Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
In an Asian family, it can feel harder to have discussions on difficult topics like politics and racism. Growing up in a Filipino household I was taught to be obedient, respect my elders, and not talk back. Being raised this way has made me feel limited to what I can say to my parents as an adult.
Because we never talked about racism and politics growing up, trying to discuss these things as I got older felt awkward and uncomfortable. I would avoid these topics all together for fear of feeling uncomfortable. A turning point for me was watching the video of George Floyd’s murder; It sparked a visceral outrage in me. As someone who supports the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and wants to continue educating myself on anti-racism, I realized that having these conversations with friends and other like-minded people is not enough. I have to be able to have these hard conversations with the people closest to me: my family. I have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I decided to talk to my parents about the protests and the BLM movement. It was a difficult conversation to have but, in the end, I learned a lot.
What I Learned
Although my parents are horrified and saddened by the deaths of Black people in America, they have a hard time agreeing with the protests, seeing it as “causing trouble” or “giving people an excuse to loot and rob.” I struggled with explaining to them that the protests are against the countless incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.
To this my mom responded, “But of course you shouldn’t trust the police and the government, they are corrupt.” Initially I was shocked to hear this. But then I realized that I never considered what my parents experienced growing up in the Philippines. They grew up during martial law. The military had complete control over the country for years. They most likely witnessed corruption within the government and countless murders of innocent people by the police. To them this was nothing new. In the Philippines, many of the protests were met with extreme violence and death, with little change. I never considered how my parents' experiences growing up can influence how they see what is currently going on in America. It was a humbling realization.
I left feeling pleasantly surprised that we agreed on a lot of things, but still strongly disagreed on others. The truth is that I am still getting comfortable with having these discussions with my family. But the more I push myself to have them, the more I feel “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” In this social media post by Pooya Mehta, I learned that it is very unlikely that I will be able to change my parents views in one conversation. Change and growth happens with many difficult conversations over time. Although it can feel frustrating, these are conversations worth having.