Should I Check in With My Asian-American Friend?

By | March 25, 2021

Social Q’s

I Haven’t Talked to This Asian-American Friend in Years. Should I Call Now?

A reader wonders whether it’s appropriate to check in on a former colleague who is Asian-American after a year of targeted violence.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been shocked by the amount of racist political language aimed at Asian-Americans and the spike in hate crimes against the community. As a white person, I feel ashamed that I didn’t focus on this problem sooner. During this period, I have often thought about a Korean-American woman I worked with several years ago. We grew close and moved our friendship beyond the office (dinners with our partners and theater evenings, etc.). I’d like to check in with her now and express my support over recent events. But it’s been several years since we’ve been in touch, and something is holding me back. What do you think?

JOHNO

I don’t want to sound harsh here. Your heart is in the right place, and expressions of support can often bring comfort to those who are suffering. But if you haven’t been in touch with your friend in years, contacting her now may seem more like racial profiling to her — “Hey, I know an Asian-American!” — than personal support.

Calling or writing out of the blue may also be burdensome to her now. Last summer, during the Black Lives Matter protests, I heard from several Black readers that the volume of well-meaning overtures they received from white people they hadn’t spoken to in ages felt overwhelming at a time when they were traumatized and exhausted.

Now, this is not an argument against rekindling old friendships. Just do it when the impulse is centered on your friend (or your shared history), not current events. In the meantime, focus on actions you can take to help the Asian-American community, like educating yourself about the history and current circumstances of violence and racism, volunteering, supporting local businesses, or donating to anti-violence organizations. “Thoughts and prayers” are great, but there’s hard work to be done, too.

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Credit…Christoph Niemann

There is a woman in our neighborhood who still appears at the supermarket and post office without a mask. (Of course, both places have large “Masks Required” signs.) When confronted, she will say, “I can’t wear one,” but she won’t say why. There is a Tea Party flag flying at her house, so it seems more likely that her anti-masking is tied to politics than health. What may I say to her? I don’t want to start a fight.

JULIA

Oh, I suspect you have mixed feelings about starting a fight. And your argument for her motivation is flimsy. Still, I acknowledge that medical reasons for not wearing masks are rare; asserting a ‘freedom’ — to go maskless — at the expense of public health is indefensible; and infection with the more transmissible coronavirus variants is a powerful argument for staying masked in public.

By now, though, this woman’s position on masks is probably hard-boiled. And as an acquaintance, you are unlikely to change her mind or behavior. Why not focus on protecting others in your community by advising them to double up on masks? That may be more effective than sparring with your unmasked neighbor.

For about a year, I have employed a housekeeper who is splendid in nearly every way. She does a great job cleaning, and she is warm and kind. Unfortunately, some not insignificant items have disappeared from our home over the past few months: some very old ivory figurines that have great sentimental value for my husband and, possibly, some fine jewelry. How should I handle this?

ANONYMOUS

The flashing red light in your question is the word “possibly” in the next-to-last sentence. If you can’t say with certainty the last time and place you saw these objects, go slow here! Is your housekeeper the only other person with access to your home? Were the figurines on display until they disappeared?

Only you can assess your level of certainty. In my experience, though, my memory of where I’ve put things has failed me more often than anyone I’ve employed. Why not start by asking your housekeeper to help you look for the missing items? If they don’t turn up and you’re still uncomfortable, you’re free to fire her. But without greater confidence, don’t say a word about theft.

I pride myself on being a responsible dog owner. Not only do I pick up my dog’s poop, I also pick up litter along the street. I throw it into garbage cans both public and private. Recently, I saw a post on a neighborhood message board lamenting the fact that people are dumping dog poop in the poster’s garbage can while it is at the curb on garbage pickup day. He wrote: “Am I supposed to let it stink up my garage for a week? Don’t do this!” Am I wrong to use whatever bins I see?

ROGER

Of course you’re wrong! A homeowner’s private garbage can is not for public use even when it’s on the curb on trash collection day. And the message board post is persuasive in its reasoning: Would you want dog poop moldering in your garage until the following week’s trash pickup? Use your city’s public receptacles instead.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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