Last night I saw the film Green Book and was overwhelmed with various thoughts.
The acting was brilliant. You should all go and see it.
I felt overwhelmed because I could relate to a certain extent.
I left home (Taiwan) to go to America by myself when I was 17.
Throughout the 8 years of living there, I grew from a naive little girl to a self-aware identity crisis.
I said grew but I am not sure if that was the appropriate word.
“Grew” because I realised and learned where I stood in that continent.
but on the flip side, I sometimes wish I had never grown so I would never see the hard “truth” and would never feel bad.
The naive little girl wanted to explore the great land of America and she did.
But every good thing comes with a price you pay.
And one of the prices I’ve paid was realising and experiencing the hard truth of racism in various forms.
In first year of uni dorm, I was walking behind these two White students. The guy looked at my photo on my door and referred me as an “ugly Asian” to his female friend.
She then asked him: so you don’t like Asians?
He then went on to explain that not all Asians are ugly and that he has seen some who looked better.
They obviously did not know I was not far behind them and heard every word.
The moment I went in to my room, I started crying.
That was also the same time I was dating a White guy.
His family often used the term “oriental” to describe goodies I brought them.
They also used degrading word, such as “something looks like rabbit poop” to describe food I bought.
Now thinking back, I would not find it degrading if my mum said the same thing. But I think it was the fact that I had similar experiences of being “looked down upon” by the same person and that made me suspect that his perspectives on my food were racist.
I could not help it. I was surrounded by White people and I continuously encountered negative remarks that probably did not come from bad intentions but still hurt me.
These were only a small fraction of the incidents that happened in the last 10 years of living abroad.
They happened so long ago but I remember vividly. Why? Because they hurt and still do.
When my friends shared similar experiences to me, I felt their pain and decided that I couldn’t be silent anymore.
When someone you love tells you how negatively she was treated, how could you not be furious?
When these stories are told by someone personal to you, you know it’s not something that people made it out to be or something that only happens on the news. You know it’s real.
Two years ago, I moved to England.
Did it get any easier? yes and no
the no part was when I lived in small towns that had primarily White residents.
I received mean stares and did not feel comfortable out in a cafe by myself.
another no is Brexit. Knowing that it was triggered by anti-immigration, I feel sad and fearful because why wouldn’t I be?
I am not a European but that does not matter, I am STILL an immigrant.
the yes part is living in London has helped my mental health significantly.
The main reason is diversity.
I finally feel like myself out and about doing things on my own.
I used to think: how could I possibly call a place home if I do not feel like I am part of it?
But for the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of belonging.
Some scenes in the film reminded me of what’s going on in England.
Some people are furious that foreigners are taking their jobs away.
But now thinking back, all of the small towns with primarily White British had barely any job opportunities whereas a diverse city like London has loads.
An increase in a diverse range of jobs occur with an increase in a diverse population.
Every person has unique contribution to the society.
In the film, Tony said to Don:
“People love what you do! Anyone can sound like Beethoven or Joe Pan or them other guys you said. But your music, what you do? Only you can do that!”
Certain skills are only fulfilled by certain people. Even if other people can learn the same skills, they cannot do it the same way.
How boring it must be to have a world of homogeneity?
for those who have traveled and love to travel, you know one reason traveling is fun is because what you see is different.
Will you travel if where you are going is the same as where you live? no.
Diversity is good but it’s not enough.
the film reminded me of genuine and long contact between people of different ethnicity.
In one particular scene when Don was socialising with White people:
Tony: how does he smile and shake their hands like that?
Oleg: Because it takes courage to change people’s hearts.
How many of us will watch this film and feel confronted and maybe cry but go home and continue our lives like nothing has changed?
We will continue hanging out with people of our own race.
But today I urge myself, and all of you, to find that courage Don had and actively make friends with people who look different from us.
I can go on and on and blame Brexit, blame social injustice, blame inequality, etc but still not change people’s minds.
Action is contagious.
May we all be Tony and Don who demonstrate that a real bond can be made with differences, genuine interest in each other, honesty and kindness.