time to say that there is more to the race problem than black and white. Until people, both black and white, begin to recognize this, there will be no solution to the problem of racism.

    I am sorry this had to happen to you, but I also think someone might have said something if you weren’t a threesome. Then again, there is a lot of apathy out there in the world.

    Reply
  3. Theo Henderson September 5, 2016

    I am a African American and I am conflicted. Yesterday a Asian female (Korean) gave me the most hateful look and behavior. Why? Because me and my student sat down in a train. The anti Black sentiment from the Asian community has been a constant problem. The cold hard facts is the Asian community don’t care about the Black and white relations in this country. We were forced here. No Black nation has came and put Asian people in slavery for 500 years. However the community has no problem carrying hatred for Black people. The contributions this country has received came from our slave labor.

    Reply
    • Ty September 6, 2016

      I’m not excusing the judgmental glare you encountered from the Korean woman, but I would urge you not to extend that to the broader Asian and Pacific Islander community. There have been plenty of Asian & Pacific Islanders who have stood side by side with the Black community–Yuri Kochiyama, Richard Aoki, etc. in solidarity of the hardships and struggles our communities have faced.

      Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        Tyler My grandparents and parents were in the civil rights movement and are aware of the people mentioned. I myself am involved with a Asian group. But this problem stems from the apathy from the Asian community on how the relationship between Black and white spill over to other culture. No other race in law has Black people been called 3/5 human.The Chinese came willingly to seek a better life and fortune. The native American were slaughtered. The Black movement has been in the forefront because we are vocal. The other group attached themselves to us. The Chinese fought to be considered white to advance their race. We fought for all.

        Reply
        • Victoria Trinh September 6, 2016

          The AAPI community has a lot of anti-blackness that needs to be unlearned. Simply noting a few Asian Americans who has talked about issues with black ppl is ridiculous, esp when Kochiyama and so many others are regressive in how they talked about black ppl while claiming to care about them.

          Theo, your conflict is understandable as how every marginalized group has learned from black ppl on how to combat social justice issues, but never want to give credit when credit has been long due.

          I want to address that comparison of struggles bw groups doesn’t help. Each group was and has been mistreated in different ways. It’s best if we talk about our own issues and go from there. Also, Theo – how do you know the person was Korean and not Korean American or of another ethnicity?

          AAPI ppl benefit from the mistreatment of black, latinx, and native ppl so it’s important that we acknowledge that.

          Reply
          • Theo Henderson September 7, 2016

            Thank you for eloquently pointing out what I was trying to say.
            http://nypost.com/2016/09/07/air-china-slammed-for-racist-in-flight-magazine/


          • Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

            Theo, posting a link once will suffice, thank you. I don’t like having to unapprove comments.


          • Theo Henderson September 7, 2016

            She was Korean due where we were in Korean town. All Asian people don’t look alike.


          • Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

            Uh, Koreans aren’t the only Asians who are in Koreatown.

            Let’s try this. What are some of the ways you would suggest building trust between Asian Americans and African Americans, Theo?


        • Irene September 6, 2016

          Actually Theo, Chinese immigrants were also indentured servants coming to the US under lies told to them. Was it kidnapping the way Africans were sold? Some but not all. But it happened in the mid-19th century to Asians too(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolie). So we’re in this together. Do modern Asians need better awareness of the deep-seeded continued systematic racism against blacks? Most def. But Asian migration didn’t start recently. We need to stop allowing racists to pit us against one another. We need to fight against the racism together. As an Asian American, I stand, shout, kneeling, and fight with you. I hope you hear that – not all Asians are apathetic and Kathy is def not one either.

          Reply
          • Theo Henderson September 7, 2016

            http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/01/08/8-worst-countries-black-people-travel/4/


          • Victoria Trinh November 18, 2016

            Again, it is important to not ask for solidarity and/or inclusion from a group we receive more privilege than. Yes, Asians have been through that in the past but it does NOT remain as racism towards us allows us to enter white space (through positive stereotypes, model minority myth, etc.) than other POC. Black ppl are still being murdered and incarcerated at disproportionate rates.

            Also the indentured servitude is not anywhere close to slavery as it was not as global, we weren’t STOLEN AND SOLD EVERYWHERE. We weren’t as dehumanized and assaulted to the point that we have western last names. It cannot be compared.

            Stop using your “solidarity” to silence black ppl. You do not truly stand with them then.


        • JT September 7, 2016

          Believe it or not, some Asian communities feel equally disrespected by Blacks and Hispanics. Let’s not forget the LA riots and the attacks on the Korean community. Having said that, as an Asian American born in this country and a predominately White neighborhood, I can attest that not every Asian feels this way. I never heard my parents say one racist thing towards anybody of any color. They reacted quite angrily at any racist views. The Black, Hispanic and Asian kids I grew up with clung together as we were all victims of discrimination. I grew up in a time where kids would call me racial slurs on a daily basis, and they would only get warnings from the teachers not to do it again. But they always did and none were ever punished beyond the verbal warnings. When I was 16, I was jumped by skinheads. I’ve experienced several incidents like the author described, too many to remember. Hopefully as we progress as a nation, the old racists sentiments will continue to die and our kids will learn to love each other as one people.

          Reply
        • JT September 7, 2016

          Kathy-I wish I had been there with you. I don’t care how old he was, I would have told him off. Shame on those people for not saying anything. They might have well joined in with the racist old man. I was physically attacked by racists while walking home one day as a kid. It happened in a grocery parking lot. Many white people stopped to watch. None said anything, none did anything. All the time my attackers hurled racist slurs. When it was over, they simply got in their cars and drove away. None came by to ask me if I was okay. I think people who don’t speak up are as bad as the perpetrators.

          Reply
        • Victoria Trinh November 18, 2016

          Theo, I apologize. It was inappropriate of me to have dismissed what you have said. You are right. In America, we (Asians and Asian Americns) did and do not face anywhere near the mistreatment of black ppl.

          Kathy Khang, it is important to acknowledge that despite whatever mistreatment Asian Americans experience, it was and has ALWAYS been on the backs of black ppl. Yes, we deal with racism in many disgusting, forms but we aren’t MURDERED by ppl who should protect us and incarcerated at anywhere near the rate of black ppl, latinx and native ppl.

          Asian ppl are generally harder on black ppl for holding them accountable to ANYTHING, including discussions of our ppl. You are being unreasonably harsh on Theo considering how much more white ppl have done to us historically, currently, personally, etc.

          The link is important. We must always acknowledge all aspects of racism if we’re interesting in discussing racism. That includes antiblackness.

          If you choose to hinder this, you are contributing to antiblackness as we always have benefited from.

          Reply
        • Victoria Trinh November 18, 2016

          Also, Kathy Khang and all my Asian ppl. It is important that groups do not ask for solidarity or inclusion from a group that is less privileged than it.

          For instance, no white person is EVER asking for solidarity from me.

          Black ppl have fought for all, even when they shouldn’t because they are the most mistreated group of ppl. Progression doesn’t trickle down. So white women get treated better? UHHH WOC sure won’t.

          Theo also never suggested repairing ties bw our communities and that shouldn’t be the focus. The focus is fighting for progress.

          Reply
    • Jack September 6, 2016

      United States History is full of racism. It’s not just about black slavery. There is the Native American story about what whites did to them. Chinese immigrants who built this nations railroads on a slaves wages. If you don’t know the term “not a chinamen’s chance” look it up. Systematic racism towards the Chinese lasted from 1800’s into the 1960’s. They couldn’t even own land in the U.S. until well into the 20th century. Let’s not forgot about the 1940s when Japanese Americans were rounded up, put into concentration camps and had their properties seized and later sold by the government.

