Meet Dani, a second-generation Filipina-American civil rights activist, writer, and musician. Dani also owns Sour Tiger Shop, a handmade, conscious accessories brand that serves to raise awareness on various socio-political issues while shedding light on Asian-American activism.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dani (she/her) and I'm a second-generation Filipina American civil rights activist, writer and musician. I own a socially conscious accessory brand called Sour Tiger where I sell handmade bracelets with different phrases to raise awareness on various issues I believe in while donating a portion of sales. The reason I started my business was to shed light on Asian-American activists from the civil rights movement while building a community of like minded people. I currently live in Philadelphia, PA where I'm studying law and politics, with criminal justice and prison reform as my main focus.
2. Microaggressions and covert racism are way too normalized and a daily occurrence for people of color (and sometimes expressed by people within our own communities). How do you decide to ignore it or respond back?
I think the hardest part of addressing microaggressions is recognizing them in the first place, specifically racial bias. Once I began discussing this topic on my social media people started messaging me to unpack certain situations. First, it's important that your feelings are validated, whether it's anger or sadness. I always tell people that it's okay to be angry. Secondly, I always find it best to ignore in order to protect your own mental energy and safety. Especially if we're talking about subtle racism in the workplace. If you're the only employee of color it can be difficult to navigate these situations without retaliation. Finally, I urge people to find healthy safe outlets to discuss these situations such as social media. It definitely makes it easier to deal with knowing you're not alone. If it comes from someone in my own community I have to admit that hurts me the worst. I'll actually make an effort to try and get them to understand their words or actions are harmful but if it gets to a certain point where I feel they don't care or don't get it, then unfortunately I'll just let it go and move on because it's not worth it.
3. Can you please share with us a specific situation?
I dealt with microaggressions a lot when I was working as a menswear stylist in New York. So many people would be condescending as if I was incompetent just because I'm a woman. In those moments I would definitely snap back in a petty professional way! For example if they asked where's the "man who knows about suits" I would make them feel stupid by letting them know I was in charge of the entire suits department. But now I'm the only Asian employee at a cultural (Asian) home goods store. I've never experienced the type of treatment like I get now. People have this odd way of trying to bond with me by talking about their experiences traveling but end up trashing the cultural traditions in the same breath! Most of the time I have to walk away, obviously I can't respond in the way I want since I'm working. But sometimes if I'm in a mood I will play dumb and say "I'm sorry, I don't get it" or ask "Why" over and over until they run themselves in a circle! But I've also noticed that certain people will come in the shop and completely ignore me. It took me a long time to accept and figure out how to process that.
4. How did that particular situation make you feel? Would you have done anything differently?
These situations happen so often that I'm almost numb to it now. But I will admit I still get angry from time to time because it's hard to deal with when it's in your face everyday. I end up channeling all that angry energy into my activism. People treating me like I'm less than only makes me want to work harder on making an impact in my community. And I'm always trying to raise awareness on what it's like being a strong, outspoken Asian woman in a world that tends to rejects us. Thanks to this country's foundation built on white supremacy, ignorance and mainstream media, many people expect us to fall into the negative stereotypes such as submissive, quiet, servant-like, etc. But I refuse to accept that and I'm going to let the world know!