On Tianjin

I usually layout exactly what I have to say in my head before I put my fingers to the keyboard. Whatever you read on here, has probably been going through my mind for at least a couple of weeks. This entry, however, is something that I have to get out. So please bear with me if the words seem all over the place.

This is about my race and nationality.

I recognize that racism and discrimination happen across all countries and all ethnicities. My parents still associate caucasian people with a strong B.O., blacks with tendencies of violence, and Hispanics with illiteracy. I personally believe that racism only exists due to ignorance and lack of contact. My theory is, that when you know someone well enough, sole hatred becomes impossible, without at least feeling some affection or sympathy towards that person, too. (That’s for another post.)

My point is, I understand the concept of racism and I cannot say last night was completely unexpected. But the extend of ignorance I witnessed, made it too difficult for me to keep quiet. The purpose of this post isn’t to reveal racism and complain about it, but to hopefully contribute in helping us all move beyond that.

As we are all aware of, a horrific accident occurred in Tianjin on Aug. 12th, at 23:30. According to the official reports, a harbor full of containers that carried flammable chemicals caught on fire and resulted in massive explosion. On social medias of China. enormous monetary and blood donations had been made to the victims and their families. Along side with all the grief and prayers, voices of suspicion were also prominent. “What are the causes of the fire?” “Why are the residential buildings so close to dangerous chemicals?” “Why sending in firemen when the explosion was obviously out of control?”

Out of curiosity, I logged onto YouTube to see what the world had to say about it. I clicked on a few videos, and a couple of them had already passed 1 million views. I scrolled down to the comments section. Jokes, hate speech, racist remarks flooded the page. People had been leaving hateful comments when a city of 15-million people was in panic.

I had always considered myself as someone who takes jokes rather well, but I didn’t find “that Kung Pow Chicken was too spicy” remotely funny. Maybe joking about it is one way to recognize such a tragedy, and I was going to let it go. Then I thought, no one would have found jokes funny after 9-11 or Sandy Hooks. Well this is our 9-11, this is our Sandy Hooks, and we should be greeted with racist comments? I spoke up.

To my surprise, not only did I not receive an apology, I was bombarded with comments calling me “hypocrite” and “joy kill”. Killing your joy from seeing hundreds of people suffer? I couldn’t quite compose my thoughts into a reply.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the upsetting part. More than a couple people cheered and laughed as sparks went up into the sky, lighting the night on fire. My eyes watered up, as people around the globe wrote down things like “the Chinese are stupid people, they all deserve to die”; “the explosion should’ve been bigger! It’s God’s revenge”; “great! This saves Japan and America some bullets”; or “who cares, they’ve still got a billion people”. Every comment was a stake right through my heart.

Animal-tourturing, profit-driven, liars, sinners… All the characteristics that I don’t identify with, were suddenly imposed on me, and I had no power to fight back. Even if we were all those things, celebrating an explosion doesn’t make you a better human being. Many comments were hurtful, but most were just ridiculous. All these strangers claiming to have studied about China, and leaving statements like “99.9% of Chinese people are evil.” I tried to defend myself, but my words seemed so plain in front of their strong beliefs.

I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve that. I don’t know anyone who would deserve that. We aren’t saints, but we aren’t Satan either. When some ugly traditions or practices in China gets blown up by the media, it becomes the only thing people see. If it was my building that exploded, I’m sure people would have applauded as the animal-torturing evil Chinese get their revenge. I’m sure they wouldn’t cared that I am in fact vegetarian.

In our 5000 years of history, Chinese have definitely done some shady things both to each other and to other countries. Our government functions in a different way, and not everybody approve of our political system. Our productions may be cheap and of poor quality, and sometimes even I dread to use “Made in China”s. Our nation doesn’t have the best welfare system, or the strictest food safety policies, or the most liberated freedom to speech. All the faults, all the wrongs, do not make any single one of Chinese citizens not worthy of life. I genuinely can’t comprehend what the people on the internet are basing their hatred off. If they are condemning the entire population just because of what they have heard about our industries and politics, I think it’s rather unreasonable.

For the not very long history of me being alive, I’ve fought for women, I’ve fought for LGBT groups, I’ve fought for animal rights, but race had never been a great issue until now. It was a mixed feeling to read about how others thought of us, and one of the strongest emotions I felt was fear. As a born-and-raised Chinese who’s soon going to a US university, I am scared of what is waiting on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I am scared that when I study at the library, I would hear people whispering ’that Asian deserves to die’. I am scared that when I get a promotion at jobs, I would be considered to be stealing others opportunities. I am scared that when some tragedy (God forbid) happens to my homeland, instead of having a shoulder to lean on, all I would hear is ’I hope the death poll is higher’.

Maybe I should bear more hopes, but I believe that true colors had been shown last night, and world, you disappointed me. We are world citizens above all else, and last night I was excluded from that. As I was reading and replying to comments, a quote kept coming to my mind: “Up all night, we’ve got demons to fight”. I guess it is the demons that kept me up till 5am, not the people who left the thoughtless comments, but the walls of ignorance, walls of misunderstanding, walls of discrimination. We move rapidly in globalization, and someday our cultural boundaries would become even less relevant. These walls are the demons that we must break through.

I have a tendency to keep things to myself, because I never thought others’ opinions mattered. But this time I knew keeping quiet wouldn’t help. I know that now I have to fight for my country also. I tried to last night, but the aggression and hostility frightened me. I feel hopeless and misunderstood, even when I had 1.5 billion people standing behind my back.  Under the traumatizing situation, the last thing we need is to be discriminated personally due to our nationality, and then our nation to be insulted. The lack of acceptance and the lack of knowledge worry me, because I know that this is something my generation will have to put up with. My parents have no access to international social media, and they don’t speak English; they can move on with their lives easily because they don’t have to witness all this hate. But my peers and I, we are put under responsibility, attacked for something we didn’t do, and we are insulted for just who we are. Our generation is trying to make a difference, trying to break the stereotypes, but we can’t if you can’t take us for who we are. The internet, you don’t always have to go so hard on us.

I am not pleading for your sympathy, but I ask for consideration before you blurt out offensive words during a sad time like this. I love my country, and I hope you can respect that.

All my prayers goes out to Tianjin, the victims and their families. My brother went to university in Tianjin, and I can’t imagine what I would feel if he was there.

P.S: I am sorry if I have left some angry comments when I was barely conscious at 5am. If you are reading this, and I’ve offended you, I apologize.

xx L.

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