      Reply
    • James S September 6, 2016

      Theo I am not condoning what this woman did or the way she looked at you but rather try to maybe give a possible explanation. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s when the large wave of Asian immigrants started coming over to America from Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia we weren’t met with open arms or acceptance from the the people around us. We were and still are looked as outsiders. A lot of us were placed in poor neighborhoods often times next to black people and this women as well as many older Asian immigrants new to the country may be reflective of their experience with black people. And when I say experience I mean it was a negative one. What you may or may not know is that crimes committed against Asians in this country are most often committed by an Black individual. I can attest to that because members of my family are victims of crimes committed by someone Black. It started when we first arrived to the US and it continues today. Often times these victims speak little to no English and are seen as easy targets. While I do not know the women who you had your recent experience was a victim or not of a crime or just had a bad experience with someone Black. And again I will reiterate that I don’t believe that was an appropriate thing to do by her it may have stemmed from from her experience with Black people. Just something to throw out there that might give you a perspective of why this women gave you the look as you’ve explained and why in your view that the Asian community is not in support of Black and White relations.

      Reply
      • Twyla September 6, 2016

        Instead of trying to explain away this man’s frustration and hurt why not just empathize with him? If you have experienced this sort of behavior from another racial group, does it matter why? The white community needs to stop explaining away their behavior (there are lots of “reasons” why this happened to Kathy, non of them appropriate to it happening again). Trying to explain away the racism tension between Asains and blacks is no different than any other racial groups is it?

        Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        James I will not minimize your experience. But think about this how are crime being committed by my people? Can Black people go into the Asian community and open up business? No. Add to the fact that they are prejudice against Black people. Also look up Latasha Harlins a 15 year old girl shot in the back of the head. Or Akai Gurley who the Chinese community rallied around and insulted and threatened his family.

        Reply
        • James S September 7, 2016

          When did anyone threatened Akai Gurley ‘s family? They were rallying for equal justice and accountability for all officers who may have committed a crime. They wanted white officers who have done the same or even worse to be held accountable. They believe Peter Liang should be held accountable but also all the other white officers that have been in the same position. Not to take anything from the situation but Liang didn’t shoot Akai Gurley. His bullet ricocheted off a wall before it hit Gurley. He did not intend to shoot Gurley or anybody.

          Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-white-kids-michigan-bring-back-slavery-article-1.2660272

        Reply
    • Yohan Anthony September 6, 2016

      There are Asians fighting against anti-blackness in the Asian community, Theo. I hope that there is just a strong a movement against anti-Asianess in the African American community. As an Asian American, I’m angered by the hypocrisy, being told to fight anti-Blacknesss while anti-Asian racism in the African American community is shoved under the carpet. Every time I’ve been physically assaulted, it’s been by an African American, being targeted for my ethnicity.
      Please practice what you preach.

      Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        Our community is the community that has always tried to include people in the movement but the Asian community by and large have not wanted to be involved. With several good reasons due to why many have came and the model minority myth. I live in China town los Angeles and know not much interest in the Chinese community to addressing this sentiment.

        Reply
        • Alex Zheng September 7, 2016

          http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/souls/vol3no3/vol3num3art3.pdf

          Reply
        • Yohan Anthony September 7, 2016

          Yeah, Blacks are interested in including us only when we share the same opinion. But when we call out anti-Asian racism in the African American community, your community tries to silence us. It goes both ways, Theo. That’s why I generally don’t identify myself with the term “people of color” from a political stance because it’s been used to constrain what I have to say.

          Reply
          • Theo Henderson September 7, 2016

            Do you mean like the deflecting that when Black people talk about the anti Black sentiment movement in the Asian community like now?


          • Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

            Theo, last chance. Are you trying to educate people on my blog? Not this way. People are acknowledging anti-black sentiment in the Asian/Asian American community, which is enmeshed with trade, colonialism, occupation, annexation, and class here in the U.S. and abroad. You have posted several links, two now addressing a broader conversation about Asia, as in the continent, which again is an important conversation but not the one I am trying to foster here with my post on my blog. Will you acknowledge that there also is the dynamic of denying or altogether dismissing anti-Asian/Asian American racism that feeds into white supremacy and anti-Asian/Asian American rhetoric?


          • Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

            I don’t want to block comments, but I’m getting a little tired. Theo, last chance. Are you trying to educate people on my blog? Not this way. People are acknowledging anti-black sentiment in the Asian/Asian American community, which is enmeshed with trade, colonialism, occupation, annexation, and class here in the U.S. and abroad. You have posted several links, two now addressing a broader conversation about Asia, as in the continent, which again is an important conversation but not the one I am trying to foster here with my post on my blog. Will you acknowledge that there also is the dynamic of denying or altogether dismissing anti-Asian/Asian American racism that feeds into white supremacy and anti-Asian/Asian American rhetoric?


          • Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

            Seriously. Theo, last chance. Are you trying to educate people on my blog? Not this way. People are acknowledging anti-black sentiment in the Asian/Asian American community, which is enmeshed with trade, colonialism, occupation, annexation, and class here in the U.S. and abroad. You have posted several links, two now addressing a broader conversation about Asia, as in the continent, which again is an important conversation but not the one I am trying to foster here with my post on my blog. Will you acknowledge that there also is the dynamic of denying or altogether dismissing anti-Asian/Asian American racism that feeds into white supremacy and anti-Asian/Asian American rhetoric?


          • James S September 7, 2016

            What about the crimes committed by blacks against Asians that is has going on since the late 70’s? The assaults, robberies, beatings, bullying, sexual assaults, rape and muders? Purse snatches, home invasion, convenient store robberies ALL done by black individuals? This is becoming all to common in the Asian communities. You don’t care about this issue? Only what you perceive as anti-black? Does this not effect community relations? These are prevalent issues that has been going on for decades but is often not talked about. How are you going to discuss Asian and black relations on any level and yet not address any of the issues at hand? And to Kathy sorry for contributing to Theo and his inappropriate hijacking of your thread. I commend you for bringing up unfortunate experience with racism. As someone Asian myself I feel like we are not sharing our experience enough and letting our voices be heard. As for the crimes I mention above that are racially motivated, there are many more that go unreported whether the reason may be language barrier, shame or embarrassment, guilt or lack of trust with law enforcement it still should be talked about in our communities.


          • Yohan Anthony September 7, 2016

            To be fair, I should clarify that not all African Americans deny anti-Asian prejudice in the African American community. That being said, I still don’t see a strong push against anti-Asian prejudice in the African American communities. Is there anti-Blackness in the Asian American community? Yes. Should anti-Blackness be fought against in the Asian American community? Yes. But it goes both ways. There’s a reason I don’t have much faith in so-called “POC solidarity”. It’s more like some African American activists commanding me to speak up for them in the name of solidarity, but then shut up when it comes to anti-Asian prejudice in the African American community.


      • Victoria Trinh November 18, 2016

        Anti-asianess does NOT exist and you know that. Women aren’t clutching their purses when they see you. Police with guns aren’t harrassing and murdering us. etc.

        You were unfairly targeted for your race by black ppl. That’s not racism because it’s not systematically and socially upheld and beneficial for black ppl. But I’m sure you’ll get more mad at black ppl who hurt you than white ppl when they have a history and are currently fucking over Asian ppl.

        Again, what happened to you wasn’t ok. But it wasn’t racism.

        Reply
    • Hapanstance September 6, 2016

      Why exactly are you conflicted? If an Asian in America shoots you dirty looks, does that one person represent all Black and Asian American relations in this country?

