When you walk down the street, can you tell what nationality I am? Can you tell from the color of my skin that I’m American, besides being Asian? Or even more so, an Asian Jew?
These questions may not enter one’s mind in passing, but don’t we all have preconceived ideas about anyone we see on the street? This week’s shooting resulted in 8 deaths, six of whom were Asian women. A 21-year old white man in Atlanta, GA was the perpetrator. Racial issues have become much more pronounced and how could they not? Almost daily, we hear of shootings and other killings, whether here in the US or abroad. Terrorist-driven or not, the issue of race has been the common denominator for it.
I may not look American (what does it even mean?), but I came to this country as an immigrant and received my citizenship when I was 15 years old. My parents left a dictatorial regime to live in a country where freedom was embraced. Their bravery to escape the ideals they couldn’t accept and leave behind their families gave us the opportunity to dream and exert the freedom that wasn’t readily available to them.
Was it an easy transition? I naively thought it would be. Since I was educated in English, I didn’t think I would be noticed, and for a while I wasn’t. My high school and college years were pretty uneventful. I had friends and was socially active in an environment that was culturally diverse. My friends were Irish, African-American, Italian, Indian, White, and Filipino. While we all came from different races, we never considered ourselves as different; that was one of the reasons I never thought I would be singled out or stereotyped, but two incidents would change how I saw myself and how others saw me.
My first encounter was while I was searching for an apartment after moving out of my parents’ home. As a young adult who had just landed her first real job, I thought it was time to be on my own. Looking for an apartment was far from easy and I was willing to commute. My apartment search took me to New York City but the rent was not affordable for me at the time so I ventured to search in Brooklyn. It was while I was walking around my prospective neighborhood where I encountered my initial brush with racism.
As I was being shown around the neighborhood by my prospective housemate, I noticed two young women coming towards us. Not thinking anything of it, I kept walking on the sidewalk until I was almost face to face with these women, then it happened. As they were about to pass me, the one closest to me pushed me onto the street with oncoming traffic. Had I not caught myself from falling, I might have been hit by a car. I was shocked and taken aback because I had no clue why I was pushed, other than the fact that this young woman didn’t like the way I looked.
The second encounter happened as I was waiting for my husband to come out of a meeting. As I stood there, one of the men who had just come out of the same meeting started a conversation with me by asking what my nationality was. When he found out that I was Filipina, he asked if I was a mail-order bride because he was waiting for his bride to arrive in the US within a few weeks. After the initial shock of being classified as a mail-order bride without knowing who I was, I became angry. I informed him that I had been a New Yorker for most of my life as a US citizen and I was not a mail-order bride. My anger dissipated after a few minutes because I realized that this was just another stereotype that’s been projected via presumption of someone coming from a low income country. It’s an unfair assumption that Filipinas who come to the States are here to get a husband and become a citizen. In addition, the perception of Asian women to be fetishized by men like the murderer in Atlanta is demeaning and misogynistic.
While it’s true that there are women from the Philippines who come here to make a future for themselves or their family, making that a reality is through education and finding a job, not procuring a husband. Yes, there are women from the Philippines and other countries whose goal is to find a husband in order to provide for their families back home, but that’s not every woman. The women who were murdered in Atlanta were targeted by this man as a result of his own warped perceptions of Asian women.
Attacks on Asians have never been as visible or prevalent until the pandemic, and these recent attacks have become deadly. According to a New York Times article this past week, “In December, slurs about Asians and the term “Kung Flu” rose by 65 percent on websites and apps like Telegram, 4chan and The Donald, compared with the monthly average mentions from the previous 11 months on the same platforms, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute. The activity remained high in January and last month.” Pointing the fingers at Asians for the existence of COVID-19 combined with forced locked down for a year has made it convenient for so many to spew hatred on them. Even more disturbing is that according to NBC Asia America,”The research released by reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday revealed nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the course of roughly a year during the pandemic”, 68% of which were reported by women.
As a woman whose daughter is Filipina and White, I have encountered some other stereotypes that nowadays, just make me shake my head. Questions like “oh are you her Mom?” when at a cash register paying for something or the look from me to her, wondering whether I’m some relative, makes me want to scream, “can’t you just keep your thoughts to yourself?”, but alas, there is always someone who makes unsolicited comments.
