'Dear Racist': How Rage-Writing Turned To Rage-Drawing For An Artist Who's Fed Up With Anti-Asian Hate
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Listen to the radio version of this essay:
By Tracy Park
Most people of color in America recall their first encounter with a racist. I'm not sure my daughters will, seeing as one of them was still too young in late February of 2020 to consume solids.
But I will remember it for them — playing in our local pocket park, the usual chaos of preparing the kids to leave, and then the parting shot by a young man hanging out with a couple friends by the park entrance that made me turn my head, wondering if I'd heard him correctly.
Had he really just ordered me to get my "coronavirus babies" out of the park? While my daughters blissfully ignored the exchange, I stood just outside the park gate seething and doing a sloppy risk analysis in my head about whether or not to confront the man.
When you're with your children, fear for their safety nearly always wins over the need for righteous retribution. We left, but I couldn't let it go.
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I hadn't had any snappy comebacks ready on the spot, so as only a true "reenact-and-rant-at-the-mirror-an-hour-later" person would, I wrote every mean and clever remark I wished I could have said to that man in a letter.
I continued adding to it with each new anti-Asian incident I heard about in the news or from other Asian American friends. Then, my Korean immigrant mother was harassed on her usual Northridge neighborhood walk by a man setting out his trash bins. He told her she had better watch her back, and continued to call after her as she power-walked on. By that time, I was seeing red.
I was furious that my family, my friends and my fellow Asian American community members were frightened to leave home even just for necessities. I despised feeling like the racists and xenophobes held a power over us, that their hatred and acts of intolerance would factor into our decision-making about going outside at all.
And more than anything, I hated feeling afraid.
Then I remembered that xenophobia involves a deep and primal fear of difference. Racism is borne of the most primitive insecurity a person can feel. It is a fear so profound that the person experiencing it can no longer correctly identify it as fear. And as angry as I was, I could not help but regret the richness and connection all these terrified people will never know (by their own choice).
The letter I was rage-writing began to change as I tried to understand that fear, and how it must feel when you realize the world is evolving away from you.
While I rage-wrote, my toddler would rage-draw alongside me with the darkest colored crayons she could find. If the paper size was insufficient, her scribbles would spill over onto the table, the walls and MY sketchpad.
Watching her, I decided to add illustrations to the letter. I ditched my normally premeditated approach and attempted to draw as freely and unapologetically as she does, even using her favorite black jumbo crayon (which I now have to replace).
Although this letter is addressed to the racists out there, I share it now to bring strength and solace to anyone feeling powerless in the face of this resurgence of fear masked as hate. Trust me, you don't want to trade places with those who hate.
Our fear is fleeting. Theirs is forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracy Park is a freelance animation producer, artist and zinester who has been fortunate to call Los Angeles her home for the last 15 years. She is the proud daughter of Korean immigrants and the proud but exhausted mother of two Korean-ish hellions.