Tuesday night as we were leaving the bar where we were watching the election a white woman approached us and asked us who we voted for. We paused, not really wanting to start anything, and she persisted in knowing who we voted for. My friend (who is also Asian) said, "We voted blue."
This immediately sparked her to laugh, start to get in our faces and she mocked us for voting blue. I stood there shocked and felt helpless on what to do to get out of the situation. I had already been crying in the bar before we left and felt sad, scared, defeated, and numb.
A black man with his white girlfriend was standing near us and he interjected saying, "hey, just leave them alone." This woman loudly demanded, "Why? What's the matter?" to him then turned back to us and continued to prod at our decision and emotions.
The man calmly said, "I know what you're trying to do and just don't. Leave them alone." She then turned her attention to him and started directing her aggression to him and his girlfriend, who by all accounts were civil in trying to defuse the situation (way more than I could have in that moment).
Our Uber pulled up and I just didn't have the strength to deal so headed to the car. Before getting in, I went around the aggressive woman arguing with the man and I grasped his arm with both of my hands. I looked him in the eye and said, "Thank you so much." He looked back and said, "No problem, you're welcome." I saw that sort-of knowing look of "we have to have each other's back" or "it's okay, I deal with this all the time." I got into the Uber and immediately started to cry.
To me this encounter wasn't just about a drunk woman pushing some buttons. To me this encounter felt like someone of privilege feeling entitled to bully a group with minorities. I felt targeted for being different. I felt like she wanted to remind us to know our place. That she could be aggressive and mean to us with the confidence that there would be no real repercussions to her and expected us to stand there and take it. And I did have the feeling like I had to take it. Like I deserved it, but I've felt that way much of my life.
The shame and the mockery this woman spewed at me triggered all the years of feeling this way. It gave me that awful pit in my stomach when it's not just pointed out but thrown in my face that I am different, have different rights, have a different experience than the majority that can and will be used against me. It triggered the nightmares I've had since I was a child and continue to have as an adult where I scream to people for help and understanding when I'm in danger and no one hears me. That this kind black man who stepped in knows all too well and has probably had more practice on having to take the "high road" when people mock and shame him. And it sparked fear in me that moments like this will only increase now.
Maybe it was just a drunken encounter, and looking back she wanted to start a fight and maybe she would have done that with anyone. But as an Asian adoptee female with loved ones in so many different diverse groups this all feels like so much more to me.
I am not disheartened just because the candidate I voted for didn't win. I'm disheartened because this encounter encapsulates what the campaign rhetoric and the election results have made me feel.
Today I will continue to grieve the pain the woman and what the woman represents caused me, because those feelings are real and valid and deserve time to process and heal.
But tomorrow I will hope. I will use those feelings as fuel to take the action of that man. Try to be the bigger person, take the high road, diffuse situations on either side in the effort that we all may hear each other and treat each other with respect and love. Be there to support and defend those who at any given moment may not have the resources or capacity to do so themselves. Believe that love trumps hate and that all sides can come together with our anger and fear and pain and try to understand and care for one another.
Thank you to that man and his girlfriend outside Haymarket Pub & Brewery Tuesday. I have spent the last 48 hours grieving and I am grateful that you were there to step in and to give me a reminder of cooperation and community which will help nourish my hope and love back to full force.