The shooting in Atlanta has made me realize how far we still have to go. Targeting races that are viewed as Other or Non-White is not new, given the history of slavery in this country. There are still inequalities in jobs and pay experienced by those who are not considered “white enough” or are a woman. Not everyone I meet will know my nationality right away, and it shouldn’t matter, but given the violence perpetrated by this past week, I’m not so sure.
My daughter has never experienced being stereotyped as a result of her race. I pray she never does, but in these uncertain times, who knows who will be targeted next? For people like my parents and so many others who came here looking for freedom and a chance to have a better life, the events this past week are a reminder that one’s race shouldn’t be the litmus test of who deserves to live in this country. Just like my parents and so many immigrants who defied all odds to come to this country, I will not be defined by my race because I am more than what you first see. I’m a human being…and Asian, shouldn’t that be enough?
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
It’s been over 10 years since World Moms Network published its first post. We’re still all here in the trenches. Planning new things for 2021. Watch this space over the next few months. We are reorganizing and getting our site touched up!
In the meantime, I’d like to share a photo of me and one of my favorite women that I met from World Moms Network (when we were just World Moms Blog!), Purnima Ramakrishnan in India for International Women’s Day. What a ride we have had over the years, and the future is bright! That’s us at the BlogHer conference in Chicago in 2015 when Purnima was there advocating for global vaccines for children in the developing world. I look forward to doing more good with you and the rest of my most favorite women to make the world a better place, here, in this space!
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.
Yesterday, February 17, 2021, our daughter Sophia and son Wesley (& their grandpa) planned a surprise date for my husband Don and me. I left at around 10 am to go clean an office. On my way, I made a couple of stops and did a prayer recording for TikTok. It took a little more time than intended. I got to the office, cleaned it, it took the expected 3 hours, after which I waited for Don to get off the phone with a patient (took 10 minutes), and I went to the store. It hadn’t happened in a while, but I thought about Wesley’s heart and how miraculous it was that he didn’t have to go through a second surgery 3 days after his first one, (as the patch they made for him had opened, but miraculously closed). What would life be like, if he had? I don’t want to know.
I went to Trader Joe’s; which is unusual as it’s a bit farther away from us than other grocery shops. As soon as I got in, I was met with an abundance of flowers. I remembered how Wesley brings me flowers from the backyard and thought to get him and Sophia some flowers. I got her tulips and I got him sunflowers. I got fruits, juices, sparkling water & cherry juice, some frozen meals, and “homeschool” snacks & desserts. I got home shortly before 5 pm. Don got off at 5 pm.
I was met at the door by Wesley, dressed in a shark T-shirt and a proper tuxedo! He greeted me with “Hello, mother, and welcome to the Johnson Cafe”
💗 Complete heart melt.
Sophia was dressed in a beautiful cream gown. Grandpa was just chillin’ like he hadn’t been involved 😂
They forbade me to look in the dining room and asked me to go put on a dress. I did so, and also undid my hair which I happened to have braided in the morning, in anticipation of the cleaning job I had. The kids and Grandpa started getting the groceries. They asked me to put some of them away, but I couldn’t look at the table in the dining room, still. While I changed, though, they got out the fruit I had just purchased and set out the sparkling water and cherry juice (I saw this later).
A short while after I was done, Don came back from work. They told him to go get dressed too.
Meanwhile grandpa put out the flowers I had just gotten.
Then when we both were allowed to come out, we saw how they had set up the table with plates and everything – candles too! Sophia said, “This is your Valentine’s date because I was sick on Valentine’s and you couldn’t go on your date.”
💗 Another complete heart melt!
We were advised to self-serve because of COVID compliance 😂
It was super sweet and an occasion full of love; even more than Valentine’s Day could have ever offered.
I kept feeling amazed about how it all worked out. Don & I had zero ideas of their plan. Outside of a new orchid tradition, Don started last year, we usually get flowers around birthdays or some such occasions. We otherwise get plants that can grow. So the fact that I bought the kids these flowers, on the day they were doing all this for us, was just beyond serendipitous! It was like a thank you to them from the universe itself!
