APRIL 17, DAY OF ACTION
Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Organized by Almanac Beer Company, Alameda CA
Almanac Beer Company has organized a Day Of Action – Bay Area Businesses Against Asian Hate. They will be brewing a beer releasing early May for this event, be sure to stop by their taproom. We had a staff day nearly 2 years ago where we visited Almanac and it was one of our best staff outings and we plan to do it again soon!
Check out the website for the event here: https://almanacbeer.com/dayofaction
There is also a list of awesome Bay Area AAPI Nonprofits. Please support them.
As told by Brian Wang, Co-Owner Epidemic Ales
NOTE: Mentions of escape, swimming a river, or relatives not making it relates to fleeing a growing communist party sometime between 1912 and 1949 and later immigrating to the US through legal means.
Growing up I remember all the times my grandmother would remind me the importance of my Chinese heritage. I was very young, but I remember being frustrated and asking her why she was always telling me this. I was unfortunately frequently impatient and short with her because I was tired of hearing the same old thing over and over. At the time, I just didn’t feel it applied to me. She passed away many years ago and never knew I had spent the better part of my life regretting my attitude.
“I’m American because I was born in Texas,” I would proudly announce to her, probably nothing short of a dozen times over the course of many years.
“Yes you are American,” she would always answer back patiently in Chinese (my family always spoke to me in Chinese so I would retain the language), “this is your country, but to some you will never be American because of the way you look. And because of this you must never forget your heritage and your culture because they will always be true to you.”
I remember this statement because of the number of times it was repeated to me. But realistically this was far too complicated for me to understand back then. Even today, at an age where gray hairs on my temples multiply at an increasing rate and extra lines appear under my eyes without having to smile, I can stare at that statement and still be lost in its true meaning.
In all, I’ve had a very privileged life. I’ve never been food insecure (my struggling scale can confirm this), I grew up having my own room, and my parents paid for the majority of my $30k a year 4-year college education. I didn’t have any bad experiences growing up related to being Asian. It wasn’t until I was an adult when I would experience a few incidents that reminded me of what my grandmother said all those years ago. The worst happened on a snowboarding trip.
We were with a group of friends celebrating New Years over the long weekend. We stayed in a motel where the rooms were lined up side-by-side. The doors opened to the parking lot so each room had a bit of an outdoor area that doubled as a walkway. We had just gone out for dinner and I was returning to the room with my girlfriend (now wife) Holly and a few friends that were Asian. On this walkway was a female and two males outside their room. As we passed the female said “ching chong ching chong”.
If this were a movie, time would’ve slowed and the camera would’ve zoomed in showing the folds of her lips tightening and contracting as she enunciated each word against the hollowed echo of her voice. Because naturally, an insult like that meant we were about to unleash hell. Except what really happened was - time continued normally, the camera stayed at wide angle, and we all nonchalantly continued our walk right by them as if nothing had happened. I’m pretty sure we may have even given the customary good neighbor “hey how’s it going?” as we passed.
It was some time later when we were comfortably in our room, perhaps after the chance of a possible confrontation had passed, that this finally came up. The TV was on with all of us watching quietly. One of my friends broke the silence – “Hey did that girl outside really say ching chong ching chong when we walked by? That’s messed up.” She did and it was indeed messed up but why hadn’t any of us done anything? It turns out Holly didn't hear her say this. As we rehashed it to her she defiantly stated "What room is she in? I'm gonna go kick her ass!" Holly was the only one of us that didn't look Asian, she is however 1/8 Filipino for those of you stocking up on trivia answers. She was the only one that immediately reacted in disbelief while the rest of us had to cycle the event several times through our heads to convince ourselves that something so ridiculous had even happened. One of my friends would later say that during these types of incidents it's "usually so absurd and unexpected, by the time I realize what's happening, the acuity of the situation has passed".
I often tell staff I do 3 things every day –
1) Be grateful for what I have
2) Learn something new
3) Fix a mistake I made or stop procrastinating on something
I bring up #1 a lot. How lucky are we to be in America? I talk about how great our lives are and the abundance of opportunities available to us is top of the world. If we work hard, we will reap the benefits. Not everybody is entitled to this the same way we are. I'm often candid about the struggles of being a business owner. All of us owners, our job every day is to make sure everything goes right, to take on the uncomfortable situations, to not hesitate lending a hand no matter how small the job. Our team depends on us and we depend on them. As long as we work hard for each other, we will always come out on top.
In addition, I tell them #1 also means me being grateful for the sacrifices my family made so I can live a full life. My grandparents would tell me how they and my great-grandparents had escaped to Taiwan. My mom often recalled times growing up where food was scarce and even scarcer was any kind of meat. When they did have meat for dinner her and the older siblings would eat the smallest pieces so the younger siblings would have more to eat. My grandmother on my mom's side is so afraid of being hungry again that she never threw anything away. As a teenager, I watched in horror as she tested the everything-tastes-better-deep-fried theory and she deep-fried moldy vegetables and ate them. I remember the awkwardness of sitting there staring at my bowl not knowing what to do.
My great-grandmother, despite struggling to get by, somehow founded an orphanage in Taiwan that my family continues to run today. Although with the number of orphans dramatically less than it used to be, it's been struggling as of late, so mission accomplished in a way. (Pics: tinyurl.com/2sunfdjs) Not only was she vital in building my family's legacy, she helped countless orphans build their own legacies along the way.
Many AAPI have stories to tell of family members that sacrificed for their wellbeing. I recall a story of a parent that swam a river wider than a lake. “I would’ve died,” my friend had told me after seeing that same river firsthand as a tourist. Some of us indeed have relatives that never made it. And then after surviving all that, our family members still had to sacrifice even more to become American citizens or at least for us to become citizens, usually spending many years away from loved ones and often working jobs far below what they were qualified to do.
It is this burden that sits atop our shoulders every day. The sacrifices have been so great that we, as the receivers of this benefit, must fully capitalize or it would’ve all been for naught. It is because of this that many of us have been conditioned to take the path of least resistance, to not speak up as to not curtail our progress. We’re taught to put our heads down and concentrate on the big picture, to not make waves, to not jeopardize everything. Sometimes with this it’s even common for us to develop imposter syndrome (the thought that this behavior is appropriate because we don’t really belong) since part of being accepted meant being silent. This is a common stance that has been passed down over generations.
In the moment our motel neighbor said ching chong ching chong she put into perspective what all those years of non-action had caused. That maybe being the model minority didn’t necessarily mean we were higher achievers, it meant we were good at being silent and sidestepping any issues that came our way. This person that I’d never met, that knew nothing about me, managed to crumble generations of sacrifice with those 4 words. A moment that meant nothing to her would linger in our hearts for life.
As the AAPI hate crimes escalated, I rehashed this memory with the same friends. Why didn’t we speak up? How come we didn’t know to protect ourselves against something like this? I’m 5’9 (ok 5’8 and ½) and 290lbs, my dad is 6’ so what I missed in height I definitely made up in weight. At the time I was probably 250lbs and as I walked by her I can’t imagine she didn’t notice I was significantly bigger physically than her, plus our group had more people. Why didn’t any of this make her think twice about saying something racist?
This is the most brazen act of racism I’ve personally faced and I consider myself lucky. Many minorities out there have experienced much worse and much more often. What hurts is being treated differently for something not in our control. That no matter our values, integrity, actions – in that moment everything is negated.
Holly and I met nearly 20 years ago in Santa Cruz when I saw her unloading boxes and helped her move in. At the time Asian male and Caucasian female couples were rare. Over the years we've had times where people assumed we weren't together. Like trying to order at a food counter and confusing the cashier who didn't realize we were trying to order on the same tab even though we were standing too close to be strangers. Or going to a restaurant and almost getting seated separately by the host stand. They weren't doing it on purpose, but thoughts like these are ingrained and it takes added awareness to filter them out. Over the years we have experienced this less which we feel is progress.
The recent spike in violence is shocking and we have to not be silent. The AAPI community is asking for awareness and for the violence to stop. Stop Asian Hate. As proud Americans we’re asking our community to stand with us and speak up for us in times when we don't have the courage or the voice.
On a trip to New York, while walking near Times Square there was somebody standing on the sidewalk pointing to people walking by and yelling out a country based on the way they looked. He wasn’t aggressive about it and most people just ignored him either way. In this amazing mixture of crisscrossing pedestrians, he suddenly pointed at me and said “Korea”. I looked at him with a smile as I started to pass him and said “California”. He paused for a second, then flashed the biggest smile and then in those few seconds we ended up sharing a hearty laugh together, two strangers in passing on a random street corner in New York. I’d like to think in that moment, he got it.