I remember once going to dinner with my friend (who is also Asian-American). We were walking on the sidewalk as a car turned a corner. One of the windows rolled down and a white guy yelled out “Go back where you came from!” in a decidedly unfriendly tone. The car drove away.

I’m fortunate that this was one of the few times that I experienced such blatant racial hostility. I grew up in a very diverse city with a large Asian population; I was accustomed to relating to folks from different backgrounds. I would tell people how I bow to my parents on New Years Day and they would tell me their traditions, instead of saying “That’s weird” or “Oh, is that like Asian ancestor worship, like in books?”

I was puzzled by the guy’s comment. Of course, I was a bit angry, and brief thoughts of harm flashed through my mind. But I wondered why he would think it appropriate to say what he did. Yelling an insulting epithet from the window of a passing car doesn’t take much courage. In fact, it’s the epitome of cowardice; one feels puffed up for fighting back against “them” without actually doing anything.

Ultimately, I decided to feel pity for this stranger that saw fit to speak words of hatred instead of life. Filling my mind with hateful thoughts toward him would only be toxic, so I let it go and went to enjoy dinner.

It was sushi. It was delicious.

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