Proactive anti-racist education exhaustion

I think I need to take a break from all of the anti-racism education I’ve been doing for myself over the last two months in the form of books. It’s been educational, enlightening, upsetting, infuriating, and freeing in many ways to read all of these resources and books in an effort to understand racism better and be able to respond to ignorant comments (such as… racism doesn’t exist anymore/we live in a post-racist society/racism against Whites is the biggest issue now), but it’s been emotionally exhausting to have this on my mind throughout the day, nonstop. I recognize that there can be some criticism here from Black and Brown people of color, that it’s a luxury to not have to think about this every single day on the top of their minds… but I’d turn that question back to them and say… Are they reading all these books and resources, too?

I also fear that in most cases as with most issues, the people who need to hear these responses and rebuttals will never be open to hearing them. I still have a long list of other race-related books I want to tackle, but I’ve decided that for my sanity’s sake, I will need to space them out. In the meantime, I am reading Colson Whitehead’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize winning The Nickel Boys (okay, so maybe it’s not REALLY a departure from reading about race given it’s based on the true story of the Dozier School, a reform school in Florida (read: reform school for black boys) that operated for 111 years and abused black children, but you know what? There’s no wait list for Kindle borrowing on it right now given it’s a Book of the Month through New York Public Library, so I’ll take advantage of no wait lists for an in-demand book!).

These are the books I’ve read thus far this year on race and would definitely recommend for different reasons:

  1. How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram. X. Kendi: Provides a historical lens as well as personal anecdotes shared by the author/historian/educator Ibram X. Kendi. Examines how many quotes/phrases from famous anti-racist/anti-segregation advocates such as MLK have been twisted by conservatives who believe we live in a post-racist world. Seeks to provide definitions of what racist vs. not racist vs. anti-racist are, as well as many other terms and concepts that oftentimes get misused by the media and thus misunderstood by the American public. This book is pretty U.S.-centric, so be aware of that.
  2. White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo: Provides viewpoints from an antiracism educator over 25+ years of anti-racism classes and workshops done by a wide spectrum of age groups, corporate for- and not-for-profit organizations in an attempt to increase diversity and inclusion in schools, organizations, and corporations. Acknowledges my most often-thought of point, which is that it is nearly impossible to have a discussion about racism that will leave everyone feeling comfortable, included, or welcome, and that is exactly the point of addressing racism: to be brought to a state of discomfort to then be propelled into real action.
  3. Me and White Supremacy – Layla Saad: Based on a month-long Instagram challenge to examine how the concept of white supremacy has been drilled into each and every one of us since birth, and what we can personally do to dismantle it. Oftentimes, when people think about “white supremacists,” they think of David Duke, the KKK, when in reality, we actually adhere to a white supremacist society because of what we considered normal: normal is white, “other” or “abnormal” is seeing Chinese, Persian, Black, etc., people on TV, in Congress, in the White House, etc. That is just one example. This book helps people examine their own white supremacist notions and how to challenge them. A painful book, but a necessary read.
  4. So You Want to Talk about Race – Ijeoma Oluo: A compelling and concise read that walks through various race-related subjects, such as intersectionality, why you should not touch a Black woman’s hair, affirmative action, and the concept of the “model minority,” which many Asian Americans sadly embrace but really should be doing the opposite. The best part about this book is that Oluo acknowledges the fact that in the U.S., the unfortunate discussion about race tends to always be black and white with some brown occasionally, but the general discourse completely ignores the various groups that make up Asian Americans and Native Americans. An entire chapter is devoted to the model minority myth, which was really refreshing for me to read. It illuminates on why and how the Asian American community has been pitted against the Black American community in this country and how this was a construction basically created by those in power (read: White people).

Racism and anti-racism education does not have a beginning or and end. It should always be ongoing for each and every one of us. And for those who deny that racism still persists and is going strong in society, well…. you are the kind of people I don’t want to have any discussion with because you are just goners in my mind.

Teeth shifting?

One of the recurring nightmares I’ve had pretty much my entire life is that my teeth are shifting, breaking, or falling out. I’m not sure what gives me this much subconscious anxiety about my teeth. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had two oral surgeries, two coats of braces, and two different sets of retainers in my life. Perhaps it’s because my mom constantly told me how grateful I should be to have had the privilege of having dental care at all growing up since she came from Vietnam to this country with teeth so rotten that every single one of them needed to be pulled out and replaced with fake implants. Or perhaps this is just my internalized anxiety about life, just culminating into terrorizing dreams about my teeth being destroyed?

I’ve been grinding my teeth during the night ever since high school. I can’t really control what I do with my teeth when I am sleeping, so I wasn’t even really aware of it until multiple dentists called it out, not to mention I started developing sensitivities everywhere in my mouth. And stupidly, it wasn’t until maybe six years ago when I finally started wearing a mouth guard at night to prevent grinding during my sleep. But the problem with wearing a mouth guard (which goes on my upper set of teeth) at night is that this prevents me from wearing my top retainer, which then means… uh oh. My top teeth are more likely to shift.

I’ve tended to neglect my retainer in favor of my mouth guard, and when I looked in the mirror this morning, I was annoyed to see that in reality, one of my top front teeth appears to have shifted, and this teeny tiny gap has formed between two of my teeth. I immediately felt frustrated and realized I need to start wearing my top retainer more. I popped it in, and felt right away that it felt snug and tight in that area of my mouth.

Need to wear retainer to retain smile. No more teeth shifting. No more braces. No more retainers made for me. Need to wear retainer to retain smile. Need to wear retainer to be grateful to my mom for providing me dental care until age 22. Need to wear retainer.

Apartment viewing

Since restrictions have been easing up here in New York, and since we have absolutely nothing else better to do, Chris wants to start visiting apartment buildings again to see what is available and what the market looks like. Viewing apartments is now something we can do here, so Chris insisted we must. We’ve heard of some incredible deals on rentals – anything from $200-400/month off rent, 2-4 months free at certain buildings — it’s pretty insane. For the most part, getting one month free on a one-year lease has been relatively standard in Manhattan, but getting $400 off per month or FOUR MONTHS free is just totally out of this world. It’s truly a renter’s market right now due to COVID-19. So many people are leaving expensive cities like New York and San Francisco in favor of less populated, less expensive cities that have housing with more space for less money.

We visited a few buildings walking distance from our current building, and while overall, the fixtures were nice and the lobbies were plush and expansive, I still have failed to be impressed. Every place wants to charge for everything — $200 per person PER MONTH for gym and other amenities? $100+/month for in-building storage, as these buildings do not offer storage outside of the unit for tenants. Charges per day for guests to use the amenities, even entering the lounges? Not to mention that the bedrooms don’t seem particularly big (a queen bed, perhaps two nightstands, and if you’re lucky, a dresser) fit in the bedrooms, and the refrigerator/freezer situation seem smaller than what we currently have. Every time we go to one of these places, the more I think about how lucky we are to have all the amenities and space we have, plus the additional storage outside of our unit. It’s as though we just scored with every single thing you could ask for as a renter.

Maybe we will live here forever? It seems like it at this rate!


Other than my first job out of college, I have never taken advantage of any network that I belong to, whether that’s my work network through LinkedIn and previous jobs. During college, I used my Wellesley network to help get me a coveted PR internship at Fleishman-Hillard (and since, have had absolutely zero desire to work in public relations ever again, but hey! It was a good opportunity, and I felt very lucky and privileged because I knew those internships were hard to come by). My cousin referred me to my first tech job after I graduated from college. And since then, the only way I’ve ended up landing my next new job was literally applying on companies’ websites or applying via LinkedIn. So this time around, I’ve been doing more networking, and it’s resulted in a number of positive leads and referrals. I’m kicking myself a little for not taking advantage of my networks before, but I guess it’s better late than never, right?

So far, I’m keeping tabs on leads at five different companies all based on my connections. If I am lucky, at least one or two of them will come into fruition.

7 years later.

Dear Ed,

Seven years. You’d think it would have passed by slower than it has, but it actually seems like just yesterday when you left us. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I’d like to say that I’ve learned a lot since you died, but I’m not totally sure that’s even accurate. I feel like a lot about my life has been at a stand still. I’ve tried really hard to maintain my integrity, to keep with my values, to be my genuine self. But I feel like that is just being chipped away slowly working in the corporate world. I’m tired of the pressure to suck up to people I don’t like or care about. I’m sick of the backstabbing, the lying, the fabrication of stories. I’m sick of the HR gaslighting, the racial injustice, the white fragility constantly on exhibit at work where no one does a single thing to address the issues at hand. I’m tired of not being recognized for my achievements, and instead, having them be overlooked simply because others choose to be louder and flaunt their pointless and revenue-less activities. It’s no wonder you rejected the corporate world, the idea of just being another rat in the rat race. There’s no value in the work that we do. Who cares about making rich people richer, about getting acquired, about going public? At the end of the day, we are all disposable, and the work we have poured ourselves into will be forgotten. No one ever wrote on their tomb stone the number of upsells or deals they worked on or sold. No one’s eulogy ever talked about the success playbook they wrote for a scaling startup based in San Francisco. All of this work is meaningless at the end of the day. The only thing that really matters are the relationships we take away from this white supremacist, capitalistic society we live in.

In the last year, though, I think you’d be excited. I’ve been actively working on Yvonne meets Food. You’d be so happy for me with my YouTube channel. It may not do much now in terms of money, but it’s part of my passion and a part of my future. I’m now at 205 subscribers, which is still small, but hopefully, fingers crossed, it will only grow. I actually can see your face light up now when I think about how you’d react at the work I’ve been doing on the channel, and even all the time I’ve spent learning how to video edit.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve done anything else in the last year you’d be happy about. I’ve thought about it, and I just cannot come up with anything. I haven’t spoken with our mother since the end of February. She falsely accused me of speaking ill about her to our aunt, and I refused to tolerate her false accusations and constant comparisons anymore. It seems a bit abrupt to stop talking to her about this, but this was truly years and years in the making. I’ve really had enough of the constant criticism, the constant false accusations, the constant comparisons to our oldest cousin, who she sees as the “ideal child.” I know you can relate to this. I’m 34 years old. I just can’t take any more of this negativity. She can call me whenever she wants to apologize. She won’t do it. So the ball is really in her court. If we never speak again, while I may feel sad about it, I will not regret that I chose this path. She did wrong, and she needs to acknowledge it. She should acknowledge her wrong for the both of us.

In that moment on the phone when she started comparing me to our oldest cousin, I immediately thought about how she constantly compared you to all our older cousins from everything to grades to school to college to attitudes. It makes me sick to the stomach to remember all this toxicity. I don’t know how you put up with it for so long… too long. I’m sorry I didn’t help you enough. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you enough. I was young, naive, powerless… she does the same to me and always has, but never to the degree she did it with you.

I thought about you a lot during the worst points of the pandemic here in New York, in the U.S. I thought about how miserable your life would have been if you had still be alive and at home with our parents. Just the mere thought of it made me angry. I can’t imagine you being under the same roof as them and not being able to go anywhere other than the grocery store. That would have been like a different type of suicide.

We like to think our lives move forward, that we move on. But I haven’t really moved on from your death. I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago thinking you were still alive, and that I had to call you. And when reality sank in that you were gone, I felt sullen and immediately went back to bed. This happens to me occasionally. I can’t really help it.

I want to talk to you all the time, to tell you about things I’ve made, what I’m filming, what I want to do next. But I can’t. I’ve considered going to a medium to talk to you, but when I think about it more, it seems pretty ridiculous because she’s probably going to rip me off, and I’d likely not really be talking to *you* you. It sounds childish for me to keep saying this, but life just isn’t fair. It’s not fair that people like you have to suffer and die and others who are just awful, toxic, two-faced human beings can continue on this earth, seemingly thriving and conniving through life. It is not fair. But, I have to keep going. I think about revenge for all the people who have wronged you, have wronged me, but I realize it’s all pointless.

It’s why I feel like I have no more words to say. I just feel sad and angry about so many things – the state of our world, the state of the working world, the state of the world without you in it with me. This world really sucks right now. It’s like there is nothing to look forward to.

