I just experienced a trigger moment on Face Book. Someone posted a story about an Asian woman in a quiet California suburb who got hit with raw eggs and told to go back to her homeland. This is her homeland. My immediate thought is: so, she got hit with a raw egg, so what? At least she's safe and there was no bloodshed.
My next thought is a memory. It is 1978 in Queens, NY. Carter is President. I am thirteen and walking home from school on Halloween. I carry a flute in its case from band class. I am twenty feet from my house. Suddenly my case is hit with a raw egg. Then my face. When I look up, I hear shouts of Hindu! Go back to your own damn country!
At least I was safe and there was no bloodshed, right? Not quite.
Those words and that memory have shaped my outlook and my life. I am a woman of South Asian descent, having immigrated with my parents at the age of three, after the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act removed quotas and allowed highly skilled immigration for professionals and students from India.
I allowed those words, and others over the years, to sink in to my psyche, where a tape replayed them and I spiraled down into low self esteem, anxiety and paralyzing self consciousness. My resting pulse in my young adulthood, so my husband says, was 120. I became afraid. This fear took decades to overcome. I eventually went to medical school, became a physician, discovered my love of literature and writing, and with a lot of soul searching and hard work, overcame my negative thoughts and my race-based fears.
Words hurt. Words do more damage than we think. Words can cause impressionable minds to cling to misguided ideas about themselves and the world and can take a long time to overcome.
It is post election. Old wounds are opening. Memories are emerging linked to a sense of being invisible. Is this the new normal?
– Vimi Bajaj
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