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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsInto Identity

No one’s account of an instance of racism should be ignored

As I’ve stated before, I’m often uncomfortable talking about my personal experiences with racism. The topic of racial and ethnic issues is supposed to make anyone uncomfortable, but this is a different kind of discomfort. It’s a kind of discomfort that no one will believe when you say you’ve experienced racism.

In light of the recent protests against racism here at Ithaca College, there have been several instances of students dismissing their fellow classmates’ accounts of experiences with racism via social media and verbal exchanges. Seeing these dismissals is a major reason why I often don’t publicly share my stories.

Growing up, I was told Asians could never experience racism, and that our stereotypes were “not that bad” because they were usually positive. I’m automatically smart because I’m Asian. Assuming I was good at math solely because I’m Asian was supposed to be a compliment. News flash: I actually scored a 1 on the Advanced Placement calculus test.

This jargon didn’t just come from my white peers, but from other people of color. These comments stung more when they came from other people of color because they knew exactly what it was like to experience racism.

I can assure you there are negative stereotypes of the East Asian community. I’ve been told I’m probably a terrible driver because I’m Asian. I’ve been asked if I see in widescreen because of the shape and size of my eyes. These are just two of hundreds of racially charged comments I’ve received in my lifetime, and sadly, they probably won’t end anytime soon.

In 2005, Gallup released a poll that revealed 30–31 percent of AsianAmericans have experienced workplace discrimination, the largest of any group. They were also the least likely to file a formal complaint regarding discrimination. Could it have something to do with people not believing them? I sure think so.

On Nov. 11, the Los Angeles Times published an online article and survey called “Do you feel safe on campus? Share your story.” It asked students from marginalized groups to share their stories of times they haven’t felt safe or comfortable on their college campuses.

It’s obvious that my experiences with racism are drastically different from others in the East Asian community and other people of color, but no one should be hesitant to share their stories with these experiences. And most importantly, no one’s story should be dismissed because they’ve clearly experienced some sort of harm if they vividly remember it. Everyone should share their stories and be comfortable sharing them because each and every story can be used to make the public aware of how much words can hurt.