      Yesterday I had an interesting exchange with a black man in his 60’s who ended the conversation advising me on what he thought I should do with a penis after I corrected him on speaking Chinese to me because neither of us speak Chinese. My experience with him does not change my perception of other older black men. It does not change my perception of black people. This is not the first time an emotionally broken man has cursed at me after disrespecting ME. I could assume that older black men are emotionally broken and can’t stand to be told they are offensive but how about this? Instead of me assuming that all older black men are like that, I assume those two people are like that? Why would I look at black folks the way white people look at me?

      While I realize that Black folks were forced to be here, I think you are ignoring Asian history, especially in America and in dealing with colonization. First off, not all Asians in America are Americans. Second, Asians don’t have a linear view of race. We have different passions, drives and thoughts that vary person to person just like people who descend from Africa. We don’t carry all the same culture or languages. We are not a monolith. Just like black folks are not a monolith. You are failing to see us as people.

      If you fail to see us as individuals, can you really point the finger at one of us? We point at you, you point at us, the racists are sitting on the side snickering at the disaccord caused. Divide and conquer American style. I refuse to take part.

      Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        I am conflicted about the track record that exist when I hear statement such as it is more than the Black and white binary. Yet they applied for White status. Much like the Irish and how they became the banner holders for White supremacist actions

        Reply
        • Kathy Khang September 6, 2016

          Are you saying Asians/Asian Americans are now trying to become the banner holders for White supremacist actions? Please clarify.

          “They applied for White status.” Yes and no. There is a supreme court case where an Asian man fought to be recognized as Caucasian/white for citizenship because Asians could not become citizens. For non-white immigrants, assimilation is required and demanded, and for non-English speaking immigrants there is also another layer of assimilation required; that is where the black and white binary breaks down. Immigration and the path to residency and citizenship adds complexity and nuance to the race conversation and the dismantling of white supremacy.

          If I assimilate I am told I want to be white. If I don’t assimilate I am told I should assimilate. Either way, I am a perpetual foreigner with no “right” to speak into race relations. And all the while my Korean American husband was born in Chicago and served in the Air Force, and my children were all born in Wisconsin. We don’t want to be white, Theo.

          Reply
          • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

            No the Asian community does not want to be white. I feel just want the privilege. Akai Gurley is a good example. Latasha Harlins is another


          • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

            When the gentleman applied for White status. What were Black people status?


      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        This is an excellent example of deflecting from the issue I raised. The fact of the matter is many in the Asian community has anti Black sentiment. I said in the beginning look at the binary between Black and white people in America to see how it bleeds into the Asian community.

        Reply
        • Hapanstance September 6, 2016

          I am not responsible for what some Asian lady did to you on public transportation. Are you responsible for my husband pissing me off to no end yesterday?

          You know you want to be seen as a human, a person, an individual, but you aren’t willing to extend that to us…and for some reason, that makes perfect sense to you…

          Next time you have beef with something an Asian person did, why don’t you take it up with them? You would probably feel better to address that individual rather than some internet strangers of Asian descent.

          Reply
          • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

            I don’t recall saying you were. But the fact still remains that this is prevalent and needs to be pointed out. Another incident bears mentioning my two Aunts speak Cantonese and Mandarin.They got on a bus with the Chinese. All through the conversation the Chinese woman was making nasty comments such as go back to Africa monkey. This went on and no Asian spoke up just like the White man did to this woman. She left her phone and needed to make a call to her husband. My aunt replied in Cantonese she can use her phone. The point is it is accepted by many. Even when they know it is wrong no one speak up. A small fraction. The Black and white binary is interwoven whether you realize it. The term white race was used to keep all people to think we were 3/5 human. The Asian community came under their own power and made many contributions but they were not 3/5 human. Or in the Chinese community a Hak gwai. When Chinese people go back to China they inevitably say there are too many Black people.


    • Un Mi Jeong September 6, 2016

      Umm…a look??? Your comment on this painful incident a mother had in the presence of her children is to bring up Asian racism based on the “look” a woman gave?

      It goes both ways, but that wasn’t mentioned was it? Well, as we Asian Americans are all enployed as accountants, so we don’t have a lot of time to engage in being racist. The woman was probably working out a thorny tax problem in her head. We’re really good at math–that’s why even our children count ballots at the Oscars.

      Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        Yes a look. You may not know what Black people go through in this country but a look set off a lot of things I endured in the Chinese community. So miss me with that condescending crap.

        Reply
        • James S September 7, 2016

          Theo you do not know what we Asians have to go through so lets not act like you know any better. Besides from the get go it was obvious you didn’t care about the opinion of someone Asian. You just cared about the black plight and the anti-black from Asians. It goes both way. There is also anti-asian from black people as well. Care to cover that?

          Reply
    • Jay Lias September 6, 2016

      “I am a African American and I am conflicted… The anti Black sentiment from the Asian community has been a constant problem.”

      Strained race relations between Asian-Americans and Afro-Americans is well documented. But why would you come to an Asian American writer’s page if not to derail the conversation? That’s like going to a BLM rally w/and “All Lives Matter” sign.

      Reply
    • Jon Trott September 6, 2016

      It is unfortunate that you’d turn one woman’s heart-cry about her own experience with racism into a generalized complaint against her race. This sounds like something those of my background rather than yours are infamous for. And need I say you are, intentionally or not, siding with the bigot she encountered at the counter?

      Reply
      • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

        I am pointing out the irony that is placed here.

        Reply
    • Kathy Khang September 6, 2016

      Theo, I appreciate your comments and the ongoing back and forth about black and Asian American/Asian relations. I can understand, to a limited point because I am a Korean American woman; I hope you can also concede that you can understand, to a limited point because you are an African American man.

      It is difficult for me to hear you make a blanket statement about the Asian community, which has its own nuances in comparison to the Asian American community. Even the term Asian American is frustrating because how can that label actually encompass the history of 25+ countries with varying connections to the United States through trade, war, occupation, illegal annexation, etc.?

      I did not write this post to play oppression olympics, Theo. That doesn’t get any of us anywhere but falling into the hands of white supremacy which uses “conquer and divide” as a means to deflecting all of us from breaking down racism. As you can see, for every personal anecdote you have there also will be Asians and Asian Americans who also have a story. The stories are important to share and learn from but personal stories cannot run the narrative of historic racism against all people of color, otherwise we will be playing oppression olympics all day long.

      Reply
  4. Daria September 5, 2016

    As a black American I can tell you, I know the feeling all too well.

    Reply
    • Theo Henderson September 6, 2016

      I am with you Daria. The Black and white binary bleeds to other group but the goal is to have other group join in.

      Reply
  5. Randy September 5, 2016

    This was more of a mental illness issue, than a racial thing, Kathy. It could be that he was hypoglycemic and not in his right mind… No matter, it was inappropriate, and as a white guy, who would have been told to go back to his country (England) a few generations ago, I apologize for this guy’s bad behavior. I probably would have had a right to “send him back” to his country by virtue of my American pedigree… ‘had an ancestor sign the Declaration of Independence (Charles Carroll), and one who was Governor of NY (DeWitt Clinton), but none of that truly gives me or anyone the right to be rude to anyone. I’m pretty sure that, had I been there, I would have spoken up on your behalf. Sorry nobody else did. Mental illness… almost certainly…

    Reply
    • Peter September 6, 2016

      As a health professional, I tell patients I cannot make an accurate diagnosis without actually seeing them in person. How can you make a diagnosis, especially an almost certain diagnosis of mental illness based solely on a narrative and without direct observation of the person?

