Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New York Times: Conversation about Asian Americans continues

A WHITE WOMAN'S racist attack telling a New York Times editor to "go back to China" has sparked a dialogue about race, Asian/Americans and America.

First there was a front page open letter written by the affronted deputy metro editor Michael Luo, followed by a video under the hashtag #ThisIs2016 featuring Asian/Americans and the micro and macro aggressions that they had suffered.

That sparked a response from South Asians and Filipinos who felt slighted by not being included in the video.

For the next chapter, the NYTimes brought together some writers, journalists, academics and one politician to continue #ThisIs2016 part three. The conversation was interesting, thoughtful and provides a jumping off point for the rest of us to talk to our children, our co-workers and with each other. 

Here's a sample:

"Can I ask you all a counter-intuitive question?" asks Anand Giridharadas, author of The True American. "What do you think is our role, as members of these communities, in helping white America adjust to its new role in a new America? There is a view out there that says: 'It’s your problem to learn not to be racist, your problem to let go of privilege.' And there is a different view that says: 'We’re not going to get anywhere near equality and harmony without helping white America get there.' Because it is a 400-year-fact that is ending, and right or wrong, the change is hard."
RELATED: An open letter to the New York Times; expand the definition of Asian American
"As challenging as this is," responds sociologist Anthony Christian Ocampo from Cal Poly in Pomona, California. "I think exercising empathy is a start – empathy for the pain that our fellow community members experience, empathy for those who feel we are excluding them, and even empathy for those who aren’t as “woke” for whatever reason. As writers and journalists, our job is to usher people toward the right side of history. As much as we’d like to just rush them, we can’t."

How do you handle the micro-aggressions that seem to be part of our everyday lives? What do you tell your children about the racism that they will encounter throughout their lives? Is it time to redefine the term "Asian American?" Why do brown Asians and South Asians feel excluded in conversations about Asian America? Was it right for Luo to respond to the white woman's attack?

Unfortunately, the participants didn't come up with any definitive answers because these are tough questions. However,  their discussion will definitely get us talking among ourselves as we - along with the rest of the country - struggle with the changes that are occurring in our society.

The New York Times has devoted considerable time and resources to encourage this dialogue. Hopefully, the newspaper will continue to help answer some of these questions because the issue is not going away any time soon.

I recommend that you read the entire New York Times article moderated by Luo. Be part of the ongoing conversation.