I sit down to write this with a heavy heart. I have been carrying this tremendous sadness around with me for a few weeks. Many times during this period, I tried to pen my thoughts regarding this particular heaviness. My sadness is about senior citizens. But words escaped me. I am going to try again.
Senior Citizens and Respect
What has been weighing on me for some time has been the attacks on elderly Asian people, in many cities around the United States. You see, as an immigrant, I left my mother on the other side of the world. My father passed away, days after I moved to the United States. I miss my parents so much.
In my early days in the United States, one of my comforts had been to communicate with older people, senior citizens. They were around the same age my parents would have been. I did this first, when I joined a church with a huge population of seniors. I joined the church choir. I got to interact with these older people who were largely White.
Yet, many of these men and women took an interest in who I was and were immensely kind to my children. I loved listening to their stories. They reminded me of my parents, not by virtue of appearance, but because they were kind, thoughtful and considerate.
I, in turn, was respectful toward these seniors because it was how I was raised. Filial piety is a big deal in so many Asian cultures. Growing up, in Singapore, filial piety was a common value among the various Asian races at that time. Seniors were respected as elders, with wisdom, knowledge and life experience.
Older Asian People
So, when the attacks against Asians in the United States, extended specifically to the elderly, something in me snapped. This is an attack on filial piety itself. These are frail, old people. They were merely walking down the street, minding their own business. The barbaric attackers were unknown to the victims and chose to attack, unprovoked, old, Asian people. They chose their victims by virtue of their appearance. By virtue of what the attackers believed these seniors represented.
There was no factual basis for the perceived ills these Asian elders had allegedly caused. No crime had been committed by these old people. The only basis for offense the attackers can really provide, is the facial and physical appearance of the persons attacked. The main motivation for the perpetrators’ crimes were the campaigns of hate. This hate is based on racism. The hate is based on their victims being born a certain way. The same Creator who had created these attackers had created their victims.
I was born and grew up as a minority, in Singapore and I faced sporadic racism from a few people, from a very young age. They had contempt for my darker South Asian skin.
As a child, I prayed a lot, that I could look different to fit in. I really wanted to blend in, be anonymous. Luckily, I was never physically attacked by a total stranger for looking the way I did. But even as a very young child, I recognized rejection. I felt ugly. Racism caused me deep pain.
I am happy to report that as I got older I made friends of every race, some of them became extremely close. Something powerful happens to us when we make the effort to get to know a person. We forget the person’s appearance and get to know the real person, the human being behind the face. Sometimes, we are surprised how similar someone is within, despite being very different on the outside.
The key is to respect our fellow human beings as people first. Then the inherent bias fades away. It is something I believe in deeply. See https://sues.life/2021/02/07/acceptance-respect-and-understanding/
I hope the outrage by the general population against such violent, racist and despicable behavior outweighs those who condone or are ambivalent, about the violence. I believe that there are so many out there who were raised right. Raised by people very much like those seniors from the first church I attended, as a new arrival. Kind people. People without hate in their hearts. This is how we stop this violence.