After thoughts

A year of violence toward Asians and Asian-Americans forced me to grieve, then act.

On a gray morning, just before the first lockdown, I bundled up and went on a brisk walk in Central Park. As my friend and I rounded a bend along the path where tourists ride horse-drawn carriages, a hipster-looking white guy breezed by on his skateboard. He looked me straight in the eye and, enunciating clearly, uttered one word — a racial slur so insidious it won’t appear in this essay.

Before I could even register what happened, he was gone, a racist on wheels.

Spoken as casually as a hello, the word landed like a punch to the gut. Never in my life had I heard that single syllable spoken aloud. My Asian-ness, at least the way I wore it, like an expensive designer dress — what you put on to get the job, land the deal, accept the award — made me stand out in a good way. Or so I believed. Unguarded on that bleak morning, my sheath of accomplishment and acceptance ripped away, I felt exposed and vulnerable.

I didn’t tell my parents what had happened. Worry is in our DNA, like an Asian family love language. But as much as my overprotective parents worried about me on my own in New York, I worried about them, 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, a list of ailments growing longer by the yard. Five months after this experience, as both my home and theirs had become epicenters of the virus and racial unrest, I decided to move back in with them. Togetherness

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