AAPI communities ❤️
Let Her Speak A letter to my fellow Asian Women whose hearts are still breaking
Dear Asian women living in America,
Until this week, though I’d often tried, I wasn’t able to bring myself to tell my parents to watch out for the upsurge in anti-Asian attacks, in part because I can’t bear it that they moved to this country mostly for my brother’s and my sake. A lot of you have had this experience too, especially but not at all only during the past year, as we’ve seen and heard reports of Asian people being shoved, punched, knifed, hit with a sock filled with rocks, disfigured in a possible acid attack, and killed by strangers, as our elders are attacked and at times killed while they’re walking down the street, as slurs and hatred are thrown our way by everyone from online harassers to the previous president of this country.
Lately, every time I’ve heard about, read about, or encountered a fresh incident of hatred, the quiet refrain belling in my head like a chant, or a dirge, is: our hearts are breaking. I’ve found this frustrating, for who does it help, what action is involved in having a breaking heart? I’m listening more, though, today, to this refrain. Minutes after I first read about the attacks, I started thinking about what I should do, how I could be useful. Maybe I need to take another minute, maybe several minutes, to sit with this breaking heart.
I will carry for a long time, for instance, the moment I first saw the Korean victims’ names written in Korean. In hangul, which I associate with joy, with homecoming. With deep, good safety. It is the language written on the books in my parents’ house, on the menus of restaurants I turn to when I really miss my mother’s food, in the birthday cards my parents send, retelling me the story of my birth in Seoul. This time, the hangul marked the passing of women shot for what they looked like, killed by a racist gunman and by this country’s white supremacy.
For a moment, though, I want to go back to that flicker of homecoming. It’s not just that I love being a Korean woman; I also love that my life is full of Korean women. No one is more intimidating to me than ferocious Korean women, and it is part of my life’s work to try to more fully be one of these women. The prospects improve with age, I think. Our mothers are alarming; our grandmothers are terrifying. In my group chats with Korean women, when one of us has been insulted, a conversational leitmotif is that we almost pity the offending person—who is most often white, a man, or both—for fucking with us, for not having understood what kind of long-lasting trouble they’ve just heaped upon their own heads.
Read the story on Vanity Fair
Speaking Of… How racism and sexism come together to keep AAPI women—and all women of color—down
The only time I was ever in Atlanta, where six Asian women were shot dead on Tuesday, a young white man shouted "Me so horny" to me at the airport. And as the only Asian woman in the space, I knew he was talking to me. I locked eyes with him for a second and then rushed off to catch my flight back to Los Angeles. I was in Atlanta to attend the annual meeting of the Association of Asian American Studies, presenting a paper there for the first time. It was a big deal for me professionally. But what I remember most about that trip were a white man's racist, sexist words.
Tuesday's killings occurred at three spas in the Atlanta area. Two other victims, a white man and a white woman, were also killed. Investigators said the white male suspect told them that he has a "sex addiction" and targeted the spas to "take out that temptation."
"He was fed up, at the end of his rope," Cherokee County sheriff's Capt. Jay Baker said. "He had a bad day, and this is what he did."
Based on the reported statement, investigators have so far concluded that the attacks did not appear to have been motivated by race. As an Asian American woman who has endured sexualized racism all of my life, such ignorance enrages me.
Asian women, along with Black and Indigenous women and other women of color, endure racism and sexism in intersectional ways constantly, and they have throughout history. As lawyer Jaemin Kim argued in 2009, prosecutors and police may be even less likely to add "hate crime" charges in cases of rapes and sexual assaults targeting Asian women.
Read the story on NBC News
Say It Louder Sex work is care work
The day of the Atlanta massage parlor shootings, I had an appointment to microblade my eyebrows. That morning, I took the 10 East to Alhambra, California; the permanent-makeup studio was a sun-filled room on the second floor of a nondescript office building on the same block as an 85C Bakery and a 1950s-style diner with a FINALLY OPEN banner over the awning. For two and a half hours, a Chinese American woman named Judy touched my face—she drew on me with a brown wax pencil, held a length of black thread to my forehead, measured each of my brows with a bendy plastic ruler, rubbed numbing agent into my skin, and at last tattooed me—while I lay on the padded table with a view of the cerulean sky through the window.
By the time I walked back downstairs, a 21-year-old white man had shot his first four victims at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia. Two were Asian women workers; two were clients. I sat in my parked car in California, unaware in those minutes as to how the unfolding tragedy would soon become a ruthless flash point amid the rising anti-Asian animus that has attended the COVID-19 pandemic (the news out of Georgia wouldn’t hit the internet for another couple hours). I was a little dazed from my microblade session. Not because it hurt. The opposite: I hadn’t been touched by another person in months.
