Category Archives: Race Matters: Candid Conversations on Race & Culture

Speak English: The Coded Language of Modern-Day Racism in America.

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Photo by Sung Shin on Unsplash

Critics often ask why I have to talk about issues related to race and culture.  To them, it’s as if I’m the one inciting racial strife and division by discussing these issues but if I stopped, they believe we’d magically live in racial bliss and harmony here in the U.S.

Yet, here in my hometown of Seattle, Washington, this week’s resignation of Kevin Mather, the CEO of the Seattle Mariners was indicative of how much race is an issue, especially to those like Mather who espouse disdain, contempt, and hostility towards those of us who aren’t as “American” as he is.

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Mental Health & Community Policing: A New Model to Address Systemic Racism

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Officer Jaime Ford with Mental Health Professional Susie Kroll
Courtesy: City of Redmond

Redmond, Washington is a city that covers 15 square miles with a population of 65,000. The number swells to more than twice that during the day as Microsoft and Nintendo are both headquartered here. The city is approximately 30 minutes east of downtown Seattle.

Since 2017 the city has utilized what’s known as a co-responder model to emergency calls where a mental health professional (MHP) responds to those calls alongside an officer.

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Systemic Sexual Racism: The Impact on Asian-American Men.

Asian Shame, Dating, Race Matters: Candid Conversations on Race & Culture0 comments

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

In the United States, dating for ethnic minorities is rife with stereotypes, caricatures, and deeply embedded into mainstream media messages especially as it relates to masculinity and virility.

Consider the following: the Italian stallion, the Latin lover, or the Black stud. All of these carry a hypersexual or overly sexualized perception of men from these various cultures. But for the Asian male, he is relegated to the sphere of asexuality at best.

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Where are all the White Actors?: My own racism against a multicultural cast.

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I was watching an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix recently and couldn’t pinpoint why I was internally upset. It had nothing to do with the storylines or acting as both were great but had everything to do with seemed like too many ethnic actors.

It sounds hypocritical coming from me as an Asian-American therapist who focuses on cultural issues where I am such an adamant proponent of having more ethnic diversity in entertainment. But the reality is even I have been conditioned to resist it in reality.

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Disrespecting the Flag or Disrespecting the Plight of African-Americans: The Quandary NFL Quarterback Dree Brews put himself in.

Race Matters: Candid Conversations on Race & Culture0 comments

The American flag is a symbol, but what it represents depends on whom you ask. Some say it represents the cherished American ideals of democracy, freedom, and justice. In addition, some see the flag intertwined with patriotism and a means to honor our military personnel (both past and present). Consequently, the very act of kneeling in front of the flag when our national anthem is played would be considered an affront to those who hold those beliefs.

This is one reason why NFL owners and a large contingent of fans lambasted former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem back in 2016. But Kaepernick did it as a means to protest police brutality and systemic racism against African-Americans. For him, it was an issue of raising awareness of racial injustice and not as a means to denigrate current or past military members. Nevertheless, the narrative shifted away from the issues he wanted to address what many Americans saw as someone who was “disrespecting” the flag.

Fast-forward today where the tide has shifted in light of the recent protests over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd was killed on May 25th at the hands of now terminated Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after Chauvin pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes following his arrest for allegedly using a fake $20 bill. Floyd repeatedly told police he couldn’t breathe and eventually went unconscious during the arrest.

Amidst protests and demonstrations in cities across the U.S. demanding police reform and accountability, even the NFL decided to reverse its stance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a videotaped statement, “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” he said. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.”

In the days that followed, New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees was asked in an interview with Yahoo Finance about his thoughts on the potential of NFL players kneeling this upcoming season during the national anthem. His response was this, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.

“So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”

One day later Brees apologized on Instagram and said he was ignorant of the issues. “In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.”

So what Brees is doing would be consistent in psychology for a white person who’s still in the first stages of understanding white racial identity.  In the “contact” stage, Bree adheres to the “colorblind” motto. He knows there are Black, Latino, and Asian people and but doesn’t view the racial differences as significant in life.  In fact, people in this stage may feel racism is perpetuated when people of color bring up issues related to race.  Furthermore, white people in this first stage of development would relegate racism as either an abhorrent aspect of the past or relegated to isolated incidents to “a few bad apples” with no understanding of institutional or systemic racism to which mainstream America remains complicit.

While there may not be any explicit racism, this non-racist position can uncover unconscious racist beliefs.  For someone like Brees an apology isn’t enough.  He would need to demonstrate his understanding of white privilege to garner true acceptance from his teammates and fans who are outraged by his initial stance.  

Some critics like Pro Football Hall-of-Famer and current ESPN commentator Shannon Sharpe believe the damage has been done, and he thinks Brees would be better off retiring. “He issued an apology, Skip [Bayless], but it’s meaningless because the guys know he spoke his heart the very first time around,” Sharpe said on the Fox Sports 1 show. “I don’t know what Drew’s going to do, but he probably should just go ahead and retire now. He will never be the same.”

Sharpe believes people who shared Brees sentiment can’t see the hypocrisy in themselves. Sharpe wonders how someone can respect a country that historically has disrespected the plight of African-Americans and continues to do so.

“What’s made the black fight so hard is people like Drew Brees. Because if you can’t get a guy that grew up with blacks in the locker room — from peewee to high school to college to the NFL — to understand the black man’s plight, who will? … I can’t believe you, Drew … Blacks fought in World War II, alongside your grandfathers, and did not have the freedom that [your grandfathers had] when they came home, although they had sacrificed the exact same thing as his grandfathers did.”

Specifically, Sharpe talked about the privileges of the GI Bill given to white soldiers that gave them opportunities to purchase homes in the suburbs that were not afforded to Black service members. The GI Bill guaranteed low-interest loans but white-run financial institutions refused to give mortgages and loans to African-Americans thus leading to rampant housing discrimination.

In addition, money from the GI Bill to pay for college tuition was also blocked to African-American service members as colleges and universities closed their doors to them. Thus, the wide disparity in wealth, education, and civil rights between white and black Americans grew even further as a result of the systemic racism from the GI Bill.

Back to the issue of kneeling before the flag: Is it disrespectful or is it a patriotic plea to ensure that equality, justice, and respect will be given to all Americans regardless of race?

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