I was 5 years old when I encountered racism for the first time because I was “different.” At the time, I learned that “different” meant being the only Asian girl in my class.
Twenty years later, instead of getting bullied on the playground, I’m horrified to wake up to see people who look “different” like me, my friends, and my family, getting killed senselessly.
The Asian American community is heavily grieving over the murders of Delaina Ashley Yuan, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue. We are mourning because we know that the shootings in Atlanta go far beyond the headline and surface-level details that have been reported to the public.
1. We are reminded of the untold stories of our own parents and family members.
Whether you identify as a first, second, or third-generation Asian American, you know someone in your family who sacrificed and left behind their lives and everything they’ve known to come to the U.S. with very little and the sole hope of creating a better opportunity for their children, grandchildren, and future generations to come. With this, it has been absolutely heartbreaking to see the increase in hate crimes and incriminating racism posed toward the Asian American community.
Every family has a different story. For me, my family came here to escape corruption from an authoritarian society and hardships of war. Throughout my life, whenever I wanted to ask and learn more about my parents’ and grandparents’ experiences, it was always a topic that was all-too-quickly evaded until four years ago when I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam with my mom to visit her hometown. It was her first time returning back after about 30 years.
I realized then, it was easier for her to show me rather than to tell me. When we arrived in her hometown, we decided to visit her old home. I was surprised and heartbroken to find that it was left in ruins from the war. But nevertheless, she still spoke so fondly about the memories she and her siblings built together within those four walls.
When I think about what happened in Atlanta this week and the many more victims of hate crimes, my heart is heavy. I think about the selfless and untold sacrifices that my parents, grandparents, and millions of other families had to make to come to this country in hopes of pursuing a better life and a new and safer place to call home.
2. We still haven’t found a place to call home.
Home is supposed to be a safe haven and sanctuary. My family and millions of others have given up their homes and traveled to foreign lands to seek new opportunities that they otherwise would never have had.
Oftentimes, many of us are born into this world expecting a home, taking for granted that many others had to venture out and find one for themselves. However, knowing that our families have come all this way just put up with racist slurs, fight to receive minimum pay, and live in fear of hate crimes — and still not find their sense of home — is incredibly disheartening.
“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” — Warsan Shire
Despite all our families have been through, they still have not found a place to call home.
3. We have a multi-generational culture of minimizing.
During a time where so many are hurting, we’re still struggling because it’s up to us to speak up for ourselves and call out the many injustices. It’s a very isolating experience and this is something that cannot be fully understood without understanding our culture. A large part of Asian culture traditionally emphasizes the concept of minimizing ourselves, being selfless, and embracing humility — and we see our parents and grandparents actively practice this every day for as long as we can remember.
Millions of Asian Americans are infuriated but we have been trained from a young age to learn to be reluctant to speak strongly about our emotions because of how stigmatized it is in our culture. Traditionally, by way of Confucianism and other beliefs, an individual’s value is dependent on our ability to take care of our family and community. Thus, indulging too much in our emotions can deem us inadequate in our ability to properly care for our families — essentially, our purpose in life. Failure to demonstrate this ultimately creates a feeling of weakness which is seen as shameful.
Further, to know that something so horrific can also happen to the people we love most after all that they have done for us, and still be minimized by others because we are “different” is not just unjust but infuriating.
Now more than ever, we need your solidarity but we also need your help to speak up with us to fight for our own equality. Racism can’t end overnight but here are some tangible ways that you help to make a big impact.
Ways you can help
1. Bring awareness to the issue.
- Call it out.
- Reach out to your AAPI friends and coworkers.
- Bring attention to it at work.
- Educate others on what happened in Atlanta and why it’s a big deal.
- Educate yourself and others on the history of Asians in America.
- Respond to COVID-related racism.
- Seek out resources to combat anti-racism.
- Use social media and tag #StopAsianHate.
2. Be conscious of racism and act on it.
- Speak out against it.
- Actively make efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Educate others on the issues at hand. Report hate crimes.
3. Support your local and national Asian American organizations and businesses.
4. Actively find ways to be inclusive. Diversity is about representation but inclusivity is about making individuals feel valued, integrated, and heard.-30-