      Reply
    • June September 6, 2016

      I disagree, Randy. That was a case of white, male privilege, pure and simple. He thought he was entitled to food before everyone else, and when she wouldn’t back down, he spewed hate at her. Period. To try to excuse it as mental illness negates her lived experience today, and all the other times it’s happened. That man is a racist. Period. Full stop.

      Reply
    • Mac Gari September 6, 2016

      Please don’t use the “mental illness” card in an attempt to excuse bad behavior. There was nothing in the story that even hinted at either hypoglycemia or mental illness, so a dime store diagnosis of such is without merit. Sure, it may seem that one would have to be out of their right mind in order to tell a person to go back to their country, but sometimes — more often than not — people make such racist statements because they have racist tendencies.

      Reply
    • Kathy Khang September 6, 2016

      Randy, with all due respect, how can you make such a diagnosis? I appreciate that you are trying to relate by trying to imagine what it would’ve been like a few generations ago to be told to go back to your country, but cautiously I am going to suggest you refrain from using that line of thought in the future. Asian have been in this country since the 1800s and we are still told to go back to our country.

      Reply
  6. Will September 5, 2016

    This kind of overt racism has happened to me a handful of times, and each time I have felt the way you describe in this post – upset, unnerved, sad, angry, and exhausted.

    I sometimes am perversely glad though, because it reminds me that for all of the overt racism, there are many more acts as of stereotyping and subtle racism that have over the years become rote. But one isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other. So I take the feeling and channel it. There are people more worth your time and effort. There are good works to be done, and change to be made. At the end of the day, confrontation is maybe cathartic, and maybe sometimes help both parties, and often necessary, but it’s not the end. There will always be people like this guy who disregarded the rules and confronted you in anger. It’s our task to respond with firmness but grace, and rise above.

    It’s easy to say when not being confronted, of course. In the heat of the moment I would say that your instincts served you well. Plus writing about it afterward is also helpful in fostering dialogue and showing that no, we are most certainly not a post racial society.

    Reply
  7. Faye Waidley September 5, 2016

    So sorry you had to experience this…This also happened to me when I just moved to California from Hawaii. Unlike your situation my situation was not a very public scene. I was in shock and just learning the reality of racism being alive and well.

    I do apologize to you Kathy for my FB response. It was just a quick silly response. I didn’t respond in a respectful and empathetic way to you. I really was more angry for you.. for us. I think you responded much more courageously than I ever could. I am still on journey to be courageous when I hear or see such prejudice. I do wish others in the line with you would have stood up and said something on your behalf.

    Reply
  8. Sung "성" September 5, 2016

    I have not received such blatant racism. More along the lines of “oh, your English is so good!” type of ignorance.

    I do agree that that whack a doodle was not in his right mind.

    Reply
  9. da September 6, 2016

    I think I would try to look at the person being insulted to get a feeling about how I can step in without getting in the way of their response, if one was planned

    Mayb id say “this is our country…” .. Referring to all of us… you, the man, me and others there

    Reply
  10. Charlie Siebert September 6, 2016

    I witnessed such abuse in the St. Paul/Minneapolis airport years ago, and as always, I felt the need to intervene. On a moving walkway, a family of what I believed to be Chinese immigrant parents with their US born children, based on the difference in accents between the parents and children, were told by a father son duo of knucklhead bigots to go home if they couldn’t read the English indicating the ‘walk’ and ‘stand’ sides of the conveyor. I turned to the Eurotwit yanks and asked if they were Souix, Crow, Apache, or blackfoot. They stuttered that they were ‘from here’, and I pointed out that they loked very European to me, and therefore not ‘from here’. I was the only other present, so it was my duty, I felt.

    Reply
    • Jessa September 6, 2016

      Thank you for that. 🙂

      My husband is white, and he’s had coworkers ask if he married me so I could stay in the country. He responds that my family had a 14,000 year head start!

      They’ve only seen pictures of me on his desk, so they can’t hear my English, but I’m sure they’d complement me on it too. 😛

      Reply
  11. Michelle September 6, 2016

    Kathy,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I know you said you were writing while you were still angry, but if I had been in your shoes the unedited version would have contained much more venom! I’m very appreciative that you asked us to think about how we would respond if we were one of the eight standing behind you in line. Admittedly, this kind of situation is not something that I’ve prepped myself for mentally. But, as white people, we SHOULD think about how we will react (other than standing in dumbfounded shock).
    Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of white people explaining things away. I’ll admit that I’ve done it myself… Part of it comes out of my desire to believe the best of other people and part of it comes from how naïve I’ve been. But we have to stop giving excuses for these situations. Before anyone gets me wrong I do realize that there really are valid reasons (like mental health), but we seem to automatically assume that in every situation there must be some reason other than racism. Randy, unless you are the therapist of the elderly gentleman spoken of here you cannot waive the situation away as, “being more of a mental illness, than a racial thing…” Because you don’t know. And you don’t get to correct Kathy and her view of the situation (even though she even mentioned herself that it might be a mental issue) unless you were there and know the man personally. It was not “certainly” a mental illness. Could it possibly have been? Yes. But if we keep giving excuses for why situations like this happen we are failing those who are being mistreated because of their ethnicity. When we make excuses we are saying to them that their specific incidence must have just been a misunderstanding. The offending party couldn’t have meant it that way… I’m not convinced. Not when I hear statements from the Black, Asian, and Muslim communities that things like this happen to them on a regular basis.
    So I guess this leaves me wondering if we, as white people, end up being some of those people in line… Will our excuses cause us to not stand up for a fellow member of the human race? Instead of speaking up will we stand there in silence thinking, “Well, what if he/she is mentally ill? What if he/she didn’t really mean it that way? What if they can handle themselves because they aren’t the only black/Asian/Muslim/etc person in the room… What if… What if…???” And then the moment is over, and one person is left feeling that much more alone. Or will we stand up, say/do something about it, and show the person who is a victim of racism that people DO care about how they are treated?

    Reply
  12. Idelette September 6, 2016

    I’m so sorry you had to experience this, and in front of your sons. It grieves me deeply, Kathy.

    I so long for a different world.

    I have been apathetic enough in my life. Dumbfounded and silent. I refuse to be silent any more. If this had happened in my lineup, I’d like to hope that the Mama Bear in me would have risen and walked up to you and stood with you. No person should ever be treated like this. As I see it, you are my sister. In our house, we don’t tolerate this kind of behaviour. It is not ok with me that you were treated like this–nowhere on this planet is this ok with me.

    Again, I’m so sorry this happened, Kathy.

    Reply
  13. Michelle Van Loon September 6, 2016

    I would hope I’d be Brad in the flash of a moment like this, and not one of the silent eight. Lord, I pray so! I’ve been on the receiving end of anti-Semitism, and those painful experiences have taught me to access my own inner mama bear when a Gerald shows up on the scene.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Kathy. It requires everyone who reads it to place themselves in it and figure out who they are and who they want to be. I am so very sad this happened to you and your sons.

    Reply
  14. Claire September 6, 2016

    I appreciate your words, Kathy, and share the anger that you were treated this way. As I reflect on what my response likely would have been if I had been standing behind you, I am not sure what I would have done in the end but here’s what I would have been thinking. I have spoken up before and in a relatively safe situation this would be my first instinct. I guess some of the same pressure you felt to de-escalate things is something I would have experienced too even as a witness. Even though I am white, I would have been very aware of my vulnerability as a woman and especially if this guy wasn’t quite in his right mind. Would I have said something, knowing this could escalate the anger of an unpredictable man and that his attention would then be fully on me? Honestly probably not if you had two other people with you. If I was with friends, or a place where I felt confident others would back me up, I would have wanted to say something. But I think there’s also an element that even if everyone else in line looked like me, I would have had no way of knowing if they’d back me up should the need arise or leave me to fend for myself too. I can’t assume shared attitudes or experiences when I am with others who share the same privilege I do. I’m not saying any of this was right. But in silence it is easy to miss the entire conversations that happen in people’s heads, where, unfortunately, they’re not much help to those being attacked or insulted.

    Reply
  15. Anthony September 6, 2016

    When I was around 17 and working in a grocery store, I saw a man shout go back to your own f***ing country to a young Muslim woman with a child in a stroller. I said nothing and that inaction stays with me today. I’m sorry I didn’t do anything then, and I’m sorry this happened to you.

    Reply
  16. Shirley Whitfield September 6, 2016

    Kathy, I’m a 73 year old black woman originally from Chicago with its “neighborhood”. The first time I actually experienced overt racism was August 1961, Birmingham, AL; the next time, Indianapolis, IN (1965). I’ve experienced and observed subtle and not so subtle racism for decades. So, I completely understand how you felt. Fortunately, for me, when direct confrontation did occurred, whites did step forward.

    As far as the issues between blacks and Asians, I can tell you it was no accident some Asians and other “minorities” were located in black communities and if you think about it, you’ll understand why.

    Racism was sown in the very fabric of USA before it became a nation. It’s alive and well and will remain so until her citizens understand we are not each other’s enemy. We’re all pawns in the power struggle of the elite. It’s to their advantage to keep us all at each other’s throats. The only thing they fear is we all unite and in fact become one people no matter our skin color.

    Be blessed.

    Reply
    • Kathy Khang September 6, 2016

      Shirley, you are correct. The issues between blacks and Asians are no accident; the issues are important but can often deflect from the white supremacy that is, as you wrote, the very fabric of the USA before it became a nation. I like to describe it as “divide and conquer” which seems to work.

      Reply
    • Naika September 7, 2016

      Shirley, thanks so much for sharing this. These are the thoughts we all need to think about. We all need to stop the divisiveness and come together or the curtains draw down on all of us too soon. Kathy, sorry that you and your boys had to endure that. I wish you and the rest of the folks on the comments better days and a greater sense of togetherness.

      Reply
  17. Peter September 6, 2016

    Hey Kathy, thanks for the excellent article. Surprisingly, this has never happened to me (as a white man, I not witnessed this sort of thing directly, though I’ve heard too many similar disgusting stories). What can I say? Like many white people angered by what happened to you, I’d like to think that I would step up and say something, but I know it’s quite possible that I might freeze and do nothing. I don’t like that about myself, but few of us are as brave in the situation as we are when reading about it after the fact.

    Reply
  18. Suzann Humara September 6, 2016

    Many times in a situation like this, being silent equals being complicit. There are, perhaps, legitimate reasons for not speaking up, but many times, people remain silent out of fear or discomfort. I don’t believe that most people hold awful racist views, however, only when the majority culture speaks out against this sort of ignorance will it change.

    Reply
  19. Deb September 6, 2016

    Why are we excusing bully behavior by making excuses for this man. It doesn’t matter if he was hypoglycemic, or has other “demons” in his life. Racist commentary is not acceptable from anyone at anytime. The man was being a bully. We all need learn to stand up for each other.

    Reply
  20. Adrienne September 6, 2016

    One of my favorite gospel verses is Mark 14:8, “She did what she could…” We can’t diagnosis mental or physical illness, we can’t usually change hearts and minds that are closed and ugly, we can’t even direct who gets served first. But we can so easily offer comfort and distraction. I encountered a similar situation, not in the USA but in England, and God granted me the grace to stay calm, engage the Pakistani family in conversation, ignore everyone else, pay for the family’s food and then have the pleasure of eating with my new friends. I honestly have no idea if the woman, in that case, who had spoken racist words to the family was served before or after us.

    Reply
  21. Karen Junker September 6, 2016

    I am sorry this happened to you.

    Reply
  22. Susan September 6, 2016

    I promise you that, had this happened anywhere near me, I would have spoken up, Loudly. It is both my blessing and my curse that I am confrontational, and tall. I do try to put it to good use though, and this would have been one of those times. I am sorrier than words can say that this happened to you, and I am so proud of you for speaking out now, and making an issue of it. Everyone needs to be more aware, but especially white people (or people who just look white). THANK YOU for not ignoring this!

    Reply
  23. N. Ireland September 6, 2016

    I was in a store once….two ladies shopping (and having a good time) were conversing back and forth between themselves in their native language. I also was shopping and having a good time until I hear a man say louder than normal speaking voice… …..but not TOO loud…(because he was a total bully and enjoying his own little passive aggressive rant). “This is America….speak %&^$ English for %$^# sake”…..My response was this…. I started to sing….quietly…but not TOO quietly….but also sort of stalking the man as I sang…..like I’d show up at each kiosk he was at and keep singing…..I think I sang “This Land is my land….this land is your land….”….anyway it was a strange repertoire of songs I could think of that spoke of LIBERTY and FREEDOM…..The man definitely noticed me…..and heard me….because he found his wife and high-tailed it out of the shop….(classic bully) Thankfully the lovely ladies having fun shopping and speaking in the language of their choice….. were none the wiser. I’m sorry you and your sons were treated so badly. Tip: random singing in public freaks the living daylight outta people….just saying.

    Reply
  24. Caroline Fijan September 6, 2016

    I am Chinese and I am a Christian. I also have seen racism. But my answer (should I have my wits about me) would be:

    “This is my country. I am daughter of an immigrant. I am a sister of a marine and a mother of an army Ranger. This country brought my family and me to Jesus Christ. What a blessing.”

    Reply
  25. Caroline Fijan September 6, 2016

    I am an Chinese Christian woman who was born in the U.S. (and yes I have This is what my response would be (if I had my wits about me).

    “This is my country. I am the daughter of an immigrant, sister of a marine, mother of an army ranger. This country led our family to Jesus Christ!”

    Reply
  26. Jon Trott September 6, 2016

    Kathy, *thank you so much* for sharing this. And as odd as it might sound, I think all of us have to rehearse these things. Play the situation out in our own minds’ eye. What do we — as bystander to racial abuse — do and say? How do we say it? What if the offender becomes belligerent, even dangerous? Play it out, do it again and again.

    My own problem is I can easily over-react in such scenarios. I’m a big white sometimes sanctimonious man. And when someone spouts racist c*** I tend to go off the handle verbally (and have done so before). That’s not helpful, either.

    My goal is to be quick, direct, and confront without coming off angry as much as appalled. Yes, I believe in shaming a racist, “helping” them feel they’ve done something which is antisocial and disgusting. Raging at them hasn’t helped accomplish this.

    Hopefully, what I’d have said to this man would have been something like this.

    “No. You are not going to spout racist nonsense at this woman and her children. Racism is your problem. We all see you. We all understand now that you have a problem. It is racism. It is wrong. We refuse to accept it in silence. You either need to be quiet now or apologize immediately to this woman for saying such a disgusting thing.”

    I’m afraid I would emote more than that, though…. Heh.

    Again, thank you for bravely posting this.

    Reply
  27. Ce September 6, 2016

    Many don’t realize it but in the 60’s there were Asian members of the Black Panther party. We stand with you in solidarity sister. Wrong is wrong. Power to the people (disenfranchised people)!

    Reply
    • Kathy Khang September 6, 2016

      I don’t know how to find a raised fist emoji on my computer so you will have to imagine that. That, sister, is the kind of history I wish I had learned when I was in school!!! I’m still learning and grateful that there have been places where intersectionality brings power to the people!

      Reply
  28. Jon Trott September 6, 2016

    ps: I, too, am a Christian. And for me, this year has been a horror (Christians rallying to Trump’s candidacy, relatives and friends dismayed when I told them the man is a fascist anti-christ). You ask how to show Christ’s Grace. Dear sister, if you find out, will you let me know? I’m so full of tears and rage these days — a Christian since 1973 but lost in this hateful wilderness — I don’t know any answers. I try to look to Christ, remember his sufferings. But I also remember Matthew 25. If I, just a white male, am this bad off… can’t imagine your world.

    Reply
  29. Mary September 6, 2016

    I don’t know what I’d do. (I’m also Asian American.). I so badly want to go off on people sometimes, but I hold myself back because I fear my rage will take over, and like you said, I will not say what I need to say in love. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    Reply
  30. Eva September 6, 2016

    Ah, your story reminded me of a trip to Kentucky my family made many years ago. We went to see the Mammoth Caves and had to journey through and stay in the various parts of rural Kentucky. I live in Ohio and I can only say from experience that Kentucky was definitely worse, but traveling between the big cities in Ohio and it’s many rural parts in the distance in between definitely has its risks. I think what you said was exactly the right thing, and you did the best you could.

    Reply
  31. Kristin Anderson September 6, 2016

    Kathy,

    I’m sorry about your experience and grateful you shared it. I work from home in AZ and travel back to MN for work regularly (the school I work for is in MN). When I am out and about, especially when I travel, I watch for vulnerable people. I watch for elderly that need help with bags. I watch for parents traveling alone (especially with babies/toddlers). I especially watch for people of color or persons from non-majority faiths who may be disrespected or diminished.

    My hope is that I would step up and step into a conversation like this. My intent is to try to find ways to say “hello” and “you’re completely welcome here!” to those I encounter. And…even as I say that, I realize it’s my white privilege telling me that I can welcome someone else into “my” world. And…I wonder…as I watch…even if it’s with the intent of stepping up and stepping into…am I just another set of white eyes watching the person of color? When do you just get to BE in your world, our world? So I keep wrestling with how best to inhabit our world and ensure you and others have space to be yourselves.

    I understand a bit of what it’s like now to be an other in the world. I’m married to a woman. We are others in this conservative part of the country. I am now an other in the evangelical church and ministries that shaped the first 50 years of life. My wife and I get looks. So far neither of us have been called out as you were (not in person…a bit online). I’m waiting for the day it happens. It’s still coming.

    I so hope I would step up and into a situation if I saw someone being treated as you were. I really think I would, and God help me if I don’t.

    Reply
  32. Kara September 6, 2016

    Thank you for sharing. I am so sad to hear about this experience. Despite all the conflicting comments you get, those of us [white people] who don’t see these racist moments need to hear about them! So many people don’t believe they happen, and don’t understand the emotional trauma they cause. I am still learning to speak up when I overhear any prejudicial comment, despite the fact that I want to. I honestly don’t trust my instincts what is helpful and what is patronizing or dis-empowering to people of color. It is so helpful to hear that you would have wanted someone to speak up.

    Reply
  33. Rachel September 6, 2016

    Wow. I did have an older lady comment to me in the produce section of the local grocery store that those Muslims should just go back to their own country. She gestured toward an Indian family in the next aisle. I told her that they were probably not Muslim, as they were Indian, and many of the Indian families in our area are Christian. She just muttered something under her breath and walked away. But I’m not sure I’d be able to say anything if the situation was more intense. I might freeze up!

    Reply
  34. Karl September 6, 2016

    For reference, I’m a good-looking white man in his thirties.

    What I want to think about myself: that I would be Brad, jumping in to de-escalate the situation, though while being firm in challenging, even with merely a statement, his ignorance about you and the rest of folks in line.

    What would probably happen – shock and then attempts to control my anger resulting in zero action until Brad steps in.

    Reply
  35. Nehmann September 6, 2016

    When I was around 10 years old I was walking inside a baseball stadium (in the midwest) when a group of 3 older black males walking toward me suddenly spit in my face as they got near me. They were waiting for me to react angrily so they could then beat me up. When I didn’t react, they laughed their heads off. I just kept walking. I was very humiliated and angry. I couldn’t do anything about what happened. But, I did not let this incident make me hate black people. The hateful racist treatment of me by these young men revealed the true emptiness of their lives and the futility of their minds, minds “set on death”. if they think they “got even” by doing this, they were wrong. They only stored up more trouble and future wrath for themselves. God has told us that no matter what color race or creed – “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and “whatever you do to the most unimportant person, you actually are doing to God” (and he will remember it). Until people turn themselves over to the Most High, and ask forgiveness for all they have done, and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who paid for those sins they’ve committed, their is no hope that people will “consider not just their own things, but put the lives and things of others more highly than themselves.” A changed nature and new heart only comes from a relationship with God through faith in what his son did for them. Otherwise, you are without hope. So, whether you are the racist, or the victim of the racist, Cry out to Jesus to save you and give you new life, a new heart, and a new mind to go with it. He will hear you if you call to him.

    Reply
  36. , Dorothy September 6, 2016

    I was a child, whose father died in WWII, whose family had been here for generations, but we were of German heritage. We were ridiculed. bullied.called names I would not repeat, and were told to go back to Germany during and after the war There is always evil, always unkind people, we all at some time will be on the receiving end. I am Christian and I have found that the best way is to turn the other cheek, pray for the person who hurts you, and God will bring you a peace and joy that a hateful people will never know. My best friend is a Japanese woman who went through similar things when she was young in Japan. Those bad times have made us able to be more caring. Don’t let evil control you feelins,and hurt you stay above it

    Reply
  37. Kate watts September 6, 2016

    Can we get back to what the author asked originally in her post about what YOU would have done if you were one of the onlookers in the same line? Please!

    Reply
  38. Karen Gray September 6, 2016

    This whole scenario makes me embarrassed about America. Not just because of the over racism of “Gerald” but also because of those standing in line watching silently. Hearing this story makes me so insanely annoyed (to keep my description PG). “Asian men are less desirable than Caucasian men.” “Asian cultures are too diverse to bother learning about.” As a white person who respects, appreciates, and enjoys learning about various Asian cultures, these subtle yet pervasive Asian stereotypes drive me up a wall. Especially since these stereotypes are happening in America, a country that prides itself on being culturally adept and welcoming.

    Reply
  39. Rachel Weller September 7, 2016

    I’m afraid I would have been one of those silent white people. I would not be happy with myself. I live and work in Africa and I still baffle over that kind of privileged attitude in the US. I know it is there; its just hard to believe it.
    Your posted question is right: what would you have done? All of us – especially those of us who are White – need to think through this situation and be prepared to act appropriately. I know I will do so.
    Thanks for your post.

    Reply
  40. Kathy Khang September 7, 2016

    Theo, you are deflecting from the issue I raised in my blog. Anti-Asian/Asian American racism is real. It exists because of white supremacy. You linked a story about Korea. I have never lived in Korea (ok, 8 months as an infant) so what I know is that there are different dynamics at play. Yes, there is anti-blackness in Asian and Asian American communities. Not all of it has to do with African Americans. It is connected now because of immigration, colonialism, war, etc. but Asia existed long before the United States.

    Reply
  41. Stan September 7, 2016

    Interesting blog, thanks. Sorry this happened to your boys. And sorry the comments got sidetracked.

    Not used to seeing “For Fuck’s Sake” (FFS) used in a Christian blog but hey, we’re all under grace, right!

