The last 24 hours have been incredibly difficult, heartbreaking, challenging, and infuriating as an Asian American woman. I am writing this with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. I’m not sure if the tears are coming from the anger I feel, or the complete and utter disappointment in our society.
Since the murders of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmud Arbury, and all those who have lost their lives, since and before, our society has been healing, discussing, and prioritizing accountability and action more than ever. This shift has brought to the forefront the importance of dismantling a society that is grounded in White supremacy.
About this time last year I had a huge wake up call. COVID-19 was rampant, and the leader of our country was throwing out terms like “kung flu” and “the China virus.” Fast forward to June and I was faced with addressing the intersectionality of the racial injustices towards the Black community and my identity as an Asian American woman. I felt it important to share my experience in the hopes of healing for myself and sharing my knowledge with my audience.
Today, I am sitting here feeling defeated and incredibly frustrated that I feel compelled to sit down and write another post. I do not want this post to take away from BLM or my previous message- we must continue to advocate, speak up, and educate ourselves on the racial injustices that continue to affect the Black community. But we must also address the lens through which we categorize the Asian community as a model minority. In the practice of intersectional anti-racism, this is not an “either/or” but about creating a space to identify and dismantle racism affecting diverse people and communities. Right now, there are people hurting and you are allowed to care about more than one thing at a time.
Over the last few months, the amount of reporting regarding the rise in Asian hate crimes has been exponential. It has been painful to consume, but unfortunately is nothing new and, if anything, is exacerbated by the blatant racism from our former president. The lack of response from all outlets of the media has been underwhelming and embarrassing. I do not feel as though the media has shed light on the amount of racism towards the Asian community and its damaging effects. The racist behavior and action has been brushed under the rug for something less than it is. It’s appalling and I am devastated that the lives of eight people, six of them Asian, had to be lost in order for anyone to take this somewhat seriously. I say somewhat because the media still chooses to make excuses and avoid responsibility to its audience to report the cold hard truth. Eight people were murdered, and the press wants to say that it’s because the perpetrator “had a bad day?” When I heard that, all I could think about was that this had to be a sick joke. People want to act shocked and surprised that something like this could happen. How are you surprised when there are reports every single day of something new happening? I want to remind people that hate crimes didn’t just start this year. Trevor Noah spoke out and he said “America wants to address the symptoms, but never the underlying cause.” This is the problem. I am sick to my stomach and my heart goes out to the families and friends of those whose lives were taken. My heart also goes out to my fellow Asian community and from the bottom of my heart I wish there was something I could do to take away the pain.
I cannot even count on my fingers the number of times someone has asked where I’m from before they’ve asked me my name. The amount of times I’ve been called Ling Ling or had someone pull their eyes back to mimic the appearance of mine. The amount of times I’ve been told “I don’t get why you don’t understand that, you’re Asian, aren’t you smart?” The amount of times I’ve been told “all Asians look the same” or asked “why don’t you have an accent?” The list goes on and on and while I’ve learned to “deal with it” oftentimes laugh it off, I realize now that by doing so, I’m part of the problem and this is what I’m struggling with the most. I was asking people to take the issue seriously when I wasn’t even taking it seriously myself. For those of you who don’t know, I am adopted from Hunan Province in Southern China and was raised in a White suburban family in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I love my family very much. I created an identity that neglected the Asian parts of myself and ultimately just swept that part of my identity under the rug. When I heard of the news in Atlanta I felt scared, sad, horrified, and angry, but I also felt guilty. I felt as though I didn’t deserve to feel so deeply and strongly. I had to ask myself, why did I do this? Why did I choose to let it go? I put myself in a box that society told me was the easy way to live. But that’s the problem isn’t it? The Asian community is continually put into a box to be contained. I am aware of my privilege and the White spaces I’ve been permitted to be in because I am an attractive Asian woman. This is not lost on me, but I want to acknowledge the privilege I had in creating a “safe” identity for myself. However, my privilege is not an excuse to justify the tragic slaying of six Asian women. I will not sit here and gaslight myself for feeling too deeply.
I want people to ask themselves, why is this still happening? A question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Society needs to do better, be better. It’s not complex. We need to address the problem before we can begin to address the symptoms. Yes, there is a lot to learn, to understand and digest the underpinnings of racism, but the overall action and intention isn’t hard. No one deserves to be treated as less, subjected to a hate crime, or murdered just because of the color of their skin.
The crimes in Atlanta were absolutely racially motivated, regardless of what the media chooses to portray. A white man took the lives of six Asian women because of his own issues deeply rooted in the sexualization of Asian women. Again, I am encouraging people to check their privilege, do what they can to donate, to learn, and to have the tough conversations they don’t want to have. Reach out to the Asian people in your lives. We need to dismantle the systems of harm embedded in our language, jokes, lyrics, movies, and headlines. There is no way for us to get better and do better as a society if these things don’t happen.
Below are a few resources that I’ve found incredibly useful in educating myself, as well as links to places to donate.
Google doc created by @Sasponella and @Minstantramen on IG and Twitter
Image above is created by @webtheurban