Once again, discrimination has landed smack in the middle of our lives here in the US. A hard landing, and one with reverberations far beyond anything I ever expected.
As I wrote not that long ago, I never imagined I would come to know discrimination so intimately through my marriage to a Chinese man. Maybe that’s naivete or plain ignorance; either way, it’s clear that I just didn’t realize the extent to which discrimination and racism still remained in this country, and their ability to strike down (and even ruin) a young man in pursuit of his own small patch of happiness.
The other day, my husband and I were having a conversation in the car about discrimination and racism in America — two things he knew firsthand from his own experiences over here.
“Mean and wicked, that’s what these people were to me,” he said, referring to the Americans who had betrayed him in the past. “They just don’t care, they have no concern for you at all. They think they can just bully you.”
My heart ached to see him this way. “I’m so sorry. It just goes to show how much work in this country is still undone. We Americans have a lot to learn.”
“Don’t say ‘we’! Don’t put yourself in the same category as them, you should be careful of your language!”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to say ‘we’, it just came out by accident. Just a reflex, that’s all.”
“They’re not even broken relationships. It’s as if the relationships were never even there,” my husband said.
This Sunday evening, John and I reflected on the wreckage of that discrimination — especially the people we never expected to stand against us. People we considered mentors and friends. People who always used to say, “I understand.”
“I don’t understand how they could do this,” I said. “I mean, it’s like they were lying to you all along.”
“That’s the in-group mentality, you know. They never really trust people who are different, never really even consider you like one of them.”
Last Saturday, my husband John and I welcomed a couple of Chinese students into our home after dinner. Originally, we just talked turkey — or rather, the fact that we invited them over to our place for Thanksgiving. But when the topic came up, John and I had other turkeys in mind, such as the discrimination we faced barely a day before.
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