My hair, my timing, Don’s timing, the groceries – everything was serendipitous and perfect! Even me fitting in the dress I picked after the holidays is amazing! 😂
All this happened at a time when one of my closest friends and her co-denizens are stuck without power, in freezing cold Texas, with at least one politician telling them to go fend for themselves. At a time when death tolls are rising in Tanzania because of a renewed wave of Covid-19. At a time when many other saddening & maddening things are happening around the world.
In the midst of it all, though, I would be remised if I didn’t mention this beautiful occasion. No matter how long we’ve been home as stay-home-moms (or dads) before the pandemic – homeschooling & virtual schooling and staying at home, going in circles or keeping busy with work and electronic devices, and books, and and and – it gets so exhausting sometimes and I want an open field to run on, where somehow none of our responsibilities follow me there. Where I can run and lay in the grass and look at the pretty blue sky and fluffy clouds shielding me from the sun here & there.
The beauty in what happened yesterday, in my view, is in our children surprising us, in Wesley being here with his miracle heart, in them having a grandpa and the kind of grandpa who would take the time to help them organize it all, in them putting on clothing they don’t really like to wear that often, in all the details I mentioned above about the flowers and fruits and the timing and my hair – It was like that open field with the pretty sky and fluffy clouds. I know I am not the only person going through this feeling. I imagine the mercies shown to our fellow humans living in war zones everywhere, or a brief moment of love my brothers & sisters in Libya might feel in the midst of the modern-day human enslavement and trafficking.
I imagine all of us get a split second of Love that gives us just enough hope to keep pushing forward, until, hopefully, the next split second.
So, in short, here is a shout out to the universe, and to the Creator, for allowing small (and huge) mercies, for sparking laughter and acts of love in the middle of chaos, and for allowing us to see it all.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
This time last year I found myself laying topless on a bed with laser beams dancing across my breasts. How strange, I remember thinking, to so cavalierly take my shirt off for so many different people after being married for over 20 years.
I can’t say I’d ever been terribly modest about my breasts. My hippie parents never told me that I couldn’t run around topless as a child like my older brother. I only became aware of my chest by being teased at summer camp. The first day of swimming I showed up wearing only a bathing suit bottom. I was probably only 5 or 6 and remember being baffled but not terribly upset by being laughed at. I thought “who cares? There is nothing to hide”! I don’t remember how the rest played out but I’m sure the next day I wore a top. Later on at camp I remember being called a pirate’s dream because of my sunken chest. It never bothered me, my breasts have always been small, and even once they had developed, I remained unselfconscious about them.
When I was young and perky I rarely wore a bra. (Looking back at photographs, I now really wish I had.) I’ve gone topless on beaches and may have entered a wet t-shirt contest or two during college spring break. I admit I even relished showing off the cleavage that came with breast feeding each of our four babies. All this is to say is that I’d never perseverated on my relationship with my breasts. Until just over a year ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I lost my mother to breast cancer on October 18th, 1998 when I was seven months pregnant with our first child. We rolled a mobile ultrasound machine in to her hospital room so that she could hear the baby’s heartbeat before she passed away. If I were ever diagnosed with breast cancer myself, I thought, I would definitely get a double mastectomy. She had treated her breast cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation and died 6 years later. When it came down to my own course of treatment, I realized that it was not so easy to let them go. As my surgeon had cautioned, I realized how deeply emotionally attached to my breasts I actually was.
At 53 I was shocked by my diagnosis. I knew that I had to be diligent about my screening due to my mother’s history. She hadn’t been diagnosed until she was 69 years old. I thought I would have time before I really had to worry.
Three years ago my mammogram was normal. I called my physician when I received the letter afterwards stating that I had dense breast tissue, and that a breast MRI is a better way to detect breast cancer in dense breast tissue. She assured me not to worry. Our state had just passed a law where that letter had to be sent to all patients with dense breast tissue. Dense breasts are not uncommon in smaller breasted women like me. At my physical the following year I mentioned that once again I had received the same letter after my mammogram. We decided, that with my family history, I should get the MRI.
My first MRI indicated the need for a follow up in 6 months to track two small spots of concern. One of the reasons breast MRI is not more widely recommended is because of a high false positive rate due to its sensitivity. I was not worried. It wasn’t until 8 months later that I remembered to make the appointment for the follow up MRI. Sure enough one of the spots had doubled in size requiring a biopsy. To our great relief that biopsy came back negative. It was all a big false alarm and we were breathing easy. I still needed the lumpectomy to remove the growth since it could keep growing but there was no rush since it was benign.
