This is Not a Mistake.

This is not a mistake, not a glitch. Today’s post deserves only an empty black photograph. Something so dark, so dull, so tasteless that no guideline and no scholarship grant can stop me from posting otherwise. This post is about racism. 

Racism. Something many people – many of us – have come to identify as American. An American reinvention! Restyled! Refashioned! Reimagined! Like white cops on black bodies! Like self-entitled white moms mumbling “go back to your country” and “stop stealing our jobs” at Target! This is America. 

But you’re wrong. This ain’t America. Racism ain’t American. Racism will never be solely American. Racism is universal. Just as hate is universal. Just as misunderstanding and fear are universal. For other countries to point fingers at the United States and turn heads in moments of racial injustice in their own countries is ignorant and hypocritical. And my experience here in Spain is no different. So, in Thirteen Reasons Why fashion: 

This one is for the two children at the local grocery store. Maybe I was the first Asian you’ve ever seen. If this is the case, I’m honored to be the first of many! Especially the first to call your immature child’s play out! But, I’m guessing from the number of tourists who go in and out of Barcelona this isn’t the case. Those stares and those mumbles of “ni hao” as I pass you in the cereal aisle – thank you! Thank you for the reminder that tolerance and respect comes with years of discipline, experience, and maturity – that a joke today is a lesson tomorrow. But, of course, you two are only kids and you make mistakes and learn day by day! After all, anything you say or do is acceptable because you’re only kids, correct? But, from your mistakes, I really do hope you learn. Though I may not be the right person to teach or set an example, I hope that you have people in your lives that can. I hope that your textbooks and novels show the light of day for people who look like me. I hope that your classes stray from painting Mongols as savages and stray from fetishizing yellow opium addicts. I hope you come to adore the qualities and leadership of heroes like Mulan and leaders like Genghis Khan and Ghandi. One day, you will learn. 

This one is for the elderly man of Valldoreix. An elder who should’ve aged with transformative experiences and life lessons that come with them. But, unfortunately, you only bruised, scarred, and let your cuts fester with hate. A pity! A pity to grow old and harden with coldness. You were cold and stiff on that train; I remember. And, your words were cold. “You’re in Spain. Don’t speak English. Speak only Catalan or Spanish. Go back to China.” If only I knew more of your language so that I could at least try and understand you a little bit more – so that I might find somewhere deep inside your soul, your hurt. A pity. Unlike the children of the grocery store, you’re too late! You’ll never learn, at least not anymore. After all, stubbornness is a drug. Tolerance and understanding comes with years of experience and it seems as though your years were poisoned. Maybe immigrants or tourists wronged you somewhere along your years. Maybe you confused nationalism and pride for isolationism and xenophobia. I’ll never know. But what I do know is myself. I knew you deserved no retaliation, at least from me because you’d never learn. You’d never get it. You don’t deserve my cursing tongue. You don’t deserve my fists. You don’t deserve the respect of my eyes. And, I gave you none of them. Only my silence. Not the quite of defeat, but the quiet of resilience, of courage. I made clear your freedom to express yourself. You have the right to a voice, but hatred is not tolerated, is undeserving of attention, is to be rejected in every way. There is no room for racism in democracy, especially in strides for Catalan independence. No matter the times you waved your cane, no matter the times you repeated those words, you will never win. Racism never wins. You won’t learn; I’ve come to those terms. I only hope you rest easy and learn your wrongs, even if it means in the afterlife. One day, you will know. 

Racismo will never have the last word,

Justin “less about politics, more about RESPECT” Pak


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