When I was in my early-20’s, I spent some time as an escort. In that time, I had many lovely experiences, some weird experiences, some forgettable experiences, and some gross experiences; three particular gross experiences with Asian clients, which seemed a notable pattern, and one awful one (which ended my career) wherein an Asian man attempted to rape me.
I was doing sensual bodysurfing stuff (and didn’t offer sex as a service), so when he physically attempted to force himself in me, one of the things I recognized immediately was that I had hundreds of dollars of expensiveass equipment with me — and was trapped in the guys house.
My response was to coo redirections at him over and over with a pained ‘we cant do that’ face and pet him and still get him off, while he continued multiple other physical attempts to force me back on top of him. It was like some kind of fucking surreal fake mating dance with a psycho, who belonged to a demographic I’d already begun to experience as high maintenance in my extremely dangerous (and lovely) and vulnerable (and empowering) work.
As soon as I was out the door I was utterly sick to myself. I hated, hated, hated how weak and accommodating I had been. I hated how afraid I had been that if I had been more forceful he would give me a bad review. I hated how all the smart verification hoops I made prospective clients jump through before they were able to see me didn’t protect me from this guy. I hated how if I had been more forceful he may have turned (more) violent.
No sooner had I stepped out that fucking door, I started in on myself. Ruthlessly. I couldn’t even let myself be hurt or afraid because he hadn’t actually managed to rape me (ladies, take note: this is what internalized misogyny looks like), all I could think about was what a fucking doormat whore I had acted like.
Part of me wished I had fought, so that at least I would have had my dignity even if he butchered me. Part of me wished he’d butchered me so I could have torn his fucking face off his skull. I toiled over and over about the things I must have done wrong. My instinct had taken over, and I am sure now it served me well. But back then? Fuck was I mad. At me. Stupid whore.
For years after, I proudly and loudly expressed to my friends that I wasn’t racist, but I hated Asian men. And I had reasons. By George I had reasons. The stories were funny and engaging, too. News of my distaste spread like fire ants through my group of friends and soon none of them could think of an Asian man without remembering my horror stories of lizard kissing and smegma plugs stuck to my back. It was a grand old time.
Funny how I mostly avoided telling that rape story, though.
The truth is, I never hated Asian men. I had trauma associated with experience and used an accepted avenue: racism, to vent it.
Because vulnerability wasn’t as kosher as racism was.
It wasn’t safe to talk about how trapped and helpless and fucking violated I felt, it wasn’t worth the potential silencing, being mishandled, to open myself up and express my frustration and regret in how my autopilot maneuvered my shock and being in danger.
There wasn’t a place, with my friends or in me, for the truth of my feelings. That I was hurt, that I was injured, and that I had lost faith in doing a kind of healing work that I valued and had been truly gifted at.
Racism was how I coped.
Even after I had my big racism get and I was fiercely tackling my automatic neuroassumptions about Black people, I hung onto my distrust of Asian men. I backed it up with cultural criticism of how they treat women ‘over there’, I made myself feel all smart and rationalized about it, and for a while, I even dropped the “I’m not racist” for “I know I am racist.” and kept on keeping on like that for a bit. For real.
What allowed me to begin to heal my prejudice around Asian men (I say begin because I am still on constant alert for it, though it looks very different now when it shows up – like a toilet bowl in need of a new blue bleach cake thing after lotsa flushes) wasn’t even race related: it was addressing my internalized misogyny, including how I devalued and shamed myself for being a sex worker, by healing my issues with my mother.
Of many things that were passed down through my parents, my mother passed internalized misogyny down to me, and then behaved in a manner that allowed me to corroborate why all women were hateful deceitful lying abandoning bitches (my dad helped). The hurt wasn’t about race, it was about my response to being violated by someone else’s choices being to, frankly, hate myself for it.
Of course it wasn’t only from my parents that I developed these tactics and beliefs – we are all steeped in it as a culture – however, when I got to the place in my healing work where I started working on my family of origin stuff, the murk in my race water cleared drastically. It was the combination of absorbing, listening and learning about the struggles of Black women, and being in my own therapy, that did it.
And this brings me to the thought I want to leave you with; I want you to consider that not only are you racist, (Spoiler alert: You are.), but I want you to consider that you are racist because of trauma.
I want you to consider that racism in and of itself is derived from pain and hurt and heartache that’s been buried and mutated – whether by direct experience like mine with Asian men, or by osmosis like the Black and Brown racism that I inherited from people around me, or potentially by something that may have absolutely nothing to do with race at all.
I want you to consider that racism as a systemic civil structure (and as a climate you learned to cope within) is also perpetuated and sustained by our inability and unwillingness to process our traumatic experiences. To believe we are superior than weak people who need that kind of help and guidance.
And I want you to consider that perhaps one way to transform your confusion and frustration and guilt, to rise above the status quo, is to split off a thread or two, and invest in healing yourself, for real.