    Reply
  42. Angela F September 7, 2016

    I am the mother of a child from China, and the wife of a man from India. I am a moderately overweight white woman who would have no problem fitting in at a Denny’s (minus the tattoos). Maybe what I am about to say is too simplistic, but I’ll say it anyway. There is no ‘they’ in this world, there is only a ‘we’. Until ‘we’ finally grasp, and fully embrace this simplistic notion, there will be ongoing racial tension, wars, and unnecessary pain. What you experienced in Elkhart IN was totally unnecessary, and I am sorry for the pain that it caused you and your sons. For what it’s worth, I would enter that line, and face the wrath of the Geralds of this world. There are many more like me. Thank you for posting.

    Reply
  43. KT Hicks September 7, 2016

    I said something, when it happened to me. Several years ago, a white guy in front of me in line (I am also white) racist to our cashier. I look a photo of him, reminded him that our city has decency laws which include not swearing in public, told him I thought he was being degrading, and asked him to stop.

    He punched me in the face, and broke my glasses; then, when trying to flee the scene, was restrained by another customer (also white) and bit that man, tearing a chunk of the guy’s forearm off. (honestly, probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life.) He was eventually restrained by several other customers, screaming about how Obama was ruining the country and general nonsense, but I will note that no one else said or did anything about this guy yelling that our cashier was until he punched a white woman.

    Got to spend the next few days getting domestic violence jokes hurled at me “Next time, you better make that sandwich faster!” (from the pharmacy tech when I got my prescription filled) and watching my husband get the side eye at a wedding…

    And I’m still not going to shut up.

    Reply
  44. Cathy September 7, 2016

    There are hateful jerks in every people group, ethnicity, and family. My elderly father-in law used to gripe endlessly about black people, but in later years he went after Jews. Now, he seems to focus all his ire on those “mooslims.” I don’t think he even knows a Jew, or Muslim. He’s a stereotype– much like the old white guy who insulted you. I think you handled it brilliantly. I don’t know why more onlookers didn’t intervene. I’m sure there’s a psychology study somewhere that might shed light on it, but I suspect its mostly craven indifference.

    Assuredly, there are Korean, Black, Hispanic, and many other hateful-jerk-stereotypes out there. We’ve all got our story, but I’m truly sorry this happened to you.

    Reply
  45. Manny Tan Sun September 7, 2016

    You handled the situation better than I would have for most of my adult life. As in you didn’t take such incidents so deep into your heart and emotions that it caused health problems as I have. I too seek to learn from other Asian Americans. Ironically my gf is Hmong and I am a Chinese mixed Cambodian so we often travel through these awkward small towns in the midwest from the DC area to visit her family in Central Wisconsin and Minnesota every other summer or if we can afford it through the toll avoidance route. I had an encounter with some racist older white men at a McDonalds in Lafayette area of Indiana. So I can empathize with your situation.

    Reply
  46. Kim September 7, 2016

    I’m a white woman and my husband is a first generation Sri Lankan American. Since being married I’ve seen firsthand how often he’s the recipient of stuff like this. It shocked me at first, especially because we lived in NYC for 12 years, where diversity is common. But over the years, I’ve realized how serious of an issue racism still is in this country.

    It’s hard to say what I would have done if I was in line with you, but in general my husband and I aren’t ones to be quiet in situations like that. He probably would have stepped in immediately to ask Gerald to leave the premises. I probably would have made a remark about his ignorance (not saying I’m proud of that kind of response, but it’s definitely happened).

    When it happens to us directly, I tend to play up the affection with my husband. I can’t always educate people in that moment, but I can let them know my husband is the best man I’ve ever met and I’m proud to have his baby. 😉

    Reply
  47. Jason Hunter September 7, 2016

    I can relate to your experience only in Asia. Though the mindset is different there are also stereo types. One day I received a phone call for an interview to be a manager at a store. The phone call was to schedule the interview. Over the phone ( using the local language ) we scheduled the time and location of the interview. Then I had one last question at the end. The person on the phone asked me if I was Asian. To which I replied no I’m white. They continued. Are you sure you are white? Are you an ABC or are you white? Strangely I replied no I’m white. I’m sure I’m white. Imidiatly afterwards the person said I’m sorry we can’t have the interview. We can’t hire you because you are white. We want an Asian for the position. Dumbfounded I had no idea how to reply. I couldn’t help think back in the States if someone says straight out we can’t hire you because of your race there would be huge law suits and all hell would break loose. Asian cultures being a mono-ethnic society are not as experience to these culture classes. They have them but they are not so apparent on the surface level. Different class, aboriginals, other local foreign Asian nationals come. There may not be prejudice on the surface level but different languages, different accents, different skin tone color, clothing style are ways people pickup and discriminate against each other. Many of these misconceptions arise from ignorance coupled with fear can be a very destructive mixture.

    In this particular case, Gerald is quite ignorant. He is making many assumptions when he doesn’t really know much. I would also assume that he has not had much interaction with Asians. Perhaps you were the first Asian he ever spoke to. This perhaps is an opportunity to change this and others perceptions of Asians. I take it as a guess when he said, “You need to eat?” Was implying he was jealous of your physic or in another way to say, damn you look good. Maybe one way to resolve the situation is say, “oh thank you, and yes I’m starving.” Then your reply or perhaps your facial expression was some what annoyed or agitated. Because what originally was an attempt to make some social chit chat turned sour and instead he felt like he was being rejected so thus he brings on the worst possible insult he could say which was, “Go back to your country.” It would have been nice if there was some way to prevent the discussion to going down that road. And I was not there so I’m just taking an educated guess perhaps there was nothing that could have been done to help the situation.

    But when confronted saying, “Go back to your country.” You can reply I was born in the USA. This is my country. Even if this is not true you can say it just to throw them off. In all likely hood you will only meet this person one time in your life anyhow. Of course to pull this off ones English should be good enough to sound convincing. Anyhow a statement like that would challenge their thinking about Asian’s in general. Gerald shouldn’t have barged in line so that tells you from the beginning this is someone who doesn’t play by the rules. But I really believe on to of everything the matter escalated because both of you were very hungry and to aggravate matters more, your hungry and about to eat some tasteless food doesn’t put you in the best of moods. It is natural to become very irritable when hungry especially when you are not happy about what you are going to eat and still have to wait a while before you get your food. Just like you, we stick out like a sore thumb. And many people have assumptions of us. Be the best person you can be so when others encounter you the experience will help break the walls of social and cultural barrios. We interact with these people otherwise their perspectives will never change. Be the catalysis for positive change in your community. The world is full of ignorance and stupidity. Fight it with love and compassion. This isn’t your first challenge and it won’t be your last. But you can make the world a better place by giving others a reason to think differently than they have. If you are bitter, unkind, unfriendly, I’m afraid it will only cement their negative opinions. Love is the only thing that can shatter these prejudice.

    Reply
    • James S September 7, 2016

      WOW! Really Jason the reason he said go back to your country was in fact because he found Kathy to be attractive? I don’t do where you get this type of theory but I would have to say you are way off. Would that be the way you would have reacted if you were Gerald? It almost seems like you are trying to justify why he would act that way to Kathy. Very inappropriate to generalize it that way. You must not be from the midwest. It is predominantly white with few Asians. Doesn’t take a scientist to figure it out that there is a chance that what Kathy went through was indeed racially charged.

      Reply
  48. Jason Hunter September 7, 2016

    MANNY TAN SUN You’ll probably not see this comment but ironically there is a decent sized population of Asians in Lafayette area mostly thanks to Purdue University and there are some Japanese that work in the area for automotive manufacturing. During Christmas break I found myself there and was shocked to only see Asians. I felt as if I were back in Taiwan or Japan just everything had the look and feel of the USA.