Here and there in the past year, I’ve high-fived friends and bumped elbows as a new form of greeting and goodbye. I’ve cautiously hugged my mother. As I recall, the last time someone touched me for longer than five seconds was in November, when the infection rate in L.A. County declined (the numbers surged again, after Thanksgiving). In that small window, I’d booked an appointment with Misun, the woman who’s been cutting my hair for years at the Kim Sun Young salon in Koreatown. Double-masked and face shield clamped on, she shaped my scraggly bob into graduated layers. I paid Misun for her aesthetic expertise, for her attention and care. I paid her to put her hands in my hair, to touch me. And because we are in a global pandemic, I paid her for the risk she took to do all of the above. She was the last person to touch me, in a prolonged and sustained way, before Judy.
News of the Atlanta shootings broke Tuesday night, not long after I had, per Judy’s directions for aftercare, cleaned my wounded skin and applied antibacterial gel. Following the spree at Young’s, the shooter headed south for Atlanta. He killed four more women there, all Asian, at two different spa locations. After his arrest, he confessed to the murders but denied any racist, anti-Asian bias. He blamed “sex addiction” for the violent overtures, the public executions a means to exercise power over his compulsion.
Both Misun, my stylist, and Judy, the microblade artist, are care workers. Their bodies—their hands—are necessary to their labor. Massage parlors like the ones targeted by the white gunman exist in a similar realm of personal care, like hair salons and permanent-makeup studios. These are all places where clients can pay for the intimacy of touch, the pleasure that touch affords.
The difference, of course, is that what we call sex work—a kind of care work that is criminalized and socially opprobrious—happens there. And because it is labor that carries the threat of penalization, the burden of stigma and illegitimacy, the women who do this work become simultaneously more vulnerable, while their essential contributions to society remain invisible, devalued. One substantiation of Asian American melancholy lives in this intersection. This paradigmatic conundrum might be applied, more broadly, to the attacks Asian Americans have experienced in the past year, from verbal assaults and racist epithets to grotesque physical altercations.
Read the story on GQ
More of This How to build Black and Asian solidarity
Najee Ali was surprised by the phone call.
A young mother of Asian descent, Sia Marie Xiong, had been found dead at an apartment complex in Compton. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had said it didn’t believe the shooting to be a hate crime, but with the recent rash of attacks on Asian Americans, the family wanted to push investigators to consider that possibility.
They needed help.
“That an Asian family called a Black activist,” Ali said, pausing in wonderment, “speaks volumes.”
Especially in Los Angeles.
Few understand this more than Ali, who has advocated for racial justice in South Los Angeles for decades. Just a few days before getting that phone call, he was at a ceremony commemorating the loss of Latasha Harlins, the Black teenager who, 30 years ago this month, was shot in the back of the head by a Korean merchant over a bottle of juice. That horrific killing marked a low point in relations between Asian and Black Angelenos, and the hatred and the division helped ignite the L.A. riots.
Ironically, it took another horrific killing — that of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring — to bring about the solidarity that’s increasingly evident today, particularly as Californians continue to mourn the six women of Asian descent who were shot to death in suburban Atlanta.
“I think there is this need among folks to react and be together and build community,” said Di Barbadillo, an activist with 3rd World Power, which works closely with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
Read the story on LA Times
More of This Too People of color are exhausted. And yet, we must continue to show up for our AAPI family.
This essay was written by Carlos Aguilar, Chief Content Director at ChangeLawyers.
Once again, I feel exhausted.
My exhaustion shows up in many ways: panic, anxiety, dread, anger, and ultimately sorrow. After the events of Atlanta this past week, I am once again reminded that to be a non-white person in America is to be in a constant state of exhaustion.
I can only imagine how my AAPI family might be feeling at this moment: a visceral, searing reminder that no matter how hard you try, you are always and forever not white. Folks like Shanon Maglente have written about the “helpless panic” they feel every time another hate crime occurs. Worse yet is the deafening silence that follows each attack. Sure, there are influencers and activists yelling from the rooftops, but for the most part, these attacks remain underreported.
After so many of us showed up in force for Black Lives last summer, why have we remained eerily silent until this week?
The fact is undeniable: the Black experience is singular. The discrimination Black folks continue to experience is this country’s greatest moral failure. I and all non-Black people of color owe a huge debt to the Black community. We owe Black women, who have shown up consistently election after election. We owe Black Trans women for their efforts in essentially kicking off the modern Queer Rights movement. As a Latino immigrant and Queer man, I owe the few rights I do have to the efforts of Black folks.
And yet, I can go harder for AAPI lives.
I can be both pro-Black and also hold space for the unique traumas of my AAPI family. And in fact dismantling white toxicity requires us to hold space for the ways white terrorism has traumatized, oppressed, and exhausted all of us. We need to talk about the fact that for over 200 years, our Congress has passed vicious, explicitly anti-Asian laws. And we need to talk about how for most of that time, our Courts have upheld those racist laws.
As a child of immigrants, my impulse is to make myself small. To put my head down and move on. But this is a myth. I don’t move on. I simply internalize the trauma. And that’s precisely what white toxicity needs to stay alive. It needs us to stay silent.
My hope is that by holding space for all of us to share our unique racial traumas, we can let go of some of that panic, dread, anger, and sorrow. My hope is that we can use this moment to collectively heal and let go of the exhaustion.
Read the story on Medium
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