Studying in the city where parents live is nearly impossible for ~69 millions of village kids in China. Being a girl in such a population is even worse because of the limited support from family and traditional expectations on girls. Your fate is kind of set since the day you were born: dropping out of high school (because no hope or money to go to college), working in a manufacture, getting married and having kids at a young age. Then life repeats with how you struggle with providing your kids better education and living conditions…From the outsiders’, they are cheap labor that you can exploit their uses without worrying about being sued.
Being a family relative to many of them, I see their struggles of settling down in the city where they work, pain from leaving their kids in the village and stress from supporting the entire family with little income. Yet, I did not hear many complaints or see them giving up. They are working hard towards their goals and invest all they have in their kids to change the fate of this family.
While most parents fail, some succeed in investing their kids. Luckily, I did not fail my parents regarding their investment in my education. Coming to the states alone with a limited budget, my only goal was to graduate ASAP so I no longer need to worry about the expensive tuition fee. Studying and working in a foreign country is hard, it is even harder if you need to worry about being the only Asian in where you study and work.
Like my many family relatives, I did not complain loudly about being discriminated against even when some non-Asian students told me that ”The rice you eat is like worms, so disgusting!” or some local cashier told me that “ You must be good at math, so you should calculate your own receipt”. I could have reported all these cases to my foreign advisor to get support. But I ask myself, how can I prove that they did it intentionally? Are they really racist or just being ignorant? I sincerely do not have answers when I am trying to rationalize my own reactions. So I set myself emotionless mode to ignore those noises.
Four years later, the same question came to my mind when hearing people say “Chinese virus” or learning how some Asians get physically attacked during the pandemic. Yet, I do not want to jump to the conclusion that people who said “Chinese virus” or people who attacked Asians during a pandemic are racist. But after living in the states and learning the local culture for over 6 years, I find this kind of behavior unacceptable and start worrying about my next generation.
My own childhood, oversea life experience and international travels help me realize discrimination exists everywhere in different forms. But after learning all ongoing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion related research, protest and policy reforms, I hope there is hope for all humans being treated equally regardless of their color, gender, age and etc.