Undercover Racism: Treated As The Token Prop In Someone’s Story


I was in a rather innocuous situation with other Anglo-Saxon brothers and sisters, and as it happens sometimes: I felt that ethnic wall of alienation dividing us a mile wide, like I was screaming naked in a glass cage.  It felt like flesh torn in two.

I’m not one to pull the “race card” or to “race-bait” at all.  I’ve never been about that, and I’m not even sure what those terms mean.  But I often feel that some Anglo-Saxons assume I’m missing some kind of basic understanding, as if I don’t “get it” or I’m oblivious to what’s going on, and I’m treated from a detached distance like my life doesn’t really count in the room.  In a predominantly white culture, foreigners are often seen as props instead of people, so people of color are these incomplete subhuman creatures that don’t really belong to any inner-circle.   We’re treated sort of as a non-entity, which reminds me of this clip from everyone’s favorite romantic movie on the blogosphere.

I know how I sound right now,  and I’m not saying anything new.  But I felt it really bad today.  And unless you’re actually a person of color: it’s nearly impossible to understand how utterly helpless it feels to stand in a crowd where no one really includes you into their journey.

It’s sort of this clinical, preserved, shrink-wrapped stigma of innocence around foreigners that views us as slightly clueless.  And I hate that.  I hate that Anglo-Saxons don’t understand that there isn’t a vacuum-sealed Asian/Latino/Black culture, but that white people have a culture too, and white culture is not just “the way things are.”  I hate that I’m treated as an ethnic trophy of diversity in the “main story” of a white person’s life, and that I’m some kind of a sidekick that doesn’t matter.  I hate the condescending way that people explain things to me, as if my culture is some kind of uptight chokehold of antiquated ideas that is second place in a Westernized world.

Probably I’m being racist as well.  I suppose I’m defeating my own purpose and I’m guilty of what I’m saying too.  But — it’s just exhausting to throw off this uncomfortable anxiety that I’m an alien here.  I’m not at home anywhere.  I’m an American with Asian blood, which means I belong nowhere.  And I wish you could see me as a fellow human being with the same hopes, dreams, insecurities, and flaws as all of us, and maybe we could quit talking down to each other like we can’t see the same shades of life.  I’m a person first, with thoughts of my own that exist apart from my face, and I hope we can celebrate our unique cultures instead of using it to categorize.  I hope I can understand you too, because maybe you’re really trying, and I don’t want to miss that either.  Maybe we’ll actually get to know each other, and even like each other just because.

— J


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8 thoughts on “Undercover Racism: Treated As The Token Prop In Someone’s Story

  1. “And unless you’re actually a person of color: it’s nearly impossible to understand how utterly…” vexing it is to have cultures that are just as imperfect as your own, pass judgment on any and all of those who belong to yours.

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      1. Hi there!! No worries!! It’s been such a busy, transitional time. Just your consistent posts are such a help to me…I get a twinge of conviction every day that I need to ramp up my writing again (yeah, right now it’s just a twinge! LOLOL).

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  2. As a white, short, Caucasian female it may sound off to you, but we are often seen the same as you describe we see you. It isn’t just a matter of color or race, it is height or the lack thereof. I was ridiculed most of my life especially as a child for being so little. In fact I was compared to the only “dwarf” in my school.

    It is the skinny versus the over weight. The Yankees who still believe we southerners are stupid and eat nothing but fried chicken and collards.

    Or the atheist who once told me how sorry he was for me that I have to live in “racist South Carolina.” Go figure that one. And of course he has never been here before in his life.

    Or the Baptist, Presbyterians and Lutherans who don’t agree.

    And political leanings are now as much “racist” depending on which side you are on. Forget the constitution or being plain and simple, “American.”

    living as a civilian in a total military city where AF/Army fatigues far outweigh us in blue jeans and sandals. I found out real quick 7 years ago when I moved here, we civilians in this military town are in the minority.

    So get off your soapbox here JS and forget about what others think about you. You aren’t the only ones getting discriminated against; I AM TIRED OF PEOPLE PICKING ON SHORT PEOPLE!

    WE ARE ONE IN CHRIST AND THAT SEPARATES US FROM MOST EVERYONE! AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS!

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    1. Hey Ms. Cathy, perhaps I wasn’t fair in the post to everyone, particularly with the economy of words we use in blogs. I hope I could write a post in the future to stick up for all who feel slighted, not just people of color (though I do believe the POC struggle is very real, and something I can personally write on). Thanks for bringing up what you said too, those are important things we all do have in common.

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      1. J.S. I see in you what you don’t see in yourself. You are such an inspiration; such a great writer and speaker, not to mention how I can relate to your Black Belt and the amount of work it takes to get that not that I got that far but almost a brown belt. Your honesty and humble nature is contagious and convicting. Remember who you are in Christ and any “racism” or discrimination you feel will go away. It’s those who feel that way that have the problem. Not you. God has chosen you. Believe that.

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  3. Pastor JS, what you said about people assuming you don’t understand the white cultural norms is intriguing. I’d not thought of that as racism before. I bet the people being condescending have no idea what they’re really doing. 😦

    What Naphtali says is pretty true. Remember those school kids who pick on *anybody* different? They don’t suddenly change their character as grownups!
    Whenever these kinds of things bother me, I remember Jesus is the great equalizer. He sees our differences, but He loves each of us as equally important. 🙂

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  4. I am more than outraged that you experienced this. Human arrogance moves to a belief that by genetic inheritance, religion, vocation, address, whatever, someone becomes one-up or put down. White (pink) is a colour. It was overt racism that took my vocation in ministry away; I worked with a First Nation denominational group in Canada. We put together a human rights case, and then withdrew; racists don’t change because they lose a case. Jesus does heal us, but that doesn’t change the human feelings we get through racial abuse and institutionalized racism. I miss working with those thousands of people I served, stopped by a sick system. No clichés from me. If I swore I’d use some right now. I can only stand with you and weep in pain. It stinks.
    Peace

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