This past week in my social psychology class, we just finished up our unit on prejudice. It was a two-week deep-dive into the subject, something that can’t possibly be covered in such a short amount of time. There is far too much history, social context, and detail that is involved in such a thing.
But I don’t think I need a class to tell me about all the definitions I’ve come to recognize and the reasons behind certain treatments I’ve experienced throughout my life. As a Black woman, I’ve walked beside prejudice and called those who acted with those sentiments my best friends. My community has been impacted by such actions many times over and will continue to be in the future.
Yet, my community is not the only one. As many people have voiced, crimes against any community are crimes against all of our communities; more than anything, I don’t think one idea can possibly explain the escalation of racially motivated hate crimes against Asians and the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community within the US in the past year.
This past week’s shooting in Atlanta, Georgia that left 8 people dead, 7 of which were women and 6 of which were Asian: Soon-Chung Park (박순정), age 74; Hyun-Jung Grant (Grant [maiden name: 김]현정), age 51; Sun-Cha Kim (김선자), age 69; Yong-Ae Yue (유영애), age 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33; Paul Andre Michels, age 54; Xiaojie Tan, age 49; Daoyou Feng, age 44. Ever since, there has been a large outpouring of grief within the Asian community as well as support from others. People are now attempting to rise against Asian hate… But what does that look like and is there more to this? After all, we have seen pushes to denounce hate and violence like this before, and in turn, how many of you have made lasting changes toward equity?
We still have more to do.
As Ava DuVernay tweeted, we need to do more than just talk about change and spread the hashtag #StopAsianHate. We need to take action and hold both ourselves and those around us accountable. Whether we believe we hold stereotypes and prejudices or not, it is common that all of us uphold certain ideas of other cultures and communities within our actions both within our conscious and unconscious beliefs. Our actions in some cases speak much louder than our words and truly, it comes down to paying attention to how we act around others and upholding change or support toward equity.
So, in what ways can we put in the work?
Mindset and Education
One of my experiences while pursuing my English degree was constantly analyzing literary characters and their authors for motivations, traits, characteristics, backgrounds, and reasons for why all of them were who they were. After all, knowing this and paying attention to the foundations of these people, fictional or not, was important because that impacted what they faced in the world, how they faced it, and the way they lived their lives.
In real life, we rarely take so much into account about one another… Instead, we judge people at face value based on stereotypes and oftentimes, prejudices. One of the major issues with that comes down to how we view Asian people as a monolith rather than a diversity of cultures, skin tones, languages, and origins. In limiting our view of an entire community and the smaller communities within, it becomes possible to group them all as “other” in the same way people often separate themselves by class structures or gender.
While this can seem somewhat harmless to some, it causes the erasure of the different cultures, lives, relationships, and histories within these communities among much else. It also normalizes the stereotype of the model minority myth that has been attributed to Asian people as a whole while allowing for the dismissal of the continued violence, social disparities, long history of hyper-sexualization, and countless other overlooked plights ignored by those outside the community facing such issues.
If we don’t educate ourselves on how we possibly enable the stereotypes that in some ways may prompt the violence that has occurred around us like it did this week, then we are part of the problem.
Maybe you are asking what you can do to help make a change around you and be more aware in ways beyond yourself and your education. Well, there are plenty of chances for that. One thing that can be done is if you are not part of the AAPI community, check-in on and offer space to your friends and your loved ones within the community—that being said, think twice about checking in on people you aren’t close with or those you feel you may not be on the best terms with. It could cause more harm than good.
Finding another option to make change is to step up when you recognize what’s going on around you. Intervening in physical violence can be incredibly dangerous, but how about social and virtual intervention? What about non-violent forms of hate? Sometimes, these incidents have very long-lasting impacts in disrupting communities and their foundations. Talk to friends about ways you can support them or their communities, but also do the work on your own and find organizations yourself that can show you how to not be a bystander. As a starter, here is one from Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) that has a final virtual intervention training still open for the 29th of April— capped at 1,000 people, there is additional information on their site.
One familiar way to make a difference that has grown over time is to donate money if you are willing and able to the organizations that are aiding in supporting the Atlanta community. Right now, many of them listed here are sending funds toward the families that have suffered losses as well as the shops that were damaged. Additionally, these losses are being felt throughout the community in Atlanta and there is also a lot going on throughout the US for those who are afraid for themselves and their own families. To support them and push for change, there are organizations listed here with information on the House of Reps hearing, how to send letters to Congress, and more ways to get involved in advocating for change.
We need to pay attention to our world around us because everything that has been set in motion, the allowance for disruptive hate and oftentimes violence toward minority communities, is a dangerous paradigm that has many people afraid for themselves and their loved ones. Yet, this fear does not come without pushback against the negative language perpetuated around Covid-19 associations with race and larger socio-political commentary that has become harmful; as long as we have the strength and ability to mobilize with one another, mobility and action is possible. As we have seen in the last year, people from different backgrounds can stand together to form new coalitions and spaces to be seen, heard, and supported.
We are not done yet.
For those of us not within the AAPI community, we have a job to do and people to support. For those within the community, take your space. Grieve, step back, get off social media, talk to your friends, ignore your messages, or take to the media, take up more space, and find your ways to get through it. Do what you need to do and know that you are not alone. If anyone needs resources for mental health and other ways to take action for themselves and others, there are plenty on this resource card. Your lives do matter, greatly. A crime against any community is a crime against us all.
No one should have to question that.
I hope everyone has some thoughts and actions they can take into the weekend. And if there is anything people would like to share, talk about, or ask, the comments are open. Have a safe weekend everyone, I’ll see you next week.