Over the past few months, I've felt some high highs (spring weather has arrived across the country, the vaccine rollout far exceeded Biden's original bold commitment of 100 million in the first 100 days) and some devastatingly low lows (multiple mass shootings, violent anti-Asian hate crimes and anti-Asian racism rising at staggering rates, the senseless shooting of Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man, and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy in Chicago, U.S. representatives attempting to pass a record number of anti-trans legislation). It's led to a form of emotional whiplash. While 2020 was a dumpster fire, 2021 has proven to be similarly heartbreaking and frustrating... especially for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. While xenophobia and anti-Asian racism are not new in the U.S., the sharp rise in hate crimes and bigotry are direct results of the dangerous rhetoric displayed around COVID-19, with phrases like "Kung-Flu" and "Chinese virus" used regularly, most notably by the former president.
It goes without saying that any form of violence, harassment, or hatred against the AAPI community shouldn't and cannot be tolerated. Antiracism is rooted in the liberation of all marginalized identities, and in past iterations of this series, I've neglected to share content that is focused on the Asian American experience. I'm course-correcting that oversight now, and will continue to elevate voices that deserve to be heard moving forward.
While I've deemed the following six posts as the most influential to me, this is, of course, a fraction of what's out there. If you have the emotional energy, I'd love for you to share the most powerful post, video, graphic, or photo you've seen in our Facebook Group so we can continue to elevate the individuals and communities who have been silenced for far too long. Here are six of the most impactful things I saw on social media over the past few weeks:
Most impactful quote: "As a Korean American, I can speak volumes to the type of racist microaggressions I've dealt with my whole life, the long enduring history of oppression AAPI communities have faced, and the systemic hardships and experiences that result from this, but I can't emphasize enough the enormous impact the model minority myth not only has on AAPI, but the devastating effects it has had on the oppression of our fellow minorities. The perceived success of our communities is still actively being used as a scapegoat to discredit the systemic oppression of BIPOC."
Courtney is a talented artist and graphic designer who creates educational resources in support of social justice advocacy. Though this one is from April 2020, it felt worthy of sharing, since the model minority myth is a crucial piece of the white supremacy puzzle (this recent post by Kim Saira is also informative and breaks it down thoroughly).
The gist: The model minority myth is a form of systemic oppression that not only perpetuates a narrative that all Asian Americans are universally superior to other marginalized communities, but also pits them against each other. It reinforces monolithic stereotypes by lumping all Asian cultures into one and erases the differences between Asian ethnicities and individuals. It invalidates the enduring hardships of Asian people and holds them to a higher standard, which in turn is used as evidence to reject or minimize the impact of racism and discrimination on BIPOC in the United States. TLDR? It's bullshit and needs to be debunked.
Presumably, if you've made it this far into the blog post, you, like me, want to find ways to support your Asian family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers from harassment. You also, like me, may want to feel as prepared as you possibly can be to take action and avoid being silent out of fear, confusion, or helplessness should you witness any form of violence. Acronyms have always been a helpful tool for me, and this thoughtful post, which I saw on more stories than I can count, makes intervention tactics digestible (the 5 D's are Distract, Delegate, Document, Direct, and Delay), provides useful context, and prioritizes the needs and safety of the victim of the hypothetical hate crime. Swiping through these slides and this post is a great place to start.
I encourage you to take your allyship a step further (let's do it together!) and enroll in a short course on bystander intervention. I'm not proud to admit how long it took me to sign up for Hollaback!'s training. After three friends shared it, I finally noticed the urgency in their messages, and registered for their free workshop, which I found extraordinarily helpful. If you can spare an hour, join me.
Late March, I came across a tweet thread by Montrell Thigben (on this post) listing the countless examples of oppression the AAPI community has endured throughout U.S. history. If you feel like you're infinitely scrolling to reach the end of it...that's kind of the point. He credited @bluecherryemoji, who had compiled the original list on Instagram and, as I registered each new-to-me act, case, riot, etc., anger simmered inside me. Then came resentment that the Asian American experience was conveniently absent through all my years of school, followed by frustration that our systems fail to take the opportunity to emphasize the various ways the U.S. has discriminated against BIPOC (and methods to correct them), and eventually the disappointment that I hadn't taken it upon myself to learn about them more independently.
