Outside and Beyond*

Perhaps they were content with their lives in the Land of Opportunities.

Perhaps they thought that this life was plenty.

They worked, sometimes a consecutive 36 hours, sometimes in heat that could fry an egg, sometimes in temperatures below freezing. They carried 50lb bags of concrete mix, boxes of ceramic tiles, boards of plywood. They fixed roofs and installed toilets.

They splurged for their three daughters, willing to give them anything. They splurged on themselves, too, by traveling or gambling.

They worked tirelessly, and they were content because they had all they ever wanted.

They didn’t know enough English to read the scathing remarks spoken under strangers’ breaths or enough history to trace the systemic and systematic injustice of their people to today. Perhaps it was this that led to their apathy.

However, I grew up hearing the racist epithets that were targeted at them. AP World History, AP US History, and AP European History introduced me to a lineage of exploitation, discrimination, and injustice.

But still, even though I may have been angrier and more aware about injustice than my parents, I was ignorant. I bought into the “progress narrative” - the idea that despite America’s ugly history, things were better. I thought that people’s race or sexuality didn’t make them fear for their lives anymore.

I didn’t see my privilege. I didn’t see the injustice that existed beyond my own experiences.

When my father was pulled over for running a red light, I was only worried about a ticket. I didn’t fear that police would see my father as a threat for the color of his skin. My father could reach into his pockets to pull out his ID, and police wouldn’t mistake the gesture as him reaching for a gun. Growing up, I never doubted that I could trust authority.

But I was wrong. Authority isn’t unbiased. People were still scared for their lives. People are still scared for their lives. I have lived in comfort, never afraid to be Asian, to be “yellow”. But if I care about the people around me, especially in this political climate, I have to force myself to venture outside of that comfort, to see beyond my own experiences. We all do, if we care about the people us.


Sally Tran