Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:18):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, "What Is Asian Hate" with my friend, Dr. Su Wang. Hi, Su. How are you?
Dr. Su Wang (00:27):
Hi, Beth. Hi, Steph. I'm so honored to be here. And it's just such a treat. So, thanks for having me.
Beth Demme (00:32):
So Su and I actually went to high school together back in the 1900s in good old Pensacola.
Dr. Su Wang (00:38):
It was the 1900's.
Beth Demme (00:40):
It was. It was a different century. It was a different time. But now you are a physician and you practice medicine in New Jersey, right?
Dr. Su Wang (00:48):
I do. Yes. I am the Medical Director for the Center for Asian Health, working in the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.
Beth Demme (00:56):
Excellent. And we wanted to have you on because through the connection of Facebook, I was able to see as there was more and more in the news about these incidentsx of Asian hate that you were posting about it. And that you're posting about it from a personal perspective. And so, Steph and I talked about it. We wanted to have you on so that we could share that personal perspective with the folks who listen to the podcast. So, tell us about yourself. Tell us about your parents. Tell us what is your personal experience as a member of the Asian-American community. So your parents are Chinese, right?
Dr. Su Wang (01:35):
Yes. So they're actually more specifically Taiwanese. So just a background, my parents emigrated over here. My dad first, actually in the 60s to do his PhD at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And he went back to Taiwan, married my mother, they came back to the US. He got a job in Pensacola, working for Monsanto. And it seemed like all the Asian people I knew in Pensacola were either kids of engineers who work for either Monsanto or Westinghouse, or Champion, or they worked at restaurants or in the fishing, shrimping industry.
Beth Demme (02:17):
Dr. Su Wang (02:17):
Which also just kind of showed you the bimodal differences of our community, which is often lumped together as one big homogenous group.
Beth Demme (02:26):
Dr. Su Wang (02:27):
So that's how we ended up in Pensacola, Florida, the panhandle of Florida. So I grew up, obviously unaware of anything outside of my immediate background. But I grew up in... now I realize, not that diverse of a community. And growing up Asian-American there, I definitely didn't have exposure to a lot of Asian culture besides what my parents and our immediate community provided. I didn't see a whole lot of people around me amongst my peers, or role models who were Asian. So I grew up pretty much thinking I was kind of White because that was my milieu. Obviously, knowing I wasn't because of comments I got in people, or me perceiving that people thought certain things about me were peculiar, or my food, or how I dressed, or my name, or my looks, or whatever.
Dr. Su Wang (03:24):
But I felt like that was the world I lived in, or I was trying to fit into. I was trying to fit into this White community. And I think this is a childhood thing, right? I don't think that's unique.
Beth Demme (03:35):
Dr. Su Wang (03:36):
I think everybody's trying to fit in with whatever's around them. But because of that milieu, I think, in going through adolescence and your identity crisis, and I definitely went through a period of I don't know what you call it, self-hate, or culture-hate where I was like, "Oh, I didn't want anything to do with that part of my life." And I was really embarrassed about my parents speaking Chinese in public. And I had this distinct memory at some point, Beth, it was some sort of some event that we had in the high school auditorium where our parents were invited. It may have been a bay at band concert.
Beth Demme (04:08):
Dr. Su Wang (04:09):
And I just remember wanting my parents to sit really far away. And I didn't want them to speak and I didn't want to go over to see them. And just being mortified like we often are as teenagers.
Beth Demme (04:21):
I was going to say, "Hey, guess what, I felt the same way." And my parents only ever spoke English.
Dr. Su Wang (04:28):
Right? And now I feel horrible that I treated them that way. And I was like, "Shush, don't speak Chinese." Or, "I want nothing to do with that." And I feel like my kids are not... don't see their culture that way. But partially because we've diluted it and we're fairly Americanized already. So and it wasn't till I went to college, I went to school in Miami, I met a lot of Asians, they're just more diverse.
Dr. Su Wang (04:51):
And in the college ministry that I was a part of, there were a lot of... I actually started an Asian Bible study group during that time. And then I was like, "Wow, this is really cool." I feel like I belong, there are people like me. We go through... We can make fun of our culture and our... by trying to straddle both cultures and the issues with our parents like it is okay. And I felt accepted and also was able to just embrace my culture a lot more. So I do feel in some ways, I like making reparations for the years of denial of that aspect of culture. And now I'm really living and breathing, I think, in a lot of the work that I do, that cultural thing. So I ended up working in New York City after residency in Chinatown, where I really was immersed in caring for the Asian population. And I felt like my patients educated me. I just learned so much about my own background, which in school, you don't learn. I never learned about the Asian history, right? We don't learn about Asian history.
