In remembrance. I have listed the victims in descending age order because in the Asian culture our elders are afforded the highest respect. The names are in white as it is the color of mourning in many East Asian traditions.
In remembrance. I have listed the victims in descending age order because in the Asian culture our elders are afforded the highest respect. The names are in white as it is the color of mourning in many East Asian traditions. Janey Wong

Dear AAPI fam,

Please protect your energy. We are not only dealing with the pain from the tragic shootings in Atlanta but many repressed traumas that have surfaced as a byproduct. I know many don’t even have the words to process their own grief, let alone engage in the discourse right now. If you feel the need to take some time off from talking to white folx, do so. We are not a monolith, so don’t acquiesce to anyone who would attempt to use you as a representative for the entire community. White supremacy is not our inheritance, and you don’t owe it to anyone to educate them.

Scream your lungs out to angry music, find healing in nature, order all of your favorite foods. Engage in self-care in the most basic sense, but also remember that self-care is a practice that must go inward. Really check in with yourself. Lean into your grief, your rage. Take a few days off of work if you’re in a position to do so. Mental health is still such a stigma in our community, and we need to get better at prioritizing it.

We must not fall into the trap of dismissing fellow AAPIs who choose not to abide by respectability politics, either in how people conduct themselves in general or now in their raw response. The model minority myth has sold the lie that we are uniformly smart and hard-working, and so anyone who doesn’t fit this mold becomes at risk of being disregarded both within our community and without. It is still unknown whether or not the women killed in Atlanta engaged in sex work, but they were slaughtered under that assumption because of the fetishization of Asian women. Sex workers deserve respect, and more critically, protection.

What I’ve observed growing up in an upper-middle class background with parents who are professionals is that there is a lot of classism in our community that hasn’t been unpacked. I see it in my mother, who in many other ways is very progressive, when she turns her nose up at houseless folx because it is so ingrained in our consciousness that houselessness and poverty are personal failings and not societal ones. There is also rampant colorism in our community. We are working against centuries of colonialism, generational gaps, and language barriers. Our immigrant parents and ancestors gave—and gave up—so much for us; we must work to be their bridge to better understanding.

Calls for more policing is not the answer. It never has been, and it never will be. Police do not protect communities of color, especially undocumented/migrant folx. The institution of police is rooted in white supremacy and only functions to protect that which birthed it. We must stand in solidarity with Black and Brown communities with whom we share so many commonalities. Fighting racism against our community does not mean we waver in our support for Black liberation. Our struggles are intertwined, and we are all not safe and free until all of us are safe and free.

Be cautious and nuanced with your language, especially the trending catchphrase “hate/racism is a virus,” which has ableist connotations. Dr. Subini Annamma elaborates in a Twitter thread:

“Using illness and disability as a metaphor situates white supremacy and racism as passively spreading. These metaphors evade the way white supremacy and racism are purposefully built into structures and strategically enacted. Naming racism and white supremacy as [a] virus or pandemic also positions those with illnesses, viruses, and disabilities as deficit, less than. It can in fact demonize disabled people which makes them more susceptible to harm.”

Dear allies & accomplices (know the difference, and know that any movement for change requires accomplices),

You know, one of the shittiest parts of all this to me is that when I first heard the news I didn’t think much of it. I had become numb. Watching the uptick in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes in the last year, and the last month especially, being met with a trickle of media coverage and a lukewarm response from white Americans, I came to expect nothing. We have been crying out for help for the past month plus… where were you?

If you find yourself at a loss for what to do right now, take it as a sign that the place to start is by educating yourself. Sinophobia and xenophobia in this country are nothing new, but have resurfaced with a vengeance. The notion that this is a surprise to anyone only speaks to a collective short memory and the fact that white supremacy has so effectively buried our history.

Check in with your AAPI loved ones, but do so with mindfulness. Please do not burden us with additional emotional labor. We may not have the capacity at the moment to respond. We might not have the energy to receive the floodgate of support, because prior to this, support for our community was so rarely given. Hold space for us while we work to process our thoughts and emotions.

Recognize that the uptick of productive social media conversations and resource sharing also brings on another wave of violence against the community. Gaslighting, “happy ending” comments, etc. from trolls, deniers, and devil’s advocates have flooded the internet. Shut that shit down.

What happened in Atlanta is the culmination of racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny, and more—structures that have been allowed to flourish unchecked and are deeply ingrained into every aspect of our society. It is reductive and harmful to pretend the problem is confined to your out-of-touch racist uncle or that one coworker who makes unsavory jokes. The onus is on you to not only confront your people when they exhibit toxic behavior, but also to confront your own internalized racism. Because it exists, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

Marginalized communities need you when we’re not in the headlines anymore—even more so. Learn Black history the other 11 months of the year. Uplift women and their accomplishments not just on International Women’s Day. Protect trans people and the wider LGBTQIA+ community. Inaction and status-quo policy are literally killing us.

Support The Portland Mercury

Solidarity means engaging in TANGIBLE ACTION ITEMS that will lead to change, not just telling someone “I’m here for you.” