I usually do not write more than one blog a day but I just came back from Aldi and I had an experience so I thought I would share it while it was fresh in my mind. . .
About the only place I go to anymore is the grocery store. I mask up, grab my cloth bags and try to go on a Monday to avoid crowds. We have a new Aldi in town and it is oh so clean and I love the savings. I am very surprised how much I like their store brand items. I’m saving almost 50% on fresh produce so they have me hooked so far.
Today, there was a mom and grown daughter duo shopping in tandem to me. They were sharing jabs back and forth and it made me smile. It reminded me of how Daddy and I used to kid around. God how I miss that. I was reaching for bagged salad when the daughter said to me, “What’s good here?” I volleyed back – “My husband loves these salads”. I think we smiled but we had masks on so I’m not positive. She sent out nice vibes.
Her mom tried to get by and her daughter gave her a hard time about being in a hurry. I looked at the mother and said in jest, “I’m sorry but is this lady bothering you?”. Without skipping a beat, she firmly said, “Yes – can you take care of her for me? You look like you could.” All three of us shared a hearty laugh and it felt so good. Mask mandates are being lowered, my kids have vaccination appointments, I’m fully vaccinated, my sister went to the beach and I’m just feeling like things are starting to get back to “normal”.
Further down the aisle we bought similar items and she asked a familiar question. “Where are you from?” Sigh. I knew where this was going and I didn’t feel like playing games so I got right to the point. “I am originally from South Korea.” I say brightly, hoping she will say that’s not what she meant. I was hoping with all my heart she would say that I looked like someone from home or that I was sassy so I must be Northern – anything but the tired old crap – nope. She followed with, “Welllll you don’t really look very Asian but of course we have masks on. Is your father American?” I answered in the affirmative and she let out a relieved sigh – thank goodness my dad was American right? (Never mind that I’m American too, but whatever.)
At this point I wanted to just peel away because I’ve done this old song and dance too many times and my feet were dog tired. But we happened to be walking toward the same items so she pushed on. “Is your husband American?”. I didn’t even have my wedding ring on but okay. I answered, “Yes” and tried to walk ahead. I succeeded in getting some distance from her but got trapped in the frozen food section. I was SO CLOSE TO CHECKOUT. Her mother had already checked out and left – why is she still in the store?
She asked if I had kids. I nodded yes. She felt it necessary to add, “I bet they are beautiful”. I’m not sure why but this is always the “compliment” they give me – that my kids must be beautiful. Then she pulls her mask down for the killer punch. “You know, we should probably be careful talking about all this Asian stuff with the political climate and all. My niece married a half Korean guy. He’s a doctor. When we said he was smart because he was Asian it was okay but now ALL OF A SUDDEN HE FEELS OPPRESSED. These liberals. . .” – she rolled her eyes put the mask back on yelled over her shoulder – “. . .sure was nice talking to you!” and left the store.
All of a sudden. He all of a sudden felt oppressed. Never mind that he was probably uncomfortable EVERY time you said he was smart because he was Asian. Never mind that you probably told him not to worry because his kids will be beautiful. Never mind that you tell everyone he’s half Korean but he’s “okay”. He probably studied his ass off to pass all his classes you clueless woman! Do you know how hard it is to be a doctor? If all it took was being Asian, I would be a doctor, my cousins would all be doctors, my mom would have been a doctor. . .but I don’t think she even knew she was racist.
To assume I was NOT liberal, nor politically correct, nor offended by her – man she had a pair of BIG ONES. I could not find the words to reply to her before she flitted away. I just felt so sad. I felt sad for her nephew in law. I felt sorry for their future children. I wished I was brave enough to have said something to her but all I could do was be hurt and perplexed. Am I still being the model minority?
Asians are not ALL OF A SUDDEN FEELING OPPRESSED. We have felt the sting of racism all our lives in one way or the other. Some of us have learned to live with it. Some of us hate it but are afraid to say anything. Still some more of us have been taught to be mild and complacent and quiet so we don’t get punched, pushed or raped. All the excuses I’ve heard over the years, “They don’t mean it. They are just joking, can’t you take a joke? Smile! It’s not that bad. Oh come on you know it’s funny. I didn’t mean it as an insult why are you so sensitive?” Accidental racism is still racism. Maybe I don’t want things to get back to “normal”. I want it to get better.