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Alex Hanesakda grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin, in one of a few Lao families there. He spent weekends on Milwaukee’s South Side, where the majority of his family lived and where he moved at 19. He currently lives in Racine and is founder and owner of SapSap, which creates Lao-inspired cuisine.
I have an elderly mom who I worry about.
I have a son.
I have a big family and I love all of them.
It hurts me to see the spike in hate crimes against Asians, and hate crimes against anyone.
I don’t talk about my experiences much as a refugee kid growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood. I’ve faced a lot of racism from all races.
Racism like abuse from someone who lumped me into a group identity because of the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes.
And I’m not interested in anyone’s politicized redefinition of racism, thanks. This is a spiritual problem, not a political one.
My father would always tell me that we had to behave because this wasn’t our home. I would always ask him, “Well, where is home then?” He would respond by telling me to keep my head down and try to stay humble.
I remember clearly when I was a kid — we were pulled over and the officer pointed a gun at us. We had to get on the ground. My father spoke very little English, and the cop seemed threatened by him. I was around 8, the same age my son is now. I was terrified as I did my best to translate for my dad, just hoping that the cop wasn’t going to hurt us.
That’s one of many experiences.
I don’t think the answer is to shuffle the hate and separatism around, but to practice actions that destroy them. My Lao parents taught me to love and forgive, to share and be grateful. That’s what breaks down hate.
We can do that and at the same time speak up for all the Asians who try and keep their heads down.
Violence against Asians, or anyone else yoked with a group identity, is unacceptable. All human beings share an equal capacity to harm or heal. Violence happens when we convince ourselves otherwise.
So humbly, as Dad liked, I’m speaking out.
But I’m done keeping my head down.
Share stories. Share food. Share art. Share music. Share culture.
Let’s bring about a world where my mom and my son and everyone else’s loved ones can live free from fear.
Love is the only thing that can do that.
Stop the hate.