First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
We are the good ones. We keep our heads down and don’t complain. We are the good minorities, the model minorities. We become doctors, and lawyers and engineers. We make our living, we invest in the economy, and we have good, rule-following children. We take the racist slurs in stride, never wavering from our path to economic success, proving that hard work and diligence is all it really takes. This is the narrative of the model minority that took root in the 1950/60s, post-WWII and at the beginning of the civil right movement. This was the beginning of stereotypes and policies that would pit Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc) against other minorities, giving White America a group to hold up and say, ‘Look at them. If they can do it, why can’t you?” We became the props for White America to say, ‘See! We’re not racist, you’re the problem. These minorities came here and look where they are now.’
The model minority hawkers ignore that Black American’s were and continue to be systematically dehumanized. They ignore the ‘Juan Crow’ laws that support racist profiling of Latinos in America (are you really American?). They ignore that the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act prioritized allowing immigration of highly skilled immigrants with science backgrounds and students (re: an inherent leg up). They ignore the cost of immigration from another country, pushing only those able to afford it over to the US. They celebrate the idea of the “Tiger Mom” as and rejoice in a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” attitude.
I am deeply bothered when I see Asians buy into this idea and align themselves further with those who delude themselves into thinking that, “if only those [insert racial group here] worked harder, they’d be better off.” In Trump’s version of America, we are just the good, hard workers that don’t say anything concerning and don’t resist. Why do we think, for even a second, that if we did push back, things wouldn’t be different? That we wouldn’t be branded as terrorists, or job stealers from the real Americans?
President Trump, Steve Bannon, and their followers want a homogeneous America. Right now the alt-right is coming for the undocumented, Black people, and the poor immigrants, but we are not safe from their hate. We must always remember that first they came for the Socialists.
They will take apart all that makes our country beautiful, piece by piece, and if we stand silent, we stand complicit. We have a voice that must harmonize with our friends of color, supporting each other. If we don’t, who will speak for us when the alt-right comes?
Nothing I’m writing here is new, or hasn’t been said before. But the Women’s March, the end of Trump’s first year in office, and the government shut down just made it all the more real. In Trump’s America, the threat of hate is palpable. I am asked more now, but where are you really from? And I want to scream Arizona. I want to scream.
My parents came here with little money, but with the financial prospects of highly educated individuals. They pushed me towards the same with the means, time, and know-how to get me there. I am a doctor at a great institution. Without a doubt I have had many legs up in the world. But in a grocery store I can feel smaller than a thimble when I’m speaking on the phone with my mother and someone tells me to go back to my country. I want to scream. This is my country, and this is Trump’s America. After a year, I still have trouble reconciling those two facts.