Beth Demme (05:50):
Yeah. No, we don't.
Dr. Su Wang (05:50):
So I know a lot more about American history than I do about the history of China and Taiwan, and a lot of that I just picked up on my own. So it wasn't until I went to New York City that I really felt like, "Wow. This is... I'm going back to my roots." And in a time like this, where I feel being vocal is really important. I feel like it is our responsibility to really speak out for those who feel unable to speak up for whatever reason, if it's a language barrier, if it's a feeling of vulnerability, that you could risk too much if you spoke out.
Dr. Su Wang (06:20):
And I know... My parents went through a lot to sacrifice to come and start everything all over again. They were highly educated. But no matter what, if English is not your first language, there are some barriers. And some of it is just your accent, sometimes people don't see you the same way. And so I now can really respect their sacrifices. But they didn't complain about racism. And they were just moving forward. Which I think so much of what we've been taught as Asian-Americans growing up here is just, "Keep your head down, work hard, don't complain, do what you're supposed to do. You will get acknowledged for your hard work." Right?
Dr. Su Wang (07:07):
And so that has been our M.O. for so long that I think we've been slapped that title of the model minority, which is a myth by other people. And that is something that we're kind of fighting too, I think, because not everybody fits into certain stereotypes, right? It's easy really, to just brush everything under the rug and just say... I mean, I'm so used to those comments now about our eyes, how we look, that Ching chong, these kind of things. After a while you just like, " this is par for the course I've heard this. Stop it." But you just stop thinking about... you stop remembering them in some ways because it's not productive.
Dr. Su Wang (07:50):
But it's interesting when I speak to friends now that we've all had those incidents. So it just makes you realize the collective trauma that people have experienced is huge, right? If each of us have had these incidents, how much suffering I guess, as a whole, as a community have we undergone that we've never really recognized?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:11):
I'm curious, what was the driving force? It sounds like your dad was the one that really wanted to move to America? What was that driving force for that?
Dr. Su Wang (08:20):
So I think it's with a lot of countries, a lot of culture, your schooling, your education, additional training is considered really the path to success, right? And being able to move to America and get training is one of those keys to success. And at that point in Taiwan, there had been a lot of people going to the US for training. And actually many of the presidents of Taiwan have actually gone to the US for schooling. And I would say it's probably the case for a lot of foreign leaders in the world, that they have actually been to the US for training. And that's actually a really amazing way where we have these diplomatic relationships as from educating people from outside the country.
Dr. Su Wang (09:02):
And so I mean, that just shows you how amazing diversity is and how our country is just based on inclusion of people from other countries. It's made America what it is, right? I think we were built on a country of people who are immigrants.
Beth Demme (09:17):
You mentioned the idea of the model minority, but you also talked about how growing up in our hometown that there was the sense in which you thought of yourself as being White? And one of my big learnings in the last couple of years, one of my big aha moments that I know I just didn't understand because I had never thought about it was first of all, I don't even know what White is. I mean, that's just... it doesn't mean anything. It's just this classification that kind of ebbs and flows as a way for a certain group of people to distinguish themselves from people of color. But also just because the majority of Americans are White, we tend to kind of normalize our experience. Meaning our experience is the norm.
Dr. Su Wang (10:04):
Beth Demme (10:05):
And so it would be... Of course, everyone want to aspire to that experience, because it's the norm. Right? But that's racist. That's racist of me to think that way or to think that somehow the White experience is what other experiences should be measured against. And so it's helpful for me to kind of reflect on... to reflect with you about those high school experiences or you being uncomfortable bringing the food that your family had prepared, bringing that to school or whatever. Because I just would never have been aware of it.
Dr. Su Wang (10:41):
Beth Demme (10:42):
I just saw my experience as like the normative experience.
Dr. Su Wang (10:46):
Right. That's why these stories are so important. When I hear from my African American friends, even people I went to school with, and that school talked about how they had to worry about getting pulled over by the police in their own neighborhood.
