Letter to the Editor: My experience with drive-by racism



About three weeks ago, I arrived in the U.S. as a new international student at UK. Two days ago, I experienced something that I never want to experience again.

I was walking with a friend from W. T. Young Library to head to Smith Hall. Out of nowhere, I heard the word “China” from behind me, so I turned around to try and determine what was going on. That’s when I saw a college-age man roll down his window, point at me, and yell, “Go back to China,” three times. In fact, the third time was after he noticed I was watching him. Then he turned around and started laughing with his passenger.

I have had so many sweet experiences at UK. On the day of my arrival, some boys guided me to the International Student Office. On the first day of my program, one of my teachers gave us a very positive impression of the whole university.

All the teachers here are so nice and helpful. For instance, when they learned that I wanted to apply for the computer science program, they gave me a lot of information about the professors and the department. My roommates, a white girl from England and an African-American girl, my dorm assistant and my dorm officer all gave me the luckiest feeling of getting along with people from other countries. Everyone here has been so nice and kind; I have found so much happiness here, and I really appreciate that I have the opportunity to study here.

But I struggle with what happened — I am a new, foreign student, I am away from my country, and I even struggle with English. I really cannot describe the feeling I had at that moment.

I was so in shock when it happened. I could not remember the license plate number, and I was not sure about the make of the car. After checking the cameras, my dorm officer and a policeman told me that they saw the incident, but they could not read the license plate number on the car. That means I may have no chance to know who it was, and no chance to request an apology.

I really did not know what I should do next. I shared the experience with some of my friends who are Chinese and are now studying in America. To my surprise, some of them had very similar experiences, although the extents varied. However, all of them told me that I should let it go, forget it, and not allow it to affect me.

I know people vary in character. And I know that I have more important things to worry about than some rude person. However, I wonder if there is any possibility that, to some extent, our silence contributes to their unacceptable behavior.

I believe a majority of Americans do not support racism and will help if they know that it is happening. I also believe everyone wants and deserves respect and dignity.

I have been feeling terrible since this event, but now I am feeling so much better because I have realized that many Americans are willing to help me and they condemn the actions that this man thought were funny.

I want to tell any foreigners that this bad person does not represent America, and do not be afraid to ask for help from Americans. We should defend ourselves and be proud of our country.

Ziyou Shang is in the ESL program at UK.

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