Some thoughts on long term solutions to racism in North America

This week is sad week for me after hearing the Atlanta shooting.

I am a Chinese descendant born in Malaysia living in the US. There has been something that I wanted to say other Asians ethnic groups (in North America) for quite awhile — I am sorry that China has sort of drag everyone of similar skin color into experiencing this awful act of racism. Honestly, I hope that China could have shown more leadership in handling this matter but I don’t think the CCP will ever do it.

I love living in North America. One of the reasons is the how much diversity we get in North America. I can get high quality food from various different cultures. I also like meeting people from all around the world and learning about their experiences. There is almost no other countries in the world that you can do this. I hope that one day the younger generation minorities in North America don’t have to experience the same type of hate that we are experiencing now.

Now that I got that out of my chest, I would like offer some of my opinions on how we could minimize racism in North America. In the past 2 to 3 days, I have seen lots of activities/rallies against anti-Asian hate. It is great to see them happening.

But, I believe we need to have long term solutions to reduce racism in North America. Some of the solutions here are inspired by my childhood from Malaysia.

1) Use more characters from different racial backgrounds while teaching various subjects in school

First of all, I did my high school studies back in Malaysia, I don’t really know if school in USA actually does this. But, I have a feeling that they don’t because I have not seen any attempts from professors to include racial diversity in their teaching materials when I was studying in university.

In Malaysia (which has 3 main races live peacefully), our teaching materials often depicts various characters from the 3 main races. This helps to reinforce the idea that Malaysian is a nationality and not a race. In fact, they teach this material to us starting from grade 1, so that we have a clear idea of what being Malaysian means.

The current demographic of the USA consists of 60% white, 18% Hispanic, 13.4% of African-descent, 5% Asians and 1.5% Native inhabitants. From the numbers, it is clear that USA is a very diverse society. Therefore, education has to teach young kids that America is a diverse country. Incorporating different racial background material into the education system can help to reduce the idea that America is ‘white’ (in a respectful way).

2) Offer foods from various racial background in school

Based on what I know about school lunch programs in the US, the food that are offered in school is not racially diverse. So, I believe the food offered at school should be diversified to help people understand that America is diverse.

I love travelling. One of the reason I love travelling so much is that I get to try new food. I believe that food is one of the best way to experience another culture. By offering different type of food in school lunches program, the younger generation will get to understand more about cultures from other races.

3) Teach world history rather than only American history in school

My sisters attended Canadian high schools. Based on their experience, I learnt that they teach a lot of Canadian history rather than the world. I checked the curriculum for American schools and it seems to be pretty similar — it is very American-centered.

I understand certain Americans are ‘proud’ of the history. But, we are also have to recognize that the history taught in the American schools are very ‘white’ in nature. There is only 1 chapter dedicated to Native American. The remaining 10 chapters or so are heavily tied to what the European descendants has done in America.

Rather than instilling proud, white nationalism into Americans, I think it is better to teach future generations about the world and how USA relates to various different countries. For example, we should at least dedicate 1 chapter to how America helped to end WWII by dropping 2 atomic bombs in Japan. Yes, America has helped to end the war. But, it has also taken 200,000 innocent Japanese lives (with just 2 bombs) and introduced long term health effect to Hiroshima +Nagasaki.

Studying world history can help to avoid past mistakes. Solely focusing on nationalistic history is good for patriotism but it will also bring out unwanted racial ‘superior-ism’.

4) Have a formal definition of ‘Who is American?’ and encourage medias to craft the right image for an American

If you look up ‘American’ in a dictionary, you see the definition to be something like:

“a native or inhabitant of the U.S. : a U.S. citizen”

I find this definition extremely lazy. After seeing all sort of racism act, the definition should make it extremely clear that race, sexuality, wealth and other factors have 0 relationship with the definition of an American.

Certainly, Hollywood doesn’t help too much when it comes to crafting the right image for an American. Hollywood projects American is typically white (and sometimes black). It is great to see Disney start to lead the way to introduce all sort of non-white characters into the MCU. But, more have to be done.

Just like how the affirmative action has quota for different race quota in school, we could introduce economic incentive structure for movies/dramas that satisfy certain race quotas in their casting. Some incentive structures could be in the form of grants and tax breaks.

5) Give the racists a voice, understand what are the underlying root causes/misunderstandings and fix them

I am a believer that racism and hate is a by-product of somebody’s misfortune. Unfortunately, Trump has cunningly used others’ misfortune to fuel his political agenda.

Yes, we need to condemn racism. But, we also have to listen to why the racists are upset at certain people so that we can understand the underlying root causes or misunderstandings.

I am no policy maker but I feel that the government can offer a hotline or an online chat to express their hate without penalty. Each hater would receive consultation immediately before things get worse. This idea is controversial but I do feel that blocking the haters won’t do us anymore good at this point.

Without a channel to keep track of haters, we will never know how many people actually hold racist views and why do they have such extreme view. Once we know the root causes, only then can we address the root causes. (If I were to take a guess, it is most likely economic reasons)

6) As Asian Americans/Canadians, we need to increase participation in charitable causes to help the less well-off

This is something that I am voicing out based solely on my own experience. Growing up, my parents have heavily emphasize on our family’s well-being. I have never gone to a charitable cause with my family nor friends.

Almost all of the charitable cause that I have attended was from school or work. Of course, I have done numerous donations to different charities over the years. But, if I compare my contribution to my peers’ from other racial background, I am definitely on the weaker end.

I don’t want to generalize this to other people and I don’t have the data to support it. But, my hunch is Asian contribution to philanthropic causes might be on the lower end. This is partially due to our work hard and don’t cause trouble mindset as an immigrant. But, I could be completely wrong.

But, if you are like me, then I think it is time that we commit some time to do some volunteer work to help the less well-off regardless of their background. I have no doubt that this could help improve our image in the American society.

That’s all I have on my mind. Any feedback or criticism is welcomed. If you have some other ideas, please share it with me. I think it is time that we help craft long term solutions to reduce racism in North America (and hopefully the world).

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Yao Hong Kok

Software Test Engineer who loves tech, math, Japanese culture & investing. Also, the creator of Crystal Ball & Edge.poker.