Racist vs. “not racist” vs. “anti-racist”

In the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion in the media regarding what it means to be racist vs. “not racist” vs. “anti-racist.” Being racist has an obvious meaning: it means that you believe that certain groups of a certain skin color/from another country that’s different than yours are higher or lower than you on the socially constructed totem pole of life. Then, there’s people who are simply “not racist.” These are people who do not consciously harbor racist ideas or white supremacism in the front of their mind, but when threatened or upset, they weaponize race… or, they just do not do anything actively to combat racism. That means that they do not speak up against race-based injustices. They do not speak out when their friends or family make disparaging remarks against a certain race/skin color/nation. They passive accept it and move on. And these people are a huge problem, as Martin Luther King, Jr., once said. Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and many other activists have spoken out about this. Desmond Tutu famously said, “If you are neutral in the face of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The people who claim to “not take a side,” be “impartial,” or “moderate,” — these are the people who allow oppression and injustice to continue. And they are a huge, huge problem.

Then, there are anti-racists – people who genuinely want a society where people can be seen and treated equally regardless of skin color or country of origin. People who identify this way actively engage with people who are consciously or subconsciously racist or “not racist” in an attempt to educate, to build empathy with those who may not fully understand. I think I first was conscious about this term when I saw Ibram X. Kendi speak on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah about his book How to Be an Antiracist. I’m about to start reading it since I’m nearly off the e-library hold list.

Being an anti-racist is exhausting beyond belief. It can build bridges, but it can also destroy them. It’s no wonder that so many people cut off “friends,” family members, extended family members, in light of Donald Trump winning the 2016 election. In my own life, it’s been infuriating and painful to have discussions about race with my own family, whether it’s my parents, my cousin, or my uncle/aunt. When they’ve made comments about black people being ‘thugs,’ about Latinos being “lazy,” or about how mainland Chinese people are “animals,” who are deceptive and cannot be trusted (even though my family actually is Chinese and my grandparents are originally from there…), I’ve selectively chosen times to argue against them, but it’s always to no avail. We argue, yell, and maybe I am biased saying this, but it’s mostly irrational on their side. An aunt has tauntingly said to me that I am short-sighted, that “I know who you voted for in 2008 and 2016, and you were wrong to do it.” I try to state facts, statistics, map the history of Chinese people in America vs. black Americans, and it’s no use. They don’t want to listen. They write me off as being “brainwashed by liberal media” and insist that one day, when I have reached a certain tax bracket, I will become a Republican and “see the world for what it really is.”

It feels hopeless. It makes me feel like I’m fighting for the sake of fighting… perhaps even to make myself feel better that I’m at least attempting to “do the right thing.” So, is it really more for the cause or is it for me and my self-righteousness? I don’t know — maybe a combination of both?

Anyone who thinks racism is not a problem in today’s world clearly has such massive privilege to the point that their privilege has blinded them and drained them of even a drop of empathy.

There’s always a right and wrong side of history.

When Chris and I visited Little Rock, Arkansas, in October 2016, just a couple weeks before the 2016 presidential election, we went to see the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. We read in great detail and saw endless photographs and videos of the “Little Rock Nine,” which were nine black children attempting to attend their first day of class at Little Rock Central High School, which was, during segregated America, a “white” school, but they were prevented from entering by then Arkansas governor Orval Faubus. The Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education was announced in 1954, but states refused to abide by this ruling, including Arkansas. The documented accounts by the black children who endured this were beyond excruciating and inhuman. The account I remember the most vividly is one of the girls who literally got spit on so much by all the white students and white protestors that she had to actually wring out her dress when she got home. Her dress was sopping wet.

Chris and I walked through the exhibit, looking over the faces of all these 1950s white people protesting, truly believing they were the better race, that people of color were beneath them. Chris commented, “How would it feel to be a child or grandchild at this site and being able to identify one of these white protestors as your own family member, knowing now that they were on the wrong side of history?”

That’s how I feel about all the white people on social media, insisting that the protestors of George Floyd’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s deaths are “thugs” and “criminals” who should be the ones brought to justice. Twitter posts will live on, won’t they?

Why is everyone hating on “Karen”? and the racist white female Democrat (no, it’s not an oxymoron)

So, based on what I am seeing on social media, everyone is calling Amy Cooper “Karen.” Apparently, this is slang for my generation (I am seriously just learning about this during this week), where Karen is defined as “a pejorative term for a person perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary.” Well, I feel really terribly for people who are actually named Karen.

