The moment an “I” became an “i”
Back in Asia, I am an Asian among other Asians.
The moment I got to the United States, i am an Asian among Americans.
Back home, I didn’t have to worry if my safety would be compromised just because I am Asian.
The moment an “I” became an “i”, i began to look up racial demographics and racist crime rates of a place before i planned the visit.
Back home, I didn’t have to doubt whether compliments on my English skills were genuine, and instead suspect subconscious acts of microaggression.
The moment an “I” became an “i”, i had to process the compliments in a 2-step process: 1) did i disclose the fact that i am an international student before the person complimented on my English skills?, or 2) did the person compliment on my English skills, simply because i look Asian without knowing the fact that i am an international student?
Back home, I didn’t have to worry about getting attacked in public places, simply because I was speaking my native language or other Asian languages.
The moment an “I” became an “i”, i habitually glanced around the place before or while i conversed in my native language or Asian languages other than English over the phone or with friends in public settings.
Back home, I didn’t have to tiptoe whether people would be bothered or appalled by my native cuisine.
The moment an “I” became an “i”, i walked on eggshells when i cooked or ate food from my country either in my dorm or in public in case people would be disturbed by it.
Back home, I didn’t have to worry whether my job or graduate school application wouldn’t be reviewed or moved forward to the next round simply because of my ethnic identity or name.
The moment an “I” became an “i”, i found myself hoping that my application won’t be tossed out just because my name sounds Asian and i am Asian. i found myself doing thorough research on current members of the team to which the job position belonged, or research on graduate students the program previously had to ensure that they were welcoming diversity and were non-discriminative against ethnic minorities.
Back home, I wouldn’t have to be wary of any form of racist attacks when I went out for groceries or simply went for a walk around the neighborhood during this COVID era.
Now, i am highly vigilant of my surroundings wherever i go in case i might get attacked, simply because i am Asian, and the distorted beliefs surrounding COVID and Asian identity.
I have only been in the United States for 4 years. Through these lenses I have on, I can only imagine how challenging and distressing it would have been for the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community who had repeatedly experienced discriminations, racism and healthcare disparities over generations. For instance, before I came to the US, I didn’t know that a person stands a higher chance of neglect from a physician (e.g., a patient reports that he or she is experiencing high levels of pain, but a doctor doesn’t believe the patient and undermines the reported pain level), simply because that person is part of the BIPOC community. It astounded me when I learned that from a friend.
Till the day racism, discrimination and healthcare disparities are eradicated, I will keep fighting against those issues in ways I can (e.g., advocating on social media platforms, participating in panels that promotes diversity, closing the mental healthcare disparities gap through research contributions) and help amplify voices within my best capabilities.
Reflection: Existing in Two Worlds