There were two moments at the RNC where I experienced something I can thankfully say I haven’t had to deal with in a long time. The first occurred while I was walking down the street with some other Wake the Voters, and two white men standing on the side of the street, hollered at us “Go back to China.”
When confronted the two men said that they did not see me nor the other Asian Wake the Vote member, and instead it was said jokingly directed at a white male member of our group holding a sign that read “REVOLUTION”. They half-heartedly apologized and we left. I don’t really know what these men meant or if it was directed at me or not, but still the phrase in itself is disturbing, shocking, and very upsetting.
The second encounter happened a couple days later when I was walking around Playhouse Square. There were multiple protestors and counter protestors swarming around and of course a lot of police and media. So the scene was rather hectic. I was wearing a “STOP TRUMP SAVE AMERICA” button and a Trump enthusiast so kindly decided to yell in my face “Good luck with that! Good luck with her!!!” (her being HRC). I paused and turned around rather puzzled and when I turned back around to walk away I heard him also yell at me “Communist Scum.”
Both these instances represent a very real and very visceral observation of both the attitude of the convention as a whole and the direction of the Republican Party. But before I get into that I should preface all of this with the acknowledgement that I am a first-gen Chinese American, and for the most part grew up in a largely white suburban middle-upper class environment. Most of my life has been privileged in many ways, but none more so than my ability to be “white passing” and “model minority conforming” that made assimilation into the dominant culture relatively easy and even desired.
That being said, both these encounters gave me reason to pause, not just because of the obvious racial bias they stemmed from, but also because they forced me to have to acknowledge my identity and my heritage in a way that made feel ashamed rather than proud.
Like there was something wrong and or inherently inferior about me because of where I came from and because of who I am. And for a person who until recently and rather ashamedly found it easier to “white wash” the Chinese part of my identity, it felt like they were pointing out a part of me and blaming me for it, despite the fact that I myself did not have a choice in claiming that part of my identity.
And that sentiment of shame and inferiority was an observation I made about the Convention and the Republican Party as a whole. To me those two encounters encapsulate how Trump and the RNC propagate a political and social climate where fear mongering and insult tactics are an accepted norm of communication.
I acknowledge that not all members of the Republican Party participate in this kind of behavior, but the fact of the matter is that right now the GOP is being spearheaded by a man who flourishes when using insulting rhetoric and fear mongering tactics. Most of the speeches we heard at the RNC, especially Trump’s, were littered with insults and derogatory rhetoric. Language was used explicitly directed at Hillary, Democrats, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, etc. that was deliberately said to instigate fear of those demographics and to provoke shame within them. They even used the LGBTQ community as a way to instill fear about Islam. So it is no surprise that those that follow him behave with similar rhetoric and tactics.
Being completely derailed and subjected to “communist” or someone who needed to “go back home” with little regard to the fact that home is in North Carolina or that I am defintely not a communist is extremely infuriating. And I can only imagine that for many groups of people in America, they too are extremely infuriated with being repeatedly degraded, shamed, and used in fear mongering tactics. And it is infuriating to bare witness to Trump and the direction he is taking the GOP. It’s a direction where the language used by our leaders and our fellow Americans would rather make you feel ashamed of who you are and afraid of difference than acknowledge their own bias.
The RNC may be over now, but these feelings of frustration and anger are long to stay. And I have a feeling that as long as we continue to applaud and reward Trump for his flagrant narrative, the GOP is soon to become synonymous with fear and shame.