So while I’ve learned that, I am also learning via social media, both generally on Twitter and within my own social networks, a) how surprised people are that the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper incident happened right here in New York City and b) that Amy Cooper is not a conservative Trump supporter, but rather a registered Democrat who has repeatedly donated to progressive causes. Neither is surprising to me, and I’m actually shocked that people are surprised by this.

First off, just because someone lives in an outwardly liberal/progressive city like New York or San Francisco does NOT mean the person is for the equality of races, and it certainly does not guarantee the person actually cares about people outside of themselves and their families. Bigots, both closeted and those out in the open, are literally everywhere.

Second, while there are vocal and outward bigots who hate black people, Asian people, Latino people, think women are lesser species than men, etc., they are the obvious people we need to go against if we have any heart or soul. The people who are truly a danger that we should all be worried about are the ones who harbor subconscious racism, sexism, and bigotry without even being aware of it. That’s scary… because how do you identify these people? And that racism/sexism/bigotry tends to come out only when said person feels threatened, which is exactly what happened in Amy Cooper’s case in the Ramble. As Martin Luther King, Jr., so aptly put it in his letter he wrote from the Birmingham Jail:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.

That was 57 years ago, but how true it still painfully rings today when incidents such as these continue to crop up, when the white men and women who surround us at school, at work, in our social circles, make subtle racist comments without even realizing they are being racist. They initially appear as micro aggressions, but they are just masked racist thoughts. They say they voted for Obama or love Michelle Obama. They say they donate to the ACLU. But that’s what they want to show of themselves to the public.

I would even challenge that the people who are surprised by either point above are part of the problem, that they desperately need to educate themselves on the voices and opinions of people of color because they clearly are out of touch with reality. They are the ones who need to read more, listen more, and seek out more information. But will they, or will they just be paralyzed by their shock that wow, a white Democrat-voting woman could be racist and do what Amy Cooper did? So shocking! Or, wow, something this could actually happen in New York City?

And that is absolutely terrifying.

“When my beautiful black boy grows from cute to a threat”

The news has been disheartening, to put it mildly, in the last few weeks, from the release of the video recording of Ahmaud Arbery being chased while jogging by two white men and shot to death to Christian Cooper, birding in the Ramble and having a white woman call 911, threatening to falsely report that “an African American man is threatening me and my dog,” to the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of a group of cops, one of whom put his knee down on Floyd’s neck, which eventually killed him. All of these incidents were caught on video. Two of them led to murders. One of them went without arrest or indictment for two months due to unclear circumstances (I suppose black deaths don’t matter unless the public knows about them to those in charge in Georgia?).

I read this story by a black woman about raising a black son today. The title of it is “When my beautiful black boy grows from cute to a threat.” She talks about all the compliments she gets about how cute her little son is, but she worries for his future when one day, he will have to watch his back literally everywhere he goes because his body will be seen as a weapon simply because of his skin color. I cried reading about her constant worry about her son. Would he come home? If he didn’t call, could he possibly have been shot and killed for zero wrongdoing other than being born with darker skin? A black colleague of mine, who did his undergrad work at Harvard, talked about the need he had to wear his Harvard sweatshirt in neighborhoods that were predominantly white or of a higher socioeconomic class because he felt that this would ensure that people would see him as “legitimate,” as “not one of those” black people who could potentially be a threat.

My stomach has churned and my eyes have burned this week, watching these horrific videos, remembering that somehow, we are actually in the year 2020, but it certainly does not feel like much progress has been made. Every day feels like a dystopia, with the terrible leadership of this country to COVID-19 to racism being a consistent, persistent threat that so many people, even some people of color, refuse to admit is an issue. How can anyone possibly think we are in a post-racist world, particularly with a president who outright calls black protestors “thugs,” which is essentially a code word for “(bad) black person”?

It doesn’t seem to matter what people of color do, but they are always seen as doing wrong. Protest by kneeling? Then you can always leave this country. Protest by going in the streets? They’re thugs. This is what President Dipshit has said. Yet somehow, when white people do it, whether it’s after major sporting events, at state capitols to protest wearing masks with their machine guns in hand, they need to be listened to and empathized with. What kind of a “leader” do we have here?

I didn’t think this period could get worse, but I feel like we are at our lowest of lows now. I can’t stop thinking about all the injustices that people of color face and the sheer ignorance and stupidity of so many in this country who either actively or passively allow it continue happening. Silence benefits the oppressor. You are either actively against racism, or you are for it.