    Reply
    • James S September 7, 2016

      Asians only make up about 5% of the population in the US. How can it be possible that in the midwest where the Asian population is not densely as the West and East coast be mostly Asian? Even if there was some kind of Asian festival going on its unlikely that it would attract enough Asians for it to “mostly” Asian in one city in the midwest? And comparing it to Taiwan or another Asian country where it is probably over 90% ethnic Taiwanese or Chinese population is just pure exaggerating. Kinda silly to be honest.

      Reply
  49. Dottie September 8, 2016

    I hate to say it, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Hate and anger have never been too far away from whites in America. They’ve gotten better at hiding it but recently it has been in full force. Just be prepared for more of this behavior.

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  50. Linda D September 8, 2016

    Kathy, I am so sorry you went through this, and have gone through this since childhood and I am also sorry your son’s had to be a part of such ugliness!!!! I am so glad you wrote this article and have shared it with us! I live in an area on the west coast where many of my friends are korean, mexican, african-american, white and many other cultures. Among my friends, we appreciate each others differences and embrace the different cultures….. but there is so much racism and ugliness going on out there, it turns my stomach! I personally haven’t been in a situation as you described, but I’m sure it’s coming. So by you sharing this story, you have tugged on my heart that when this does happen, that I will move from pure shock that someone is so ignorant to open their mouth and prove that they are a jerk, and step in and stand up for the person who is the recipient!!! Thank you for writing this and once again, I am so sorry that you and your boys had to witness such an ugly situation!!!

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  51. […] many of my dear readers have responded to my most recent post about a racist encounter in a public space with […]

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  52. Karen September 8, 2016

    Kathy, You could not have given a better response or better demonstration of a nonviolent, Christlike stand. You stood and told the truth. You protested against an oppressive attitude that needs to be opposed. You are an instrument of change. This is a great example for your sons. My disappointment would only be that others waiting in line and also putting up with his rudeness did not join you in putting this man in his place, in a gentle, respectful way. Even the elderly have things to learn.

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  53. Peri Coleman September 8, 2016

    Hi Kathy, Racial and religious harassment is horrible for those experiencing it. Bystanders often feel shame, and fear as well. Shame that they are not stopping th harassment, fear of escalating the situation into violence. A recent post on safely de-escalating islamaphobic harrassment seems worth sharing here. While written about the rising Islamophobis, it applies equally to all public harrassment. https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/someone-made-a-guide-for-what-to-do-when-you-see-islamophobi?utm_term=.br4Wn9nGP#.mhjZ1w193

    Reply
  54. Phil GE September 8, 2016

    It does not matter if he was old, drunk, or mentally ill. He was using racist behavior and it resulted in Kathy feeling verbally assaulted. Unfortunately, no one in line intervened. I believe that only made it harder for Kathy to stand up for herself.

    Kathy, I hope you consider writing a note to the manager and or corporate headquarters of the restaurant where this occurred. The fact that their staff did nothing to intervene could be an opportunity for them to learn and provide diversity training and how to nonviolently intervene in such situations.

    As a middle-aged Hapa-howlie who passes for White, I have purposely inserted myself into conversations to redirect them in such a way that the other participants understand I do not support their racist remarks and I do not want them to lose face. I hope my efforts can lead to opportunities for growth for those involved
    .
    As for Asian racism, my Japanese mother was intellectually anti-classist and anti-racist, but was in practice racist and classist. It boggles my mind to this day. Thankfully, I’ve known other Asian-Americans doing the good work of addressing oppression in many forms. Of course their are prejudiced groups of Asians, just like any other ethnic or racist group. Unfortunately, some people would rather blame other minority groups rather than working towards building collaborations to address abuse of power by th majority. I believe this is the result of a sense of personal victimization. I believe empowerment comes from working on rebuilding personal strength over the trauma instead of identifying with the aggressor and seeking vengeance. Please note I am all for accountability.

    This was composed on my iPhone. Please pardon any glaring grammatical errors

    Reply
  55. Diana Trautwein September 9, 2016

    Kathy — I am more sorry than I can say for this ugly interchange. I hope I would have said something. And your writing this out makes it likely that if I ever find myself in such a situation, I will speak out. THAT’s a gift to all of us. I am also deeply sorry that your comment thread got hijacked. Though some of the points being raised are good ones, they are not to the point of this particular blog post and ultimately not helpful in moving the conversation forward. Thanks for your patience through the thread.

    Reply
  56. CF September 10, 2016

    I’m sorry to know that there are people that consistently tell Asian people to go back to their country and eat there. I’ve never heard anyone say that to an Asian person. I have heard this sentiment toward Muslims, because they have come to this country and enjoyed the freedom we enjoy in this country, and then they try very hard to take away the freedom we enjoy by instilling their own laws. I have also heard this sentiment from Southerners toward Northerners, because they love to move to the south and call southerners stupid and try to change everything to the way it is done up north, because they think their way is better. I have never known Asians to be disrespectful of our country, although I was not around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. But regardless, I would never allow myself to think that way about another person, much less say it, and even less ignore them to the point where I thought it was okay to cut in front of them in line. I am a white/European ancestry woman, with many generations of the same here in the United States. I have tons of ancestors and relatives that fought in the different wars to defend the freedoms of this country and other countries. I was raised to respect and love other people regardless of their race or sex or challenge or attitude, and I have raised my children to love and respect others, as well. My great grandparents and grandparents and parents and I and my children and my friends would have been just as horrified and offended as you about this man’s behavior. I don’t understand why anyone would just stand there in line and think it was okay for that man to behave the way he did. I admire your thoughts about how to be Christ-like in this encounter. I have been treated with disrespect by white males and white females and people of many other races. I do not think that this behavior is unique to one race or sex. I think it is a lack of good parenting, although some people have great parents and they still turn out rotten. My thoughts have also turned toward how Christ would respond, when I have been treated rudely by someone else. Afterwards, I tend to be very analytical and my thoughts have been toward how I could have improved the situation, and I often think that it might have been a test to see how I reacted. Sometimes I have thought that the person might actually have been possessed by a demon, because of how scary they became toward me. There is an unseen world going on around us, and I am often caught by surprise when it shows itself. I just hope that this experience will not deter you from continuing to be a Christ-like example wherever you go, forgiving and loving others despite their bad behavior.

    Reply
  57. […] A woman is approached by an older white man in the fast food restaurant where she waits in line with her children. He says to her, “go back to your country and eat the food there.” – This is my country by Kathy Kang […]

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  58. […] oppression of African-Americans, we also start grappling with the treatment of Native Americans. Discrimination against Asian-Americans. Hostility towards Latinos. The current demonization of […]

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  59. […] speaks frequently about race and often blogs about the subject on her website, where her most popular entry from this year (according to BuzzSumo) is about being told by a white man to “go back to your […]

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  60. […] Easier if I’d avoided stories from my black and brown friends about micro-aggressions, ignored history, police violence, and daily grief. […]

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  61. […] Easier if I’d avoided stories from my black and brown friends about micro-aggressions, ignored history, police violence, and daily grief. […]

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  62. […] me is that #thisis2016, and yet this happens on a regular basis. Kathy Khang, writer and speaker, wrote about a similar experience at a rest stop, and Michael Luo, a NY Times editor, wrote an open letter to the woman who screamed at him on the […]

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  63. […] love to know your thoughtful opinion. As you consider it, check out this blog post shared by an Asian American woman about what it feels like to want someone to stand up for you as a […]

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