Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Posted on April 29, 2020

Selfie of Kendra Davis wearing a face mask

What I’m Watching: Taskmasters – a BBC show where comedians have to perform weird tasks that is sarcastic, hilarious and oddly heartwarming? Be warned, one ELGL Boardmember has already fallen captive to it!

What I’m Reading: Belonging by Nora Krug – a German graphic novel that takes an introspective journey through what it means to accept and celebrate your heritage when it includes some very dark themes. Fascinating, uncomfortable, and contemplative – one of those unique literary sweet spots. Also, I’m certain that the author could never have predicted the resurgence of Nazism when the book came out, so that’s an interesting twist.

What I’m Listening To: FIONA APPLE. Is there anything else right now?

This won’t be a long buzz, so don’t worry – you can get back to whatever passes as your regular life in just a little bit. Teaching children! Baking bread! Watching Netflix! Surviving! 

I’m lucky enough to live and work in a diverse, interesting, mostly accepting place. There’s always a way to do better when we’re talking about racism and inclusivity (to be clear, that is exactly what we’re talking about), and my region demonstrates its willingness to improve all the time. Unfortunately, in times like these, we often see the best and the worst of our communities. When people get scared, they can lash out and in a world with so many unknowns, sometimes folks just want someone to blame.

This is a really nice way of saying that people are using this virus as an excuse for being racist as hell. 

I’m not going to argue about this point or couch it with “not all people.” I’m not here to make you feel better with a story about how a little white boy thinks a little black boy is his twin brother or how Chinese Americans are being model citizens and making donations to the front lines. I’m here to tell you that we are living in a world where one of the most prominent, supposedly powerful men in the country can casually encourage racism with a single phrase or tweet; where government officials use broad racial stereotypes to describe the potential threat of the virus; where Asian Americans warn their parents of dangers unrelated to the virus when they leave their homes.

Listen, I have struggled with how to deal with this. In my brain, the argument that none of these things have happened to me keeps surfacing, encouraging me to view what has happened through a rosier, more distant lens. It’s probably not that prevalent, right? But as W. Kamau Bell said in his recent essay,

“Being against racism means being against racism. And it means being against racism when it isn’t convenient, or easy, or fun, or even when the person you are trying to help doesn’t consider you one of their people, or one of their allies, or doesn’t even see you at all.”

Which is to say that you don’t have to be one of the people suffering slurs or getting yelled at in the street to be anti-racist. You don’t have to be experiencing it or watching it to take steps against it. You don’t even have to like the people being attacked to know that it’s not the right thing to do. I find that this surge of anti-Asian sentiment makes me, like a number of things right now, deeply angry. And that’s okay! Remember that there are things we can do to combat racism we don’t see.

  • Donate your time or money to community organizations addressing issues like racism or social justice.
  • Check in with your business/organization to see what steps they’re taking to protect their community against this or discourage these kinds of actions.
  • Order from your favorite Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. restaurant (honestly, you should do this regardless – sounds delicious!)
  • Talk to those in your community who may have been impacted by this surge of anti-Asian rhetoric, whether it’s touched them directly or not. I guarantee that they are carrying it with them either way.
  • Consider your words and actions. Microaggressions stand on a larger stage in these times, and seemingly small things can be magnified.

Honestly, it all comes back to Susan Barkman’s request for us to all have a little grace with each other. Just remember that there are people in your community, even if you don’t know them, who are living in a state of heightened anger and fear on top of our current pandemic. This buzz centers on the Asian American community, but this is true for so many groups at this time. Just remember that racism you don’t see is still racism, and we’re all responsible for working against it.

Today’s Morning Buzz was brought to you by Kendra Davis, Acting Senior Management Analyst with City of Santa Clara. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn and join her in the quest to not be racist!

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