I will admit it – my parents are racist, homophobic, and classist. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that my family – being Asian – are racist, even though we ourselves are a minority? That’s not to say that I don’t love my parents. I do. But I am so very grateful that their views were not passed down to me.
My sister has been the adult figure in my life, though only four years separate us. She introduced new ideas to me at the dinner table when I was young. If not for her, I might still discriminate against the LGBT community or people of other races out of sheer ignorance. But my parents’ opinions go beyond ignorance.
In 2012, Jeremy Lin was breaking into the NBA. He was a sensation, and the media frenzy and adoration he inspired was known as “Linsanity.” My father heard about this Taiwanese basketball phenom from his friends; being Asian, we obviously were proud of Lin.
One Sunday afternoon, there was a Knicks game on ABC, and my father told me to put it on so he could admire Lin’s athletic talents.
According to Richard Lapchick, in 2011, the National Basketball Association was composed of 78 percent black, 17 percent white, 4 percent Latino, and 1 percent Asian players. Carmelo Anthony, arguably the star of the Knicks, is black. And it was watching Anthony – one of my favorite players – that spurred an onslaught of racist comments from my father.
I won’t repeat what he said, but you can imagine how distressed and livid I became. I turned off the TV with trembling hands and slammed the remote down. Tears leapt to my eyes. I wanted to tell my father how much I loathed his racism. Unfortunately, I was not able to communicate this in Mandarin, the language we speak at home. So I stormed downstairs and began hurling a ball at a target to relieve my anger.
He came downstairs and demanded I turn the TV back on. When I refused, he started beating me. Being 10 years old, I screamed and cried, both from the pain and this new hatred I had toward my father. After a few minutes, he went upstairs wearing a look of disgust. Meanwhile, I may not have had antipathy on my face, but I had it in my heart.
The beating didn’t do anything but galvanize my newfound hatred for prejudice. Physical pain would never make me succumb to his wishes and turn on that television so he could make more unsolicited, offensive comments about the players. And even though that incident is history, I will never forget it. I will never forget the day that I realized how prejudiced people can be – including my own family, even though we too are a minority.
I know now that my parents’ racism stems from years of living in a rough neighborhood where they were often threatened by – yes – black and Latino people. However, they never realized, or never wanted to realize, that a few individuals do not define an entire race.
Racism repulses me and always will. I will never understand how an immediate judgment of a person can be formed based solely on his race or appearance. I have dealt with racism firsthand, and I spent many nights wondering what I had done to inspire such hatred. Inside, we are all humans, and skin color does not make you any more or less. There is nothing separating us but our beliefs and our actions.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.