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The Milton Measure

Dear United Airlines…

by Lydia Yang on Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Dear United Airlines ,

Yes, I am an Asian-American student. No, I am not from here. No, those other Asians in the seats across from me are not my siblings. No, it’s not okay for you to walk up to me and say everything you know in your broken Chinese.

On my flight back to Boston from Green Bay, a flight attendant handed me a sprite and then continued to, or at least attempted to, strike up a conversation with me. All I can say is that our conversation is just one example of how I have had to deal with the ignorance of our society during my life. As unbelievable as it may sound, she asked whether she was saying a Chinese phrase correctly and if the Asian students sitting in the aisle across from me were my siblings. It is 2016, and I feel frustrated that I have to respond to such questions.

Although I was born in a foreign country, I consider America my second home and English my first language. Yet, all I get from this country is a compliment on how great my English accent is. I am sick and tired of answering: No, I’m Korean, not Chinese, or No, I don’t know how to say ‘I love you’ in Japanese. At one point in my life, these questions didn’t bother me–I thought guiding ignorant strangers towards a path of better cultural understanding was a good use of my time. But now, I think the attitudes of these “ignorant strangers” and my responses to their subtle, racist comments need to be changed.

I know that my flight attendant didn’t really mean to offend me. And I also realize that my polite smiles and less-than-grateful ‘thank yous’ allowed her microaggressive comments to continue. I should have called her out and told her that I was offended–and it is my fault for not doing so. It’s not her fault that no one has ever confronted her for being disrespectful, and it is not her fault that no one has ever asked her if she was related to the other white person sitting in front of her.

Subtle racism is so ingrained in our society that it has become a bad habit we just can’t shake. And, like all bad habits, it is often hard to acknowledge that there is even a problem. Sometimes, we don’t take notice of this racism because it is happening on a daily basis. I think that I have become too accustomed to ignorance and find myself accepting it in order to be polite, but now, that will stop.

From now on, I will not let you question my nationality based on my last name. I will no longer smile at your comments, evaluating me based off of my race’s stereotypes. You will not tell me that my name doesn’t fit my ethnicity, nor will I let you ask if I am related to that other Asian family with the same last name. That is why I have filed a complaint to United Airlines and will no longer stay silent.

So, dear United Airlines flight attendant, please think before you speak because what you said to me was unnecessary and incredibly ignorant.


An annoyed customer.

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Posted by Lydia Yang on Jan 22 2016. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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