Racism against everyone who isn’t white

Since yesterday, the news has been buzzing around a Memorial Day incident that happened in the Ramble, a protected part of Central Park here in New York City that is known for its vast and diverse array of flora and fauna, particularly birds that you would never quite imagine in the middle of a concrete jungle. That early morning, a white woman had allowed her dog to go unleashed in this area, which is against the rules of this section of Central Park. An avid birder, who happened to be a black man, was also in the area and noticed that this dog was running around unleashed, and asked the woman to leash her dog. They started to argue, and a debate ensued, which ended with the birder recording the woman on his phone, as she not only nearly strangled her dog but said she would call 911, asserting that an “African American man was threatening my and my dog’s life.” She called them, insisting they come immediately, and the birder also yelled and said they should come, too. There are a lot of terrible and ridiculous aspects to discuss about this from white female privilege to abuse of power to racism to subconscious racism masked as “fear” as this woman called it, but I’m not going to go into the details here.

My cousin sent me an updated article this morning, noting that the woman had been fired from her job after her employer initially put her on forced leave. He said, “Black man calls racism and the whole world listens. An Asian person calls racism and no one listens.”

While my initial knee-jerk response was to tell him that he was being pathetic, that he has no idea what it’s like to be a black man in a world where a black man cannot even jog on a road safely without fear of being shot and killed (and, having the perpetrators get away with it unnoticed for over two months, for that matter), that his problems are nothing compared to that of a black person growing up in this country, I didn’t say that and thought about it for a bit. And I realized that there actually is some element of truth to what he said.

Why do I say this? Well, since COVID-19 broke out in China and literally made its way across the globe, countless racist incidents, from slurs to graffiti to vandalizing of Asian-owned businesses to outright shootings and stabbings, have been committed against Asians everywhere. And you know what? I learned about the majority of these incidents not through CNN or the New York Times or Fox News, but through local media sources, Asian social media groups I belong to, and even Asian personalities in the arts and food world I follow on Instagram. It never made any major headlines when an entire Asian family was stabbed at a grocery store in Texas by a racist, enraged man. When I learned of the Asians who were stabbed in Melbourne, Australia a month ago, no one was really talking about it. And then there’s the most recent incident in San Leandro, California, where a white woman physically went door to door to every house she knew had Asian people inhabiting it and posted a letter telling the families to “go back where you came from.” She eventually got arrested with a basket of these racist letters in hand. “If you are a woman or man and was born in other country, return, go back to your land immediately, fast, with urgency,” the note said. It ended with “One American, white, brave, that serves the Nation or USA is going to live here.”

There’s no major headlines about this in The New York Times, in CNN, and like Breitbart really cares. It’s like the model minority stereotype of Asians has truly hurt Asians in the long run here because we’re supposed to persevere, be silent, and just work hard and shut up to become successful and have “good lives.” The media do not care about Asians, and they won’t cover them in news because society doesn’t seem to care. It’s sad, but it’s pretty true.

So, I didn’t tell my cousin he was being pathetic. I just said that there was some truth to it. However, it’s not like black people have it better AT ALL than Asians because while these headlines may make the news, what laws and actual enforcement are happening to improve the lives of black people here….?!

Videography and cameras

After some nudging from one of Chris’s former colleagues, I’m seriously considering finally tackling a cooking project I’ve been wanting to do for over eight years but just never made the time for: making handmade, no-pasta-machine pasta. I had a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that I cut out of one of my old magazine issues, but just never got around to it since it seemed quite labor and time intensive. But my desire to do it was reawakened after seeing Chris’s colleague’s homemade pasta, and after watching America’s Test Kitchen’s video showing how to make it.

In the video, which is less than 4 minutes long, you can see the process from beginning to end. Clearly, they had at least four different cameras filming the person making pasta at the same time, otherwise they never would have had so many different shots at different angles at the same time. Because of this, the video got so many comments on YouTube for it because of how “professional” and “helpful” it was to have so many angles, which they said was unusual but very much wanted.

Yeah, that’s easy to do when you have an entire production team, tons of equipment, and 4-6 different cameras. It’s not possible at all when you are just a wee person in her home kitchen with one camera and an occasional camera man (Chris), who tries to take many angles at different points at different times. This is why filming cooking takes soooo long. All those different angles are really key and what people want.

When cleaning the fridge is the biggest thing you did on Memorial Day weekend

While all the previous Memorial Day weekends have been pretty memorable for us because we were traveling and exploring different parts of the world, this Memorial Day weekend, we’ve been stuck at home with our usual, everyday routine.

So what did I end up having us do? I put that homemade citrus vinegar cleaner to work and cleaned our fridge, stove, and outside of our stainless steel appliances. I even took a video of Chris cleaning the fridge and remarked that this was the best Memorial Day weekend ever. He was not amused and looked at me glumly, resenting my video and humor.

Well, if we aren’t going to go anywhere, we might as well make sure our house smells and looks clean.

