A heavy and divided heart this week
On violence against Asians and our internal divide, stories of the rich & famous, on empathy and sympathy, and a dose of mindfulness
|Steven Wakabayashi||Feb 12||1|
The past week has been quite rough.
In the last week, there has been a rise in hate crimes against Asians once again. A man was slashed across his face in New York City, a 91-year-old man was shoved into the ground in Oakland Chinatown, and an 84-year-old man was body-slammed to death in San Francisco.
While it seems quite obvious to stand in solidarity against such heinous acts, the Asian activist community is quite divided about this.
On one side, you have grassroots Asian social media channels (like Next Shark) relentlessly dedicated to sharing breaking news to protect the Asian, and on the other, Asian activists rallying against sharing these stories that feature Black perpetrators to not incite racist rhetorics.
It is extremely unfortunate that many of the crimes were committed by Black individuals, especially as we are still trying to address anti-Blackness in America. There is no single solution to solve POC vs. POC crimes. They are extremely complex and multi-layered, with intersectional considerations of cultural, economical, and psychological nuances. Violence is wrong. Racism is also wrong.
There has always been an internal divide within Asian communities - East vs. Non-East, country vs. country, liberal vs. conservative, new vs. old generation, and it seems to have gotten more pronounced during this time. During the rise in the BLM movement, we saw outcry from the younger generations calling out racism and political partisanship of their older family members, further widening the gap between Asian communities.
While I do agree racist tropes must be dismantled, some of our Asian activists have taken on aggressive roles in canceling other Asians. As we take a step back and examine privilege, and really take a look at privilege, we see that privilege was not ever ours to be passed down. We still are the minority, hold few positions in office, make significantly less than our white colleagues, and are not prominent figures in media. Yes, it's already been 3+ years since Crazy Rich Asians was released.
The BLM movement was a necessity for Black activism, but it had also opened doors for white adjacency with Asian activists. At protests and panels, these Asian activists were applauded by standing side by side with their white compatriots. At home, Asian activists were encouraged to call their family members out, as their white predecessors had done. And now, it seems many Asian activists are struggling to find a balance between standing for their own community and a movement that had connected them directly with white allyship.
Sidenote: our internalized racism is not for the white community to own. Rather, this is something that most, if not all, POC within a white society must address through self-growth and reflection.
When we assume that crimes are perpetually tied to race – that the attackers were pre-destined to make moral mistakes based on their environment, is racism in itself. Our Black community is not a monolith and we must be extremely wary when we pass these racial generalizations, even when we come from a well-intentioned place. We can condemn violence, understanding that this is not representative of our Black community.
Otherwise, if we begin to use circumstances around us to avoid calling out against humanity, we are bound to repeat history once again.
Many wars and genocides were started by leveraging existing broken systems to encourage violence. In WWII, the Nazi regime had recruited many soldiers through threats on their families (we see the same thing with Trump and the GOP). In the mass genocide of Muslims in both Myanmar and China (still going on), Myanmar and Chinese governments leverage scarcity of resources and recruit militia with income, shelter, and food. The moment we treat human lives to be dispensable for our own survival, we enter a zero-sum game. Our cooperation with one another is the only thing that can move us away from these sinister devices.
Racism is a disease that has plagued us for countless generations. In silence, we become the most vulnerable.
To break out of the cycle of violence, we must move in the opposite direction of death. Performative activism and allyship only shroud our path toward liberation.
The only way forward… is life.
PS - wishing everyone a happy lunar new year today. Please stay safe and healthy during this time.
Some stories to lift our mood:
What I’m up to
For Clubhousers: Sunday, Feb 14 @ 1p ET- Living Queer & Melanated: Decolonizing intergenerational trauma (add me @wakuu and I’ll ping you in)
For queer Asians: Sunday, Feb 21 - Yellow Glitter Sparkes, Gaysian support group
For Asians: Sunday, Feb 28 - Asian American Healing Space
For queer POC: Tuesday, Mar 9 - Digital accessibility masterclass
True lives of the rich & famous
Just finished listening to the Audible book of Mariah Carey's autobiography and it was absolutely breathtaking. I highly recommend the audiobook over the book as she sings her own songs in the book, adding a dimensionality that you wouldn't find in reading. Had no idea her life was so tumultuous and I deeply empathized with many of her experiences. This type of authenticity is what we need more of, less perfectly curated social media feeds.
A beautiful animated short video narrating Bryné Brown’s incredible talk on empathy and sympathy.
Sympathy = “I see your pain”
Empathy = “I feel your pain”
As always, thanks for reading!
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Have a beautiful day!