Beth Demme (10:58):
Dr. Su Wang (10:59):
Even though they're in med school, and they had their ID. I mean I had a friend who was the president of our med school and he was living with other classmates in Coral Gables, which is a nice affluent neighborhood in Miami, and he got pulled over by the police. Literally, while he was turning into his driveway, they pulled a gun on him. And even though he showed his driver's license that he lived there, it wasn't until his roommate, our White classmate came out and vouched for him.
Dr. Su Wang (11:30):
But it was terrifying, right? And for me to hear that story like, "Wow." You had to think about that. Same thing like you're saying, Beth. I have never had to think about that right for us to be able to hear these stories. And that's why I think these conversations are so important, right? You guys are doing the work by allowing this dialogue to happen because it really is about sharing experiences that we learn from each other.
Dr. Su Wang (11:53):
So that food thing, that's my experience. I never thought anything of it. But I do remember now in elementary school, my mom used to cook noodles and ramen, and make little handheld sushi is and I liked the taste, but I didn't like the looks I was getting from people. So I was like, "Okay, next time we're going to just sandwiches, boring sandwiches or whatever."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:11):
Your lunches sounded way better than what I was having though. Goodness, sushi?
Beth Demme (12:14):
Well, it kind of reminds me that my mom growing up in the 1940s and 50s talks about being embarrassed with the lunch that she took to school, because it was distinctively Western-European or whatever. But the particular meat and cheese combination she had it was real stinky, and had a real strong smell. And she loved to eat it. But she would be embarrassed to take it to school because then everybody would be like, "Oh, you're German."
Dr. Su Wang (12:44):
Where did she grow up?
Beth Demme (12:45):
Outside Philadelphia. In a little town outside Philadelphia.
Dr. Su Wang (12:49):
Beth Demme (12:50):
So I mean, it was a heavily German community but-
Dr. Su Wang (12:52):
I think it's a shared experience of immigrants, right?
Beth Demme (12:54):
Yeah, right. That's exactly. It's a shared experience of immigration. And suddenly we have this anti-immigration attitude in America that I don't really quite understand.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:06):
Well, and that's what I'm curious about. So we have seen an uprise in Asian hate. And I will tell you, when I started kind of seeing it on the news. I was like, "Wait, what?" Like, "Where did this all come from?" So I'm curious, is this something that's this been happening? Or is this something that's happening at a bigger rate than it has? Where did this all start?
Dr. Su Wang (13:26):
Yeah. So this has been a great time to kind of examine that. I think in the past year, obviously Coronavirus made it really, I think, easy for Asians and Chinese to kind of be the scapegoat because of the fear that... Well it started in China. And I remember at the beginning in February, March of last year, we had other... So we work in a building that shared with other practices. I remember people, oh, asking us because we see Asian patients, "Are you screening your patients?" They thought we were the ones who are propagating the virus.
Dr. Su Wang (14:06):
And we had actually been one of the earliest practices to be aware of this and say, "Oh, we need to start asking these questions." And because our patients do travel during Lunar New Year. But our patients were so aware and alert of this because they were getting news from China, that I felt like there were several steps ahead. They were already gathering masks. There are people from China sending us masks. It's not like... Nobody's out there deliberately trying to spread it. But it was very interesting that we were getting this very suspicious kind of comments from other practices who now I... What really annoyed me is that during the height of the pandemic, some of these practices were not wearing masks. And my patients were like, "Why was I in a room with a practitioner who didn't have a mask on?" So that I think it became a really easy... we became easy scapegoats because thought of us... the virus stemmed from Asia.
Dr. Su Wang (15:02):
And of course, having a president that called it the Kung flu virus, or the China virus really emboldened people and made it okay. That made it... It was in public discourse. And it perpetuated. It was not like a one time thing. I think we don't realize how powerful those words are once you get those things in your head. So when you see a lot in the rallies, a lot of the signs that people say, "We are not your scapegoat." And that is actually not a new thing. Because if you go through history, looking at the history of Asians in America, this comes up periodically. So Asians have been in America since the mid-1800s. I mean, documented really early. A lot of it was we... Chinese workers were brought over to the US as laborers. And one of the big projects was the Transcontinental Railroad. Apparently, the majority of the workers are actually Chinese that built this railroad.
Beth Demme (15:58):
Literally built America. I mean, yeah.
