I’m still silent, still reading, still (if you couldn’t tell already) confused about race. My mind tends to be fairly reductive, fairly, for lack of better phrasing, black and white. But this huge, confusing, difficult, charged, systemic conversation around race is not at all black and white– not even for people who are black or white. I want there to be answers when there are none. I want to just know what is right and wrong, which perspectives or people to vilify and which to put on posters in an elementary school.
Life is incredibly unlike that, and I cannot stand it.
When I am living my everyday life, I don’t really think about being Asian. Never, not once, until someone or something reminds me that I am. Sometimes I think that means that I’m “pretending I’m white inside”–i.e., because I was raised in white culture with white family and peers–and sometimes I think that means that I am ultra-privileged to not always have to think about race. Sometimes I think it’s shameful to not recognize my roots. Sometimes I think it’s the only way to survive from all of the thoughts assaulting my brain.
I’m reading a book that explains to me that race is entirely a social construct. Biologically, race doesn’t exist. I don’t think the book is saying, “Race isn’t scientifically real, so why are we talking about it?” Whether race exists biologically or not, the fact of the matter is that it exists in everyday life, woven in to the fabric of all life experience, so we can’t just pretend it’s not there. But still, the fact that the “mongoloid, negroid, etc.” concepts are totally discredited in many anthropological and biological circles completely blew my mind. And I really did think, “whoa, so why … do we even care?” Again, reductionism at its finest. Or maybe just trying to ignore everything so that I can finally quiet this nonstop chatter that runs across the back of my skull.
I think in a lot of ways it is a testament to my privilege that I don’t much think about being not white unless prompted. You know, if I had darker skin or an accent or whatever whatever, would I be able to ignore it just as much? And when does “I’m just trying to live my life and think about things that are important to me as a person and as a soul” shift into “I’m trying to completely ignore race and its implications because it’s too much or I have privilege?” As a person who easily obsesses, I try to tiptoe on this line between being aware and sensitive and constantly trying to break down barriers and prejudices within myself and that of regaining my sanity and not becoming oversensitive and not tormenting myself every day with the issue of race.
Thank god for wine, I guess?