We scheduled the lumpectomy after our family summer vacation. We took a two-week whirlwind trip through Scandinavia, hiking peaks and cruising through fjords. Since she would be doing surgery my breast surgeon suggested an ultrasound biopsy of the second small spot on my MRI that had not changed. It was too small and did not show up on the ultrasound. We had to do an MRI biopsy on it. When I got the call with the results I was not nervous at all, so when the surgeon told me that that smaller unchanged spot actually was breast cancer I was stunned.
Because I did not have the BRCA gene a mastectomy was not recommended. I still had school aged kids at home so decided on the less radical treatment of lumpectomy and radiation. I am grateful that my breast cancer was caught early, and that my state had mandated the letter about dense breast tissue be sent out. The surgery successfully removed the cancer and I was fortunate to have the amazing support of my husband and friends.
Lying on the table topless with laser beams dancing over my breasts a year ago seems like a distant memory with all that has changed in the world since. I felt good through my radiation treatment and continue to feel good while taking Tamoxifen. I have confidence in the research and improvements in treatment since my mother went through breast cancer 22 years ago. According to cancer.net the survival rate due to early detection had increased by 40% between 1989 and 2007. The key is early detection! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the USA. To me it is also the month I lost my mother to breast cancer, the month I underwent radiation therapy for my own breast cancer, and the month to spread the word, and remind women of the importance of routine screening.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
It was almost the end of October but high temperatures heated up across Southern California. It made me think about global warming.
Last month young people across this country organized strikes and marches in many cities, suggesting that adults have not done a great job looking after the planet and that needed to be changed. The series of inspiring events gave me—and many others—a speck of hope for the future. A great number of my mom friends enthusiastically took their teenagers and even younger children to participate.
Days before the strike in our city I asked my first grader if he was interested in being part of the movement. I told him that I would be happy to sign him a permission slip that was required by our school district. He said no, adding that the strike was “silly.”
I was surprised. Yes, he was only six years old but he knew exactly what the strike was all about. He also cared about climate change; he liked polar bears a lot and understood what the rising of global temperatures would affect his polar bear friends.
Yet he said no to climate strike. I wondered why.
“I don’t think the kids in our school really know what we need to do to stop global warming!” He said. “They don’t sort their plastics in school. They throw the crust away when eating pizza. They ask their parents to keep engine running and air conditioner on when waiting for them outside of school at pick-up time. And they are doing a climate walkout! What’s the point? That’s just silly!”
As he talked, he got faster and faster, louder and louder. He told me that many of his friends complained when our city banned plastic straw earlier this year. “When the grown ups say, ‘okay, now let’s not use straws,’ they are not happy. But now they are going to have a walkout to ask grown ups to fix climate problem! That’s just super silly!”
My heart sank. I thought my son was trying to say “hypocritical” when he said “silly,” but he hasn’t learned the word “hypocritical” yet. It did sound very hypocritical to me, but I believed what he described would only apply to a small number of the children.
Recently, however, I witnessed something that made me come to a realization.
At a local mom group I belong to, a member proposed that instead of using bottle water and paper plates, we should all bring our own drink and reusable table ware to future meetings. I seconded the proposal and expected it to be approved by the group without much opposition. But I expected wrong. The group voted no. Most members still preferred the convenience of bottle water, plastic utensil and paper plates.
Now I was feeling the irony that my son was feeling. Half of the members in the group took their children to the climate march, yet most of them would choose convenience over sustainability in everyday life.
There are adults who didn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to march and asked those who are more powerful—for us it’s global leaders—to fix the problems for us. There are children who wouldn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to have a climate strike and asked those who are more powerful—for them it’s adults—to fix the problems for them.
So we saw the irony lingering from global climate strike: In Boston, cardboard and paper “climate change” sign were found everywhere in trash cans on Boston Common. In Toronto, an idling truck promoting climate strike angered people.
Greta Thunberg inspired the world not because she organized the global strike, but because she lives according to her conviction. She is a vegan. She traveled by sailboat instead of flying. As for most of us, we travel and eat without thinking much about our carbon footprint and the actual consequences of our daily life in spite of the believe that climate change is an urgent threat.