At least the weather was really warm and sunny.

Citrus vinegar all-purpose cleaner

Chris thinks that quarantine has made me go nuts in that I have been cleaning pretty much everything in sight. I started even more domestic-goddess type activities, such as regrowing my scallions, reorganizing my spice drawer, and now making my own citrus vinegar all-purpose cleaner. I started following a few different #nowaste personalities on Instagram that I’ve found inspiring. In a country like the US, where waste is always plentiful because we have so much of everything, it’s actually really sad how often things are wasted. Even if we remove the waste that comes from people who refuse to take leftover food home, the people who refuse to eat the dark meat on chicken and consume only the white, there’s so much waste that happens even before food gets to consumers via the suppliers/processors. On top of that, there’s the waste from food we eat. Sure, there’s food that goes bad before we realize it’s bad. Then, there’s the waste that happens from consumers who just follow dubious “sell by” labels and don’t bother checking the food via smell/taste tests themselves. They throw out perfectly good food just based on a dumb label that is hard to interpret. Then, depending on how you want to characterize it, ends of celeries and cilantro stems are wasted because people don’t like to eat them; carrot skins and onion shells can be used in chicken stock; even citrus peels are actually edible! So how do we actually get the most use out of what we have?

One handle I follow suggested that if we are not using citrus peels in cooking to instead add them to a glass container and store in the freezer. Once full, fill the container with white vinegar and keep in a dark, cool place for two weeks (like under your kitchen sink. Two weeks later, the vinegar will be fully infused with the oils and extra juices from the citrus peels, and you can strain it to then use it with equal parts water for an all-purpose cleaner. In general, it’s not great to use vinegar to clean granite/marble countertops since the acid from the vinegar can actually etch these natural stones.

I took the container out from under my sink today to reveal a deep orange liquid that smelled extremely fresh, fruity, and sour. If you hate the smell of vinegar, this is the DIY cleaner solution for you! I love the idea of contributing less waste to the environment with actions that are actually within our control.

Last year in Guatape. This year, home.

This is our first Memorial Day weekend not traveling as far as I can remember. Last year, we were in Colombia, and on this specific Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we were exploring the colorful town of Guatape two hours outside of Medellin and climbing up this big tower overlooking the gorgeous bright blue Guatape lake. Two years ago for Memorial Day weekend, we were in Oaxaca and Mexico City. In 2017, we explored Nova Scotia. In 2016, we were hiking through Zion and Bryce National Parks in southern Utah. In 2015, we explored Ohio and Kentucky with Chris’s parents. In 2014, we traveled to upstate New York and the Adirondacks with his parents, and in 2013, we went to the Pacific Northwest and saw Seattle and Portland. During our long weekends, we are usually traveling and exploring somewhere, eating different food, seeing different sights. This was an adjustment for us. Yes, this whole thing screams privilege, but that was what we were used to. And now, we have no travel to look forward to, and the only reason to go outside seems to be to go to Central Park, which we already do every single day.

My manager keeps telling me that I need to take time off to rest and unwind, recharge, refuel. But again, I’m already doing all the things I want to be doing – cooking more, video editing, reading, listening to podcasts, organizing and cleaning up the apartment… what else is there to do? What more can I do without being able to do the things I love most? Yes, we’re lucky that we’re healthy, have a safe place to live, have enough food, are still gainfully employed.. but what do we look forward to now, even during long holiday weekends? Does this even count as a “holiday weekend”?

What you use and do not use at home, pre and post quarantine

When you stock up on supplies during normal periods for your home, you think exactly that: what do I normally use, and how long does it typically take to use up said item until you have to buy more? Because Chris and I normally travel both for work and pleasure pretty frequently, our “normal” usage of regular household items is likely lesser than the average couple or family who have jobs that keep them local. So it was strange to see what our usage of these items was like during the last nearly three months of forced shelter-in-place in our apartment.

These are general changes we saw in what we used vs. did not use. Most of these are not surprising, but was just more comical to me:


Hand soap, body soap/shampoo/conditioner, dishwasher tablets, all-purpose cleaner, baking soda, dish washing liquid, kitchen and bath towels, sponges, hand lotion


Hand sanitizer (I mean, we really only use these when we’re traveling… because we always have access to soap otherwise, right?), makeup, sunscreen, contact lenses


Laundry detergent, paper towels

I’ve never understood people who constantly use hand sanitizer while at home or in work settings. Are you really just too lazy or believe you’re “too busy” to go to the restroom and wash your hands? If you are so deluded and arrogant in thinking you are too busy to go to a sink to wash your hands for 20 seconds, maybe you do deserve to get a cold or virus.