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  • Nick Buto

Hawai‘i Student in California Reflects on Racial Discrimination

(Originally published in the May 2021 issue of The Friend.)

Nick Buto, student, Chapman University

Growing up in Hawai‘i, I did not face any racial discrimination for being Asian. I was used to seeing people who looked like me and who shared similar cultural traditions. When I moved to California for college, I noticed that there were not many Asian students, but I still felt comfortable and welcomed. When the Black Lives Matter movement surged over the summer with the death of George Floyd, I found it hard to comfort my Black friends. I could not relate to what they were going through beyond a superficial level, and I could only offer words of support and comfort. With the recent uptick in Asian hate crimes in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic that was fueled by racist language expressed and encouraged by some public leaders, my Asian friends and I subtly increased our awareness of our surroundings, but never felt any real danger here in Hawai‘i.

However, it was not until the recent shooting in Atlanta where Asian women were targeted and murdered that I felt scared for being Asian. Imagining that one of those women could have been my mother sent an unfamiliar scare through my body. For the first time in my life, I feel the unjust pain and fear of being hated against because of my Asian heritage.

With the intent to return to California to resume in-person classes in the fall, I now think about how my lifestyle may change. I may not feel comfortable running alone at night, or I may not want to shop alone. This fear that has stemmed from the recent Asian hate crimes is something I am not used to, but is a sad new reality many Asian Americans must now face.


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