For the longest time, I felt like I was unable to dream as an Asian-American
I started this reflection a month or two ago. Truthfully, I couldn’t get myself to finish writing this. It was incredibly painful to type out our unsettling reality as Asian-Americans today.
This morning, I heard the devastating and numbing news of the killings in Atlanta. I quickly grabbed my phone and texted my family to be extra safe when out alone. Not knowing how to process the news, I turned to the only place that felt right. I pulled back open this draft and started to type out my feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, grief, and hope.
This reflection is here today because I’m worried about the safety and lives of my loved ones and broader AAPI community.
Growing up Asian-American, I felt like I was unable to dream. Not because I was incapable of dreaming but I was afraid to.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it started and where it stemmed from — all I know, it was a culmination of a lot of confusing moments that happened throughout my life.
Like that one time in elementary school, I was playing in a soccer game and I had a parent on the opposing team call me a “chink with small eyes”.
Like that one time in middle school, I had a peer spread a rumor that me and my family eat dog and bat meat.
Like that one time in high school, I had a teacher assume I didn’t have any questions in math class because I was Asian.
Like that one time in college, I ran for student body president and had a group of students tell me that I was taking up too much space as a non-person of color.
Like that one time I struggled to name a single singer, actor, business leader, politician that identified as an AAPI due to the lack of representation in mainstream media growing up.
Like that one time a friend of mine would say, “when you do this and say that it makes you too Asian”.
Like that one time I volunteered in a classroom representing the company I work for and had a student call me “Ms. Ching Chong” and “Ms. LEE Shin”.
Like that one time…
Over time, I started to view the acts above as less confusing but instead the harsh reality of implicit discrimination that many in the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community experience in silence.
Similarly, I found broader conversations taking place online that others in the AAPI have experiences like mine and much, much worse.
Since 2020, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have risen nearly 150% in major U.S. cities.
Stop AAPI Hate was formed in March last year to further prevent discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic. Through a report released on Tuesday, Stop AAPI Hate has received documented reports of 3,292 incidents between March 2020 to February 2021.
A topline summary of that report includes mostly verbal harassment and name-calling, or about 68 percent of those reported, while shunning, or the deliberate avoidance of Asian-Americans, composed about 20 percent. About 11 percent of the reports involved physical assault.
In one week
- Vicha Ratanapakdee, a 84-year-old Thai American man, was murdered in San Francisco for merely existing.
- Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino man, had his face slashed ear to ear in a NYC subway.
- Christian Hall, a 19-year-old Asian American teen, was murdered by the police.
- A 91-year-old Asian American elder was shoved to the concrete sidewalk and left to die.
- An older woman in San Jose was mugged in broad daylight.
Just yesterday, 8 Shot Dead at 2 Atlanta Spas, at least 4 were Asian women.
A summary of events tracked in real time here by Chloe Shih
Anti-Asian racism was rampant before COVID-19 related hate.
We must not forget about:
- The first wave of immigration & the People v. Hall
- The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
- San Francisco’s bubonic plague, 1900
- World War II & Japanese internment camps
- The civil rights movement
- Muder of Vincent Chin & LA Riots
- And so much more.
An interactive AAPI history timeline here by AAPI BeSpoken
What can we do, what can you do
Throughout my life, I struggled to identify ways I can make a difference in the AAPI community. It wasn’t until 2016, when I was a sophomore in college where I started to dream that I could.
I started a project with friends called AAPI BeSpoken. Our core mission is to address the lack of AAPI representation in the U.S. mainstream media and openly celebrate AAPI Heritage month.
With AAPI BeSpoken, I’ve seen firsthand the power of community and using your voice to drive change.
Action we can take: Explore #StopAsianHate — Fight Anti-Asian Racism and see the three buckets filled with information and important links in support of #StopAsianHate movement.
- Read about the current crisis of anti-Asian hate and violence.
- Raise awareness by sharing information with the media and your circle.
- Commit to anti-racist action by volunteering at, donating to, and advocating for all marginalized people.
Lastly, check-in with your AAPI friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors because many of us are not okay.