Asian Spaces and White Spaces

As a Taiwanese-American, I grew up inherently knowing a difference between Asian spaces and White spaces.

School, the post office, the grocery store, small towns, megachurches…those were White spaces. In those spaces we are treated as ‘other’ and always as ‘foreigners’. In those spaces White is the norm and authority, so I learned that we lower our heads and stay silent. When necessary we instinctively smile politely, nod our heads, and try our best to serve and be helpful in order to not be noticed. It’s safer to not be noticed.

In Asian spaces I learned that my family is actually not so quiet. As we gather around round tables at the family restaurant, walk down the streets of Chinatown, and celebrate holidays in the basement of our immigrant church, we are loud and rambunctious. In those spaces the aching bodies of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations could relax and talk over each other and laugh loudly and sing and take naps.

Asian spaces were safe spaces. White spaces were not.

In Asian spaces we had a voice. In White spaces we did not.

But these days Asian spaces don’t feel so safe either.

Today, those in my parents’ generation will likely continue to be silent. They will stuff down the unwelcome, they will stuff down their fears, they will stuff down the message of hate, and they will continue to look ahead and focus on survival as they always have.

My instincts tell me to do the same.

But today I will not be silent. I will weep. I will be angry. This is the only home I know, and it’s not ok to wonder if it’s safe to go to the grocery store.