Dr. Su Wang (16:02):
It's like an artery of America. Right? At that time. And at the end of it, when they took this big picture, celebrating the completion of it, and there's like hundreds of people in this picture representing the completion of it, there's not one Asian face in that picture for having built it. And these are things that I never knew because we didn't learn about Chinese-Americans in American history, but thankfully, there are people who are advocates, who have been promoting this. There's this one photographer named Corky Lee, who unfortunately died this year of Coronavirus, who actually reenacted that picture but with Chinese people in it. It was so brilliant, and he got everybody dressed up, and in period, has the clothing and everything. And so you need people from all walks of life to be advocates for because obviously, history is it comes through a very specific lenses.
Dr. Su Wang (16:57):
But anyway, and then at some point, Chinese in California, where it were thought of us stealing jobs. So at some point, they put a shutdown on immigration, the Chinese Exclusion Act came into place. And then interestingly enough, Japanese people started working and there became more emigration for Japanese. And we know that during the war, even though some Japanese had been in the US for generations, there was that suspicion that the Japanese might be conspiring against America. And so they were rounded up and put into internment camps. So a lot of it, you can see just out of fear, right?
Beth Demme (17:37):
Dr. Su Wang (17:38):
And that was a terrible thing that was happening. I told my kids, "How would you feel if people pick basically said you look Chinese, we're suspicious of you. We're plucking you out of your house and your business, and you all have to live in these camps. And by the time you come back, everything is gone. Right? People have looted your business, your house has been whatever, how would that make you feel?" And I think it's important for our kids to realize that. Not to scare them. But just that we have to be on alert for each other, right? Because this could happen to any group.
Beth Demme (18:05):
Dr. Su Wang (18:06):
And, this is why we talk about the Holocaust, right? Because we can't let that happen again. And then in the 80s, we often talk about the murder of Vincent Chin, who is a Chinese man, who was brutally killed on the night before his wedding. Out at a bar with friends. And at that time, the auto industry was going through a decline. And there was a lot of thought that Japanese were taking jobs from Americans. And so even though he's Chinese look they... whatever, we're all the same. What there was a bar brawl and we think it was because he fought back. And I think he probably defied the stereotypes of a typical Asian, submissive guy. He played football, he was athletic. And they went after him with a baseball bat and killed him. And after that, the perpetrators got no jail time. They got a fine. And that was it. And this obviously has happened multiple times, multiple times over in the Black community where justice was not served.
Dr. Su Wang (19:07):
And it just is really important, I think, to remember these things, so that they don't happen again.
Beth Demme (19:13):
Yeah. And to talk about them so that we know that they've happened, right? Because otherwise how would we know if it just, this got swept under the carpet but then we leave it there. Then we don't know that it's happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:25):
So it sounds like this is always been an issue but within the last year, it's become even more heightened with Coronavirus.
Dr. Su Wang (19:33):
Yes, definitely. And I know there were murmurings of it already. Last March and April, when you look at old news stories and things that people shared. And then just collectively over the year, just more and more incidents. And I think just I'm grateful that the media has picked up on these because what they pick up is probably just a fraction of what's happening out there because so much of it goes unreported. People are afraid to report, they don't think it'll make a difference. They really don't want to deal with it. You just want to move on with your life.
Beth Demme (20:07):
Dr. Su Wang (20:08):
And not dwell on it. So this is really just the tip of the iceberg, I think of what's actually been happening here.
Beth Demme (20:14):
Well, you said, "Just work hard, keep your head down, it's going to be okay." That idea of kind of don't give any attention to this hate against us. Because we don't want to draw attention to it. But we have to draw attention to it, we have to know that it's happening so that we can act differently and hold people to account when they act that way.
Dr. Su Wang (20:36):
Right. What happens I mean, what's been horrifying to see with these attacks is that they are random, and directed at anybody who looks Asian no matter where you're from, right? We saw that poor Filipino woman get brutally attacked in New York City. And the guy just said, "You don't belong here." Right? He didn't care if she was Chinese, or Filipino, or what. So that kind of violence against otherness is very alarming. And especially targeting the vulnerable, right? Targeting elderly people walking, you don't know these people at all.
Dr. Su Wang (21:11):
That's been very, very frightening for our community, where people who never ever had to think about stepping out their door suddenly don't want to go out. And family members, I mean, we worry about our parents.
Beth Demme (21:26):
Dr. Su Wang (21:27):
I'm checking on my parents, "Are you guys feeling okay?" And they feel like Pensacola safe, this is not an issue. I worry about them. I don't know what lunatic is going to be out there.
