Every day at 10 pm, a reminder will pop up on my phone screen. It says: “How are you?”
I can’t remember when I first set that reminder. I just know that I copied that from someone’s article somewhere and found it a good idea at the time. “How are you” is the first thing we ask someone when we meet them, no matter how well acquainted. Truth is, 90% of the answers would be “I’m fine” or “I’m okay”. So at some point, asking “how are you” became an equivalent to a nicer “hello”, nothing more. Admit it, we no longer care much about the answers to that question. We don’t want to dump our emotional baggage onto someone else who’s just going about their day.
That’s why my past self decided to ask my future self every day “How are you?” with sincere. Sometimes now, as the clock inching towards 10 pm, I would even anticipate the warm but fleeting sensation upon being asked with care. Nonetheless, I could still remember my answer during the time after I started this practice. It was always a curt “Fine!”. It came as a reflex. I would answer myself as if I were answering someone else.
As time goes by, and the notification kept popping up every day at 10 pm, I started to take one more second to think about my answer. How am I feeling? How am I, really?
Lately, I would sometimes mistake the “How are you?” for “Who are you?”. It is indeed a question that I ask myself a lot, maybe you do too. I once came up with a quasi-answer. To my amazement, the more often I asked the question, the more uncomfortable and complex would the answer be. For example, as I encountered today’s “How are you?”, I thought it was “Who are you?” again. In my mind it went down like this:
I’m not fine. I’m not fine with how fucked up the world is becoming and how I have always been a part of it. I’m not fine with the ignorance and brutal silence of many people that I know and love. I’m not fine with the injustice that’s sort of normalcy for Black people. However, I’m grateful for everyone who has spoken up, either to fight for their own people or to stand in solidarity with the Black community. Besides, I’m anxious when thinking about the advocacy that still needs to be done. I dread the uncomfortable conversations that I’ll have with people in the future. I’m hopeful about the outcome of this outcry. I believe it’s due time that the Black community be heard.
Who am I? I’m no one, but I have always been a part of the systematic racism against Black people, and maybe I will always be. Why? Because some of my privileges will always trump over a Black person’s privileges, for example, being stereotyped as a hard-working Asian while Black people are considered lazy criminals. So who can I be in this world? I can choose to be silent, to blatantly ignore whatever the Black community is trying to fight over their life for. Right? Many people are doing that, so it must be okay to do that, right?
I wish I was that dumb. Isn’t ignorance bliss? So who can I be in this world?
I choose to be someone who confronts her privileges. Someone who admits that just because some things were handed to me automatically, doesn’t mean that it would be that easy for someone else. Someone who feels guilty for having been ignorant. Someone who pledges to be more conscious and thoughtful. Someone who refuses to accept the status quo. Someone who double-checks her beliefs. Of all the people that I could be, I refuse to be a sheep.
Nevertheless, today, I’m tired, and “my fight” has only begun a few days ago. Now I can understand how exhausted Black people must be. I’m truly, truly sorry for their suffering.
To my dear readers, most of you either white or Asian, as you are reading these words today, I would like to ask you from the bottom of my heart: