My neighbor and I were trying to figure out who was moving into the foreclosed home next door to us. The house had been vacant for about a year but was recently put on the market. We saw a few interested buyers checking it out, but it wasn’t until last week that the “for sale” sign finally came down. “I think it’s a young White girl,” speculated my neighbor, who is also White. “She looks about your age.” Considering how youthful we Asians look, that places our potential neighbor anywhere between 16 and 30 years old.
“That sounds deeelightful!” I replied. I was eager to welcome someone new to the neighborhood, although I will miss parking in front of the vacant lot.
“I just hope that whoever moves-in isn’t Asian,” she said. “They are LOUD.”
How do you respond to a comment like that? My left and right brains were having a hard time trying to figure it out.
Right brain: Hellllllll no. Did she just say she doesn’t want an Asian neighbor?
Left brain: Maybe she meant something else.
Right brain: She cra cra. I’m ‘bousta tell our left hand to slap the right side of her face.
Left brain: Peace bro. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.
“…or Mexicans,” she continued. “They’re loud too.”
Left hand: *Smack*
If she didn’t want to live next to noisy neighbors she could have said, “You know who I hope doesn’t move in next door?” And I’d be like, “I dunno, who?” And she’d be like, “Loud people!” And I’d be like, “OMG, you’re right! Loud people suck.”
I wondered if my neighbor was even aware that she already lives next to two Asian households. And did she even realize she was currently having a face to face conversation with one of those neighbors (me)? I tried to imagine what kind of “Asian person” my neighbor was picturing in her head when she made those ignorant comments. Perhaps they were stereotypes she saw on television, which is strange because most Asians are portrayed as quiet and geeky.
It was frustrating to hear her talk because to me a typical Asian family looks like this…
I wanted to speak up and correct her but instead remained silent. It is hard to reply in a dignified manner when you’re on the receiving end of racism. You might think it’s easy, but it’s not. Why? Because I’m a minority. Most people I’ve called out are either dismissive or simply excuse their behavior: “I didn’t mean it like that,” “I was just joking,” or “It’s ok, I have Asian friends.”
Justifications like these are annoying because it devalues people and diminishes their self-worth. It doesn’t matter if my neighbor thinks Asians are loud or even quiet. She crossed a line when she broadly (and blindly) grouped all Asians and Mexicans together and said she didn’t want them as neighbors.
What’s ironic is that just moments before, my neighbor was complaining to me how there were few preschools in the area that could accommodate her son’s disability. I believe this highlights the fact that America still hasn’t evolved into the “post-racial” society we had imagined. Some people still feel entitled to more rights and privileges than others. This simply does not fit with American values and human rights. Every individual must recognize their responsibility to create a society where all people can live with dignity—whether you’re White, Asian, Mexican, or have a son with a disability.
So for the record, Asians make great neighbors. And we are not loud (except when we’re singing karaoke).