There’s a difference between ignorance and malice.
I spent several years of my childhood parading around as a kid Asian cowboy in a dusty ranch in Texas. I had an oversized cowboy hat, steel-toed boots, the works. I looked good, trust me.
Inevitably, I had some odd encounters here and there. I was literally the only Asian kid at school. Yet, some of the fondest memories of kindness and love I have are with southern whites. Who freely welcomed me and my mom into their lives.
White people are constantly reprimanded to assume responsibility for their words and actions in upholding white supremacy. Because despite whatever their intentions may be, the fact is that they are benefiting from oppressive structures. And if you do nothing about injustice, you’re part of the problem.
Admittedly enough, that’s a difficult pill to swallow, especially when you genuinely believe that you love your neighbors just as others do. It’s met with resistance. Which is often perceived as a childlike aversion to change, a misalignment of priorities, or at worst, underlying bigotry bubbling to the surface.
But I’ve found that this kind of reaction originates from a place of unawareness more than anything. Which is reassuring in many ways.
Consider the fact that black people are pretty much nonexistent in the East. So much so, that the level of ignorance is palpable. Social faux pas becomes blatant disrespect.
There’s an infamous Chinese laundry detergent ad of a black man being “washed” white. A long history of Asian media portrayal of blackface (even the Pokémon Jynx is questionable). And still in many parts of Asia, don’t be surprised if, as a black person… they may just touch your hair. *shudder*
In America, you’d be hard-pressed to try to find a white person as naive and ignorant to try to touch a black woman’s hair at the water cooler. Because as a culture, in the West, we’ve progressed in our understanding of racial sensitivity. Asians are a prime example in realizing that exposure, awareness, and time are key elements to progress.
Depending on our unique dispositions – how we’re raised, the culture we live in, we’re all going to develop different perspectives. But what really matters is if we approach everything with a sense of humility, with a shared goal of understanding, unity and empathy.
Perhaps it’s not “our job” to teach them. But is the goal to determine whose responsibility something is, or is it to truly move forward?