On Normalcy, Fear, and being a Woman

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
―Paul Farmer

Hillary’s nomination hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t like her; I didn’t like that she received massive sums of money from big banks, I didn’t agree with some of her foreign policy decisions, and I really didn’t like that her husband signed laws into place that helped incarcerate hundreds of minorities into the criminal justice system.

It wasn’t until Bill Clinton spoke last night, that I truly understood my bias. See, I grew up a conservative household and hated Bill Clinton. When I turned 18, I registered Republican. It wasn’t until college that I truly forged strong female relationships (Thank you Danielle, Michelle, Dormain, and so many others), that I started to see the race divide on both sides at UCLA, and I really started to question some of my convictions. I started to notice my own internalized misogyny when I declared that I “wasn’t like other girls,” like somehow, being a tomboy and only having guy friends made me more worthy.

Fast forward to when I moved to San Francisco in a car full of all my earthly possessions, determined to carve a life for myself with two part-time jobs that barely covered rent. At one of my first jobs, I was told that I should consider wearing pantyhose to cover my legs, and a male intern pretended to hump me at the copy machine. Every day, I was reminded that asian women were the ultimate trophies in the Bay Area. Everyone wanted their Yoko Ono. This was the first time I recall feeling like I was being treated as stereotype. A comfort woman; another Lucy Liu. Even if I rise beyond that, I can even deny it–there was no denying that others see me as “just like, another Asian girl.” It’s a get up you can’t take off, no matter how successful you are. It’s telling a Senator and Secretary of State that she needs to be more inspiring.

Still, I wouldn’t let any of this bother me. It all becomes white noise; a blip in the radar. Even when the homeless guy motioned for me to suck his dick, called me a chink, and “told me to move back to Vietnam!” I laughed; these overt displays of racism or misogyny never bothered me.

What bothers me are the women like me, who maintain that being a woman is a non-issue. What bothers me are people who can’t actually put their finger on why they “hate” Hillary, or why they can’t trust her. Who, instead, point to things like “Benghazi” or “TPP” or some other one-word, trumped up media bullshit designed to paint her as a villian and tear her down. Because, when I actually made the effort to read up on Benghazi, or TPP, I never found one thing to indict her. And who does she think she is, receiving money to fund her well-respected, accomplished non-profit helping millions of people across the world? I, for one, would rather see the money in the Clinton Foundation rather than Goldman Sachs, but that’s just me.

So, back to my own biases. When I heard her husband speak last night, it sent me back to my formative years, when I simply didn’t (or wouldn’t) question what I was told. This was before I was told I didn’t have what it took to be a leader, not talk about race, or be smarter and shut the fuck up. Back when I never read books by female and minority writers. Before I backpacked through other countries and was mistaken for a prostitute, or step foot in a German concentration camp and visited mass burial sites in Nanjing, China. Back when I truly believed in such thing as Good and Evil.

Now, I know that the world isn’t so black and white. Sure, I’m as liberal as they come, but I feel for Bernie supporters, and I even understand where Trump supporters are coming from. I understand what it’s like to feel powerless and uncertain; to desperately seek change and a voice. To compromise. Trust me, I get that.

But listen closely to both sides. There is only one side who is promising change by excluding and blaming specific groups of people. There is one side who is clearly selling an idea that some people deserve more than others, exactly the way Hitler did to Jews, the Japanese did to the Chinese, Turks to the Armenians, and Whites to the Blacks in our not-so-distant history. Hell, we’ve even convinced ourselves of our superiority to animals, but I digress.

When I stood at the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, outside of Berlin, I was surprised that my horror wasn’t at the gas chambers– it was in the meticulous curation and landscaping around the camp. I was horrified by the intentional facade built to show how themselves and others how absolutely normal it all was. The careful intent on the outside, to mask the atrocities happening within, chills me to this day.

As we see business as usual, and things seem normal, think about the underlying subtext of some lives mattering more than others. If there is such thing as evil in this world, this is at the root. I believe that the vast majority of us aren’t racist, sexist, or evil. But the vast majority of us can’t afford not to examine our own biases, to stay quiet, and to succumb to racism, bigotry, and terror. We’ve seen this happen before, and it sure as hell can happen again. We are one Supreme Court justice away from overturning a woman’s right to choose.

Yesterday, I was moved by the nomination of our first female presidential candidate. It filled me with hope and pride that as a country, women not only mattered– they can lead. It also dawned on me how much shit she had to wade through, and compromises she had to make, to make it this far. If Hillary becomes president next year, it will have been nearly one hundred years since the passing of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. This is progress. Slow, hard-won, and painful progress, but still progress. Maybe Hillary isn’t the perfect candidate, but she represents inclusion and progress, and we simply can’t afford the alternative.

As the election looms larger, I implore you to be extremely wary of people who say they can fix things by excluding others. Be vigilant and cautious of the intentional curation, smoke and mirrors, and the masking of complexities disguising itself as normalcy. Most of all, examine your own internalized biases, and think about what the people you love might stand to lose– even if you aren’t affected yourself. All of us are somewhat imperfect, and because of that, we need one another to be better than that.

 

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