So… when do I get to see you again? You haven’t showed up in my dreams in a while, and you seem to do that to be a bit of a jerk. You are my brother, after all. Can you come swing by for a little? I really need a hug from you right now. I hope you are doing well, and that your mind is clear and free from any negativity. Hope to see you soon.



When the person who is supposed to give you the DL ends up being the unpaid PR person

I had a call scheduled this morning to chat with Chris’s friend who works at a company that I’m interested in. He’s been friends with her for a few years, but I’d never met her before since he likes to keep separate parts of his life separate, and there was really no reason for me to meet this person, so I never really cared to ask. So I called her to get a sense of what the company was like and how she liked it, and it was clear from the beginning of the call that she really loved working there. She talked about the company leadership, the culture, the nature of her work, and she gushed endlessly about how great it was. It got to a point where the entire conversation just seemed like the type of conversation I’d have with the company’s HR or recruiting team; she said glowing, nearly-canned positive things about the company like “great work-life balance,” “everyone is so amazing here,” and “senior leadership is really accessible, their ‘door’ is always open for you; the only blocker to developing a relationship with them is yourself.” I nearly vomited in my mouth a little when she said that last part. How often have I heard that from recruiting teams in the past, or people who truly drink the kool-aid.

While I appreciated the time she spent to chat with me, I didn’t really appreciate the PR-spin on her perspective; it came off as too enthusiastic, a bit disingenuous, and well, not authentic. Luckily for me, I have other contacts I can speak with at the company through personal connections, so I can get a more well rounded perspective, but it just struck me as odd that she was technically supposed to be a personal connection through Chris, but she gave me a not-very-personal perspective of the company.

My mom always says that the older you get, the wiser you get. I actually don’t really agree with this. The older I have gotten, the more confused I have gotten about why and how people are so twisted and weird.

Mentoring your mentee

I was on the phone for over an hour with my work mentee today. She was lamenting the layoffs that have happened at our company, saying that she felt like she tried so hard to be nice and kind to everyone, but in the end, it didn’t matter because she was still disliked. She still got laid off. She mentioned to me this one person at work who is a manager on the team. She clearly got there because of politicking internally, constantly advocating for herself and talking herself up every chance she got, even when she wasn’t actually the one who achieved anything. People like that in our work world get ahead. The general theme that has rang quite loud and true for me since the beginning of my career is that activity is valued more than genuine achievement. Activity is what will prevent your getting laid off, not the achievement. Because when it comes to “achievement,” even when there is hard data, real numbers, to back it up, even when you have killed your retention rates, expanded your customers by hundreds of thousands of dollars, company leadership who is against you will do whatever they can, smear you however they can, to get your job eliminated. It’s the dirty capitalistic society we live in.

I tried to console my mentee. I told her I really empathized with her, but at the end of the day, she needs to get over the desire to “be nice to everyone.” That will never get her ahead. It will never get her recognized. If anything, people would use that against her to manipulate her, take credit for her work, ignore her, gaslight her, and do anything they can to undermine her. Hasn’t that already happened here to her? This needs to be a lesson to her. “Nice girls finish last.” There’s a fine line between maintaining one’s integrity and playing the game. I still haven’t mastered it at all, but one thing I never strayed from while working at this current company is maintaining my integrity. I’ve stayed true to myself no matter what, and perhaps at times, that has costed me, but I have zero regrets. She shouldn’t have regrets either, but she needs to wean herself off the “be nice to everyone” mentality and put herself and her values first. That is such a female way of thinking that we women are taught; what BOY is ever taught to be nice to everyone and to value that above everything else…?!

Sunday routine

Since quarantine began and when the weather has been nice outside, we’ve taken a short walk on Sundays around the neighborhood. Chris has always hated these walks, as he said they are aimless, pointless, and just a total waste of time. Okay, so maybe we do not always have an end goal in mind. Perhaps we’re just going outside for the sake of going outside to get some fresh air, a little exercise, and simply just to get out of the apartment. In a day and age of COVID-19, what else are we supposed to do to go outside, anyway? We don’t have that many options. As humans living in the western world, we spend the vast majority of our time indoors. So what’s so bad about “going outside for the sake of going outside” during a pandemic?

In addition to our Sunday walks that usually last for something between 30 minutes to over an hour, I also make time to cook vegetable dishes. Today’s dish was oong choi / kong qing cai, or morning glory. I prepared it with one of my favorite methods, which is to stir fry it with some white fermented bean curd. It’s super stinky and pungent right out of the jar, but it really mellows out once heated and stir fried with vegetables. I’m pretty certain this is one of my all-time favorite Chinese ingredients on earth. This stinky jar of goodness makes me so happy when the final product is ready to eat.

It really is the little things we should be appreciative for. And now, I no longer need to worry about sourcing it since I can go to Chinatown whenever I want now!

Afternoon in Crown Heights

As people who are attempting to be responsible citizens of the world in a time of Coronavirus, Chris and I have not been doing any travel domestically or internationally. Not to say that any country would want to accept us, but even if they did, it would just be really irresponsible and selfish of us to travel overseas. It’s really made me angry to see posts about people within my network and beyond it who just insist they need an “escape” and then travel to another country. You never need to travel; you want to travel, especially when it’s for a beach or to go snorkeling, NOT because your parent is dying. This period of COVID-19 truly has revealed the true depths of selfishness of some human beings. It’s really embarrassing to see this lack of humanity exhibited by a lot of people.

While we are not traveling, the mini type of traveling we have been doing is visiting neighborhoods beyond our own during the intense quarantine period of the last few months, whether they are in Manhattan or beyond. Today, we spent the afternoon in Crown Heights in Brooklyn and enjoyed Trinidadian food from a spot that had a very notably long line going out of it. It was cash-only, had no menu, and every single thing on offer looked absolutely delicious. I only have surface level knowledge of Trinidadian food given one one of my friends/former colleagues has roots in the Caribbean. We got this massive roti filled with a lamb curry and a chickpea curry, plus a little snack called “doubles,” which is like a fluffy roti that is stuffed with a chickpea curry. The texture of this bread was just mind-blogging – super fluffy, airy, but chewy and moist. The chickpea curry had a lot of similarities with Indian chickpea “channa” curries, but the flavor profile was a little bit different. After further research, I noticed that the type of spice/peppers used is different, plus there seems to be more thyme and allspice used, which I don’t see much of in Indian cuisine. The roti also felt flakier and dryer in many ways than the average Indian roti. It was incredibly addictive, and even though I was stuffed (we shared one!), I still wanted to keep eating it because it was so good.

There’s so much to learn about different regions of the world, and so many have overlapping characteristics given patterns of migration, colonization (oh, British colonization…), and oppression. The more I think about it, the more and more grateful I am to live in a city as eclectic and diverse as New York. I have pretty much anything I want from a wide variety of cuisines available to me — as long as I am willing to walk or take a subway ride there. Not everyone is that fortunate.

Travel envy but anger

On Instagram and Facebook, I can see friends and colleagues who are traveling in Europe, and I cannot help but have massive envy that their countries are seemingly doing the right thing and getting their virus rates down, and I am still stuck here in a total mess. Colleagues of mine in England are traveling to Italy. Friends from The Netherlands are traveling to Portugal or Spain. They are posting their videos and photos of their hikes and museum visits. On the one hand, I am envious, but on the other hand, I’m not sure if they really should be traveling at all. Is it even responsible for anyone to travel to other countries now? Are they being selfish? I personally think that here within the U.S., to cross state lines is pretty selfish. I’ve read and heard that national parks across the country have been overcrowded, primarily from out-of-state visitors who think that since they are outdoors, they must be safe. But what inevitably happens is that the most popular trails still remain the most popular trails, which means they become overcrowded, and there goes any chance of social distancing, right? Now, if you were to leave New York state and come back, you’d be required to quarantine yourself for 14 days. I don’t want to be part of the problem. So outside of the U.S., every time I see these pictures and videos, I wonder if these people are part of the problem or are they actually being responsible at all? My default is to think that they, too, are being selfish, just like the people here who are crossing state lines.