Thinking of that, I was ashamed. My son was right. Awareness should be both knowing and doing. In addition to a strike, there were much more basic things that we could, and should be doing. Still, I think the climate strike was a good thing – better to have the right value, which might one day change what we chose to eat and eat with. We have to stay climate conscious after the strike.
Oh, and what we did on the day of our city’s climate strike? I walked my son to school instead of driving him. He made a “Save a polar bear! Do not keep your engine running when picking up/dropping off your children” poster, and posted in front of his little brother’s day care. No, we did not participate in the climate strike, but we tried to do our part.
When my second child was six weeks old my husband had a business trip to Asia for one week. One evening when I was breastfeeding the baby, my first child demanded me to pick him up and carry him to the toilet, “Mom, I need to pee, now!”
I couldn’t figure out how to deliver a 4-year-old child without interrupting the feeding. Plus, the 4-year-old was perfectly potty trained. So I told him, “Come on, honey, you know how to do it by yourself. I can’t pick you up now. I’m feeding DiDi.”
“No, no, no! I want you to take me!”
“I can walk you down the hallway.”
“No, no, no! I want you to pick me up!”
I didn’t know what to do. My husband wasn’t home to help. I was tired. Now I was trying to nurse my baby to sleep while my young child throwing a tantrum, which really adds in salt to injury when being sleep-deprived.
Then he peed his pants and had a meltdown.
“Honey, honey, that’s okay!” I tried to calm him down, “We all have accidents. Now you take your pants off and wrap yourself in this towel. Then come sit with me. We’ll clean you up once DiDi are done eating.”
But he was crying like his head is being cut off. He cried too hard to hear me.
The baby finally fell asleep. I put him in his crib. Then I picked up the crying child and cleaned him up. He must have been crying badly, because when we were in the shower, I heard the doorbell.
A police officer stood at my door and asked if everything was alright in the house.
“Yes, yes,” I told him, “My child had a meltdown. But we’re good now.”
He asked me a couple of questions to make sure I was okay. Then he wished me a good night and left.
One of my neighbors called 911 and reported the cry. Realizing that, I actually felt peace, knowing someone cares about what’s happening in my house.
I was born and raised in Taiwan. At about my son’s age, I was beaten up by my parents almost every day. There was always crying, often blood. But no one ever showed up at our door and asked if everything was alright.
Our neighbors looked at me pitifully when I walked home from school. Then they turned around and chatted in low voices. I could tell that they all know something was happening in our house. Yet no one ever asked.
I finally escaped from the horror. I fled to America, left behind an irritable father, a depressed mother, and an anxious sister.
I finished journalism school in America and became a journalist. I write about parenting, education, family lifestyle, maternal and infant health. Currently serving as the US correspondent for a Taiwanese parenting magazine, I frequently write about how people in America parent differently from people in Taiwan.
Last year, a Taiwanese couple posted prank videos with their kids on Facebook. In the video, the parents scared their 5-year-old and 3-year-old with a vacuum machine until the kids cried. After trying to fight back and protect his little brother, the 5-year-old was spanked by the dad with a clothes hanger. The video angered its audience, but nothing happened to this couple.
At about the same time, the controversial American Youtubers “DaddyOFive” were sentenced to probation for similar videos with their kids. I wrote about the case for the magazine. A Taiwanese pediatrician commented, “Many young lives could be saved if only we judge parents like Americans do.”
I could have escaped from the horrible domestic violence much earlier if my parents were being judged. My sister didn’t have to suffer from anxiety disorder if my parents were being judged.
In 2016, 16 children under six died in car accidents because they didn’t use car seats (Jing-Chuan Child Safety Foundation, 2017). There is a car seat requirement, but no one would say anything if parents don’t use car seats or leave their children in a car alone. Those 16 children didn’t have to die if their parents were being judged.
Three years ago in Taiwan, I saw a father slapped his toddler in a restaurant. At the scene, I seemed to be the only one who was shocked. Others shushed me, “it’s none of your business to judge other’s parenting.” I silenced. I still feel bad after three years.
That night when the police showed up at my door and questioned my parenting, I knew I was being judged. Being judged doesn’t make me feel like a terrible mother, as long as I know I did nothing wrong. I don’t feel attacked or ashamed for being judged. I feel safe, knowing we, as parents and a whole-of-society, are watching each other. And by so doing, we protect our children.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng