I grew up in Beijing and China has a strong place in my heart. It was a wonderful place for an African girl to grow up in the ’90s. I have fond memories of making jiăo zi (饺子) with my Āyí (阿姨) in our apartment. I think of my Āyí every time I read about the victims of the Atlanta spas. And my heart breaks. This article is dedicated to them.
As we all know, over the past year, there’s been an alarming spike in racist and terror attacks on Asian communities around the world. CNN has reported a 149% rise in hate crimes on Asian-Americans in the United States since the start of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate has reported 3,800 cases of Asian hate crimes. In the UK, there’s been a reported 300% increase in hate crimes.
And these are only the reported cases.
Like many, I’ve been disgusted by the attacks on Asian communities around the world. Sadly, I’m not shocked, however I am livid. Asian-Americans are living in fear and anger. They’ve been calling out for a year over the increase in hate crimes against the Asian community. Under the Trump administration, their cries were largely unaddressed. Hardly surprising, given that President Trump routinely referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” amongst other names.
This is racist, xenophobic, and unacceptable.
These are words we can use to describe racism and domestic terrorism that AAPI communities have been enduring and it needs to stop. I’m not interested in hearing the law-enforcement spin of how a murderer was “having a bad day” or how he suffers from mental health problems. It is up to a judge and jury to decide the consequences of heinous acts of violence and how justice is best served when someone’s right to live and live peacefully is threatened. It’s upon us, as members of the public, to stand up for those who live in threat and terror. We can’t ignore it any longer.
We need to step up
Last summer, following the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, a large majority of non-Black people I know were silent (I’m talking 90% here). While I know they condemned racism in their hearts, their silence spoke volumes. I noticed that more than anything because their silence was the most hurtful. When you and your community are not directly affected by an incident of terror and racism, it’s easy to console from the comfort of your silence. It takes a little more courage and a lot more humanity to step out and comfort those who grieve. Use your privilege to help those who are suffering.
In the wake of the protests, I woke up one morning to this message:
…As a woman, a Latina, and an immigrant, I know how it feels when someone is racist towards you… I wanted to make sure I was saying the right thing — although it’s not about being right or wrong anymore. It’s about being here for you, and I am. -Excerpt from a text message on June 4, 2020
I also received this reply to my Instagram story from a White friend:
Yup. You should not have to educate us but I so appreciate that you will. I’m so sorry on behalf of us White people…. — Excerpt from a reply to my Instagram post on June 5, 2020
These messages meant the world to me and unfortunately, they were few and far between. I didn’t care to scrutinize their political correctness. I saw the hearts of my friends and I felt their empathy. When you’re directly affected by systemic injustice, you’re in the line of fire, and every day you feel the hurt of your community. A lifetime of that pain takes a heavy toll on your mental health, your emotional well-being, your relationships, and even your physical state. Pain and fear are a burden that many carry and don’t have the option not to.
Thoughts and prayers have no value if they’re not backed up with action.
Silence is complicity
We can all do something. Silence is the loudest sound in a room. Maybe you can check in on your Asian friends. Or donate $5 to an organization that’s fighting for justice. Support Asian-owned businesses. Send your Asian neighbor a text or call and ask them how they’re doing. Volunteer your time or special skills, go to that protest, speak out in your private and public circles. The list of possibilities is endless. When people know you care and are available, it helps them heal.
We cannot stand for these attacks and murders. We have to be better than this. We have to do better. We stand in solidarity with Asian communities and the families of all the victims of these atrocious criminal acts. Our duty of care as fellow human beings is to help one another and care for each other.
…thou shalt love thy neighbor. — Matthew 22.39
Otherwise, what the hell are we doing with our lives?
Dedicated to the memory of
Soon Chung Park, age 74
Hyun Jung Grant, age 51
Sun Cha Kim, age 69
Yong Ae Yue, age 63
Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33
Paul Andre Michels, age 54
Xiaojie Tan, age 49
Daoyou Feng, age 44