Beth Demme (21:35):
Dr. Su Wang (21:36):
They live on the beach, somebody is having a party and whatever, they're out of their minds. And just it's easy to attack these elderly people.
Beth Demme (21:44):
Dr. Su Wang (21:45):
So it's definitely brought up a lot of concern and worry and hurt and fear in the community, which breaks my heart. And I think that, where I'm hoping that the tide turns soon. But while it's happening, we really have to fight, we have to be verbal about it. There's been a lot of focus on bystander training as a way to fight this. Because one of the most disappointing things is seeing that there were bystanders and a lot of these incidents, and when they do nothing, it's very disappointing. They allowed it to happen. Of course, they were afraid, right? So we often say, "Well, what would you do in that situation?"
Beth Demme (22:21):
Dr. Su Wang (22:22):
And people are like, "Oh, my gosh. I don't know. What should you do? What's the right thing to do? But I don't want to get hurt." And so there's been some this organization called ihollaback, I-H-O-L-L-A-B-A-C-K, has been doing free online trainings for bystanders. That way, if this happens, what would you do? And some of it's so easy, it's brilliant. Instead of like thinking about what is the right thing to say to the perpetrator, they just say, "Make a distraction. Drop your keys. Spill your coffee. Call out." Anything to stop whatever's happening in a non-direct way. Call for help, document it, obviously, on videos, that's been really helpful. That way, there's just we all know how to be better advocates around us, right? And I think that's been need to see.
Dr. Su Wang (23:10):
And then people calling for justice, right? When somebody got... another woman got attacked in Queens caught on video, people are saying to help us find this person. And then you have Hollywood actress, Olivia Munn who's half-Chinese, basically put out a plea on her Facebook and her Instagram saying, "We need to find this person." That's why it's been so important to have people who are in positions where they have wide followings to be vocal. Because all of a sudden, I'm like, "Oh, I didn't know Olivia was Chinese." And all her followers are like, "Wow, now I feel more attached to this Asian issue because I know somebody who I respect, who is speaking out against it."
Dr. Su Wang (23:48):
And even with friends that I've known for years, we never talk about these things. I have Asian... this is not the center of my existence. Most people you don't want to be a victim, you just... And 99% of the people I interact with are so nice and so helpful, and I love. And so this is a very small part of my existence. But at this point in time, it needs to be put out there in public. And when I hear from my friends, and we share shared experiences that we've never, ever talked about, a racism or things that have happened to us, it's like, "Wow. If you've had that happen, and then this has happened to the three of us, how many more times over as it happened to everybody that we know?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:28):
Is it something that you're bringing up with your Asian patients? Is that part of the conversation? Are you noticing more anxiety or anything on that side?
Dr. Su Wang (24:39):
Yeah, that's a really important area that I think medicine is becoming more aware of. We call it social determinants of health like recognizing that our patients health does not live in a clinical bubble. That so much of it is determined by where they live, their socioeconomic status, whether they have transportation, if they have housing insecurity, food insecurity, inter... Domestic violence often has been brought up. And we did a survey at our clinic, in partnership with records like an academic group. We never asked those questions, honestly. We know we have limited time with our patients. And usually they don't come to us with these things either unless they've been hurt. So I definitely have had patients who have come to me because they've been robbed and beat up and they come in. I mean, I had a woman who was robbed in broad daylight on her way to work and came in. And somebody else who was a patient who owned a restaurant and was delivering food, and they held them up and in the apartment hallway, they pistol whipped him, pretty much left him for dead.
Dr. Su Wang (25:48):
And they come and I think, as when you go to your doctor you don't go there to unload emotionally. Usually, they're very practical. I mean, our patients have so much grit. They just go in looking at the clinical stuff. And whereas I was so upset for him, and I said, "I feel like you need to move like this is not safe for you, this job. If you can move to a better neighborhood." And so I think as doctors, we don't often glimpse into that. And I'm still struggling with how best do I serve my patients? And I will occasionally ask, and I think they don't expect the doctor to be asking them about this. So I don't think most of them will share with us what's happened, or what they were going through.
Dr. Su Wang (26:25):
But we did do a survey and one of the questions besides like the housing insecurity and food insecurity and transportation, we did ask about interpersonal violence. "Has anybody ever screamed at you? Have you ever been hit?" And we were shocked that it was like one out of five of our patients kind of reported some sort of interpersonal violence, even if it was screaming or verbal abuse. And we're still trying to figure out, well, what do we do with that. But just the fact that it's that common, it definitely has us very concerned.
Beth Demme (26:54):
So Su, do you think that there's, like a newfound solidarity between Asian-Americans and Black Americans in the fight against prejudice?
Dr. Su Wang (27:02):
I think it depends on who you talk to. I definitely think within certain groups, this is a growing movement. And I think it's a good direction to go to, so... And I have definitely been in a lot of really amazingly productive and kinship building conversations and webinars and panels with African-Americans talking about the Black experience, the BLM movement, the similarities, the differences, bringing up past issues between Black communities and Asian communities, racism towards each other. And it's a really important dialogue to have. I was on a panel that that was titled oppression Olympics. And I was like, "What is that?" And then as somebody brought into it, basically, it's like a lot of Asians don't feel like or others may perceive that our racism is not a big deal. It's not... we haven't been through that much. We definitely haven't been through slavery, and some of the really big issues that African-Americans... So why are we talking about, why are we complaining about this, our experiences, racism, light? And we're making a big deal out of it.
Beth Demme (28:14):
Just relativizing everything.
Dr. Su Wang (28:17):
Yeah, and I was like, "Yeah, you're right." And I feel that... So we can't approach it with that same lens. And so I think it's important that our experiences valued for what it is, and for definite suffering. I mean, people have obviously lost their allies and been seriously hurt by racism in the Asian community. And rather than comparing it to on those levels, that really kind of thinking about, wow, people. We've been hurt, we've hurt each other because we consider each other outsiders and we don't understand each other's experiences.
Dr. Su Wang (28:57):
But yeah, I was on one panel. And we are talking about how some of the perpetrators for these Asian-American crimes are African-Americans. And how people feel about that. And this African-American doctor was like, "Well, I don't claim them. They're not my people, if they attack your grandmother. You're like my cousin and if somebody is so cowardly to attack your grandmother, I do not claim them." And I was just... It's just a really powerful statement of allyship and togetherness, that we are vouching for each other. And so many Asian-Americans attended BLM movements and really believe in the BLM, and what's happening in that movement.
Dr. Su Wang (29:38):
And even at our practice, as an outsider is like, "This is horrible. We need to do something about this." And so we actually had along with many other, what was happening in the system, at our healthcare system, we went out to our parking lot and had nine minutes of just kneeling on our knees and had a moment of silence. And it's very powerful because a lot of us had not been able to participate because we were working in some of these other mount marches.
Dr. Su Wang (30:01):
One of my office managers spoke during that time. And she said, "You don't know what this means to us to have you hold this event on our behalf." Because as the doctor, I was the one who kind of let it and said, "We're all taking a break, stop what you're doing. We're all going outside." Not everybody went but my team, the majority of my staff and a bunch of other practices came out. And she was very emotional and said, "To be recognized for the challenges and what we've been fighting for so long meant a lot." And I was surprised by that, because I was like, "But this is just the right thing to do."
Beth Demme (30:33):
Dr. Su Wang (30:34):
And she's very emotional. But I look at that now and I was like, "We are exactly in the same seat now." And when I see people show up for our rallies, who are not Asian, I get very... I feel so grateful that they are standing alongside with us. And I also, during BLM ran out right after George Floyd, I could hear the pain in a lot of my friends who were posting similar to kind of what you were seeing. And just attack after attack, they would post on Facebook, and you could just hear the sheer emotional exhaustion they were experiencing. And I just felt so bad for them like, "Wow, another one. Another one." So many of these assaults and-
Beth Demme (31:10):
Dr. Su Wang (31:11):
... things and it just felt so raw. And now I was like... Now it feels like it's happening to us, for another horrifying incident, another subway incident, another person who was attacked, with some family attacked in Costco or whatever. After a while, it just wears on you because you realize, "That could have been me." Right? So my friends are posting about their kids and having to teach their Black sons how to act around police and how not to talk, how to dress.
Dr. Su Wang (31:39):
And you just realize it's affecting them at their core. So that is happening. Now for us to... where you're worried because you realize you could be the target, or somebody that you love could be the target. And even as professionals, I think, we have the benefit of having education, not having an accent and being kind of American and... But my sister is a doctor in Portland, and one of her Asian co-workers who's a doctor was threatened by a patient who said he was going to shoot the Asian doctor between the eyes. And he did not report it to anybody. It was only until my sister could tell he had been shaken that she pulled it out of him and said, "You need to report this." And he was like, "Ahhh." Which is very typical for how we approach things that my sister made it... was an advocate for him and said, "You know what, this is unsafe. You guys have to protect the staff, you have to protect the doctors and do something about it. And if this had happened to somebody African-American, wouldn't you have a stronger response to that?"
Dr. Su Wang (32:42):
And this is unfortunately happened again, like last week, she said one of the South Asian doctors, woman, got called an F-N-B-I-T-C-H by a patient. And so nobody's immune, unfortunately, no matter what your job is.
Beth Demme (32:59):
Yeah. And to take those threats seriously to not be, "Oh, they were just spouting off." Or...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:04):
Well, there's been too many murders. I mean, too many people pulling out guns and shooting everybody to not take those serious.
Beth Demme (33:11):
Dr. Su Wang (33:11):
Beth Demme (33:11):
How was it for you after the massacre in Atlanta? How did that touch you personally?
Dr. Su Wang (33:17):
No, I think we were really shaken by it, especially Atlanta. I feel like that's so close to home Pensacola. And I've been there a number of times, I worked for the CDC for a couple years. No. We were like, "This is like our George Floyd."
Beth Demme (33:31):
Dr. Su Wang (33:31):
This is real people got slaughtered. And you cannot tell me it was random. It was three different places. He was obviously targeting companies that are owned by Asians.
Beth Demme (33:42):
He was having a bad day, Su. Didn't you hear?
Dr. Su Wang (33:45):
Oh my God that made me so mad.
Beth Demme (33:46):
So infuriating! And you had mentioned earlier the Chinese Exclusion Act that happened in the 1880s, I believe?
Dr. Su Wang (33:55):
Yes. It was after the railroad was finished.
Beth Demme (33:58):
Yeah. And from a little bit of reading that I've done on that, in many ways that act was targeted at women because of this idea, or the stereotypes that relate to Asian women. And I think that that came up again, with this Atlanta massacre.
Dr. Su Wang (34:15):
Beth Demme (34:15):
Because there was this undercurrent or this presumption that somehow these women were sex workers.
Dr. Su Wang (34:22):
Yeah, I was really offended by that.
Beth Demme (34:25):
Dr. Su Wang (34:25):
Because I mean, I think there could be truth on some levels, but I think so many people work in industry. And it's like any other kind of salon right that you go to for services. I've been to a number of these for massages myself. And I cannot speak to specifically those but... And then the fact that they call them massage parlors, I though was really weird in the news.
Beth Demme (34:48):
Dr. Su Wang (34:48):
I was like, "But these are like... I go to these Asian owned massage places all the time. I've never called them a parlor."
Beth Demme (34:54):
Dr. Su Wang (34:55):
And I... so it's really interesting just how that label got slapped on and it was... They've been some interesting discussions, which is good that they've touched on these touchy topics about Asian women, fetishization, or Asian women, how they've represented this fantasy or they're portrayed in this erotic kind of view, and how Hollywood has kind of helped perpetrate that. But I think the message, which I thought that was really good is they are still there women that are like us.
Beth Demme (35:30):
Dr. Su Wang (35:31):
They are not... It's easy to cast it like, "Oh, they were in that sector, and therefore that happened to them." Right? But I think when you started looking at the stories of their lives and realize like, "Oh, the woman was a single mom, she had two kids. And one was like a woman who had just started this business, and she was so proud of it." Then you realize that , I mean, they really could have been people that I knew.
Dr. Su Wang (35:52):
It was devastating for our community. There are a lot of rallies that happened that weekend. And I really expected a strong response I felt from the community. And we did see it, there were a number of statements that were put out but definitely not to degree of Black Lives Movement.
Dr. Su Wang (37:31):
So that's why I think it's really important to have representation from the communities that are affected, because I can't pretend to know what Black Americans feel like.
Dr. Su Wang (37:42):
And I can say, I think I'm doing the right thing, right? But I don't know what it feels like to be them and what they need. So and I would say the same for the Asian community, that unless you have somebody who identifies with those pains, you're not going to move fast enough, unfortunately, for that community, because for you it's outside your initial kind of response.
Beth Demme (38:02):
We won't have the same trauma response. That-
Dr. Su Wang (38:05):
Beth Demme (38:06):
... someone who's a member of the community what have. Because-
Dr. Su Wang (38:09):
I mean, we're definitely moving forward. After the Chauvin conviction, our system put out a statement literally an hour afterwards, reflecting on that and I was like, "Wow, that's great." They responded so quickly. And it was such a heartfelt, great statement supporting the community. But yes, I think trauma is a great way to kind of phrase this whole thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:35):
Well, Dr. Sue, thank you so much for being here today. I have learned a lot. I know for sure from this conversation. And it's been fun to see you to kind of reliving your high school days. I probably cut a lot of that out, but maybe I'd save some of it. Well, we'll see. It was good, you all. It was good. But I have one last question for you. I don't think we told you this ahead of time. So this will be good. We ask all of our guests so it's not like anything major. So my question is what book, TV show or podcast are you excited about right now?
Dr. Su Wang (39:03):
I've been listening to a podcast called Brave Enough or Be Brave Enough. And it's written by... it's from a woman who is a physician, mom, leader and I am actually doing a masterclass with her. But it's just been really great for talking about leadership, work-life balance, issues that women have in terms of stepping into leadership and being able to protect their selves and see themselves without being their frenemy, and being over overcritical about themselves, and giving them permission... giving us permission to do the thing that permit our own permission to do what we feel like we need to do rather than waiting for other people to give us permission.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:50):
I love that. We'll definitely check that out. I was curious. So you had mentioned during the podcast, ihollaback?
Dr. Su Wang (39:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:55):
Yeah, I will definitely check it out. Are there any other resources that listeners could use to learn more about Asian-Americans? The hate that's happening? Is there any other things we should be checking out?
Dr. Su Wang (40:10):
There's a ton of good stuff out there. Now, it almost depends on... I mean, a lot of these are websites, so... But a lot of them are also on social media. So if you're on Instagram, there's a hate isn't virus. There's some AAPI, stop AAPI hate, or stop Asian hate I think that's its own tagging group. And online, I've seen more resources where they're pulling things together. So there's... In terms of one of the big important things that has to happen is people have to report these crimes, right? And so people may not feel comfortable reporting to their local police stations. I've heard horrible stories, too so much from the Black community where the perpetrators are actually police that are harassing some of these Asians on the street or whatever. And so, there's a website that's stop AAPI, or stop Asian hate where you can fill in the form. OCA which is the Organization of Chinese Americans has their own form. But I can send you guys some stuff...
Beth Demme (41:10):
Dr. Su Wang (41:10):
In case you want just have listed on in your podcasts.
Beth Demme (41:11):
We can put that in the shownotes with the links.
Dr. Su Wang (41:12):
Beth Demme (41:14):
Su, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us. It's so great to see you on zoom. I'm sorry that other people don't get to see you, that this is an audio format but it's great for me to be able to see you. And I really appreciate everything you told us today. And I really appreciate your friendship and just getting to learn from you through Facebook and social media, and through this. So, thank you.
Dr. Su Wang (41:36):
No. Thanks. I was so excited when you invited me. I mean obviously I think it's been really important to talk about this topic. But obviously, just to have a chance to reconnect with an old friend, from high school, and to have like a blocked time, what a treat that is. Right? And none of us had to fly anywhere and we just had to show up on zoom. So really just shows you how awesome some of the virtual world is in terms of connecting us together. So, thanks for thinking about this topic. I was really impressed. I told my husband that I was just really touch that you have been spending the effort to learn about it, and have reach out to me saying that you are learning a lot because it's good to hear. Sometimes I feel like when you get really in passion about something and start sharing it on social media, you worry that people are start thinking, "Oh my God. Why is she going off on this, over and over and over again." And so it meant a lot to me that you were learning from it. So thanks.
Beth Demme (42:34):
Yeah. Thank you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:37):
At the end of each episode we end with questions for reflection. The question based on today's show that we'll read and leave a little pause between and you can find a PDF of them on our buy me a copy page.
Beth Demme (42:47):
Number one, what is the term Asian hate mean to you? Number two, how did it feel for you personally when the Atlanta massacre happened? Number 3, have you felt like you have to conform to external stereotypes? Which ones and how? And number four, how can you be part of stopping Asian hate?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:14):
This has been the discovering our scars podcast. Thank you for joining us. And we're out.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.