To widen my perspective and understanding, I'm committing to research one of the injustices above per week (here are a few places to start!) and expand my education to be more inclusive. As an aside, I'm also going to be supplementing it with deeper dives into the Asian practices and foods I've come to enjoy (like gua sha, Japanese green tea and boba). The more I read, the more I recognize the ways the western world has exploited and commodified the elements of AAPI culture that we've deemed acceptable without honoring their origins or traditions. I want to be part of the movement that supports marginalized communities holistically, whether it means learning about their skincare techniques or the cup of matcha I order at a local coffee shop.
Most impactful quote: "The American Dream turned into a nightmare. I'm losing sleep, getting white hairs, is my grandpa gonna get assaulted right there? Let's face it: We watch the news and energy is just wasted. Four years with a leader that's xenophobic and racist. And now we're back to basics."
If you spend two minutes watching anything today, let it be actress, comedienne, and writer Sherry Cola's moving and emotional poem. I admire anyone who can turn pain, grief, and rage into art, and her words have stuck with me since I first heard them a few weeks ago. I'd elaborate but frankly, she says it all so much better than I ever could.
Most impactful quote: "I am horrified at the events of last night. I am horrifically not surprised, as I dreaded and anticipated a day like this would come as a crescendo of the anti-Asian violence that has been happening everywhere."
Minna is a friend of Leslie and mine, a contributor for cupcakes and cashmere, and damn does she always have a way with words. Which was fitting for this post, where she outlines the importance (and dangers) of the language we choose when reacting to hate crimes or any manifestation of all the oppressive -isms. Like most of her writing, this hits you right in the gut.
Anytime tragedy hits, and specifically when it targets a group based on race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, it's safe to assume the deflection and attempted distraction won't be far behind it. After the shooting in Atlanta (which was racially motivated), excuses like "well, massage parlors are a front for sex work" began trickling in almost as quickly as the news itself was picked up. These statements are an attempt to divert attention away from the root of the problem: racism and misogyny, working together to uphold white supremacy.
Minna's post touched on something I hadn't considered – that certain reactions from non-BIPOC, whether it's shamelessly minimizing the devastating event or an initial wave of sorrow followed by inaction, are likely due to guilt (consciously or unconsciously) that they've protected and participated in a system that upholds that kind of inhumanity. And she's right. Our words and responses matter, and work needs to continue to be done to dismantle the behavior that rewards us for laughing at racist jokes, staying quiet when we hear a sexist comment, or even closing the door on someone who has been brutalized.
Most impactful quote: "Historically, Hollywood’s portrayal of marginalized people is almost always rooted in a complex mess of reductive stereotypes, caricatures, and misinformation, reflecting a hard truth about America and its legacy of racism."
Throughout this year of racial reckoning, I've had many, many eyeopening and perspective-shifting experiences. Swiping through this carousel of scenes was one of them–seeing so many examples, spanning decades, of various TV and film reinforcing harmful Asian stereotypes was tough to watch.
After more research on the topic, I learned that there's a long history of this kind of "othering" and hyper-sexualized portrayal of Asian women in media, many of them in movies I've loved. While they may seem harmless, without critical discourse, these tropes become normalized and run the risk of perpetuating ignorance. They've fueled objectification, sex industries that exploit Asian women, and fetishization that leads to dehumanization–and in some cases, violence. The intersection of their race and gender makes Asian women particularly vulnerable; 41 to 61 percent of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, which is significantly higher than any other ethnic group.
I'll be honest...I feel a bit helpless when it comes to making major change here. But I'm willing to stop supporting entertainment that reduces the AAPI community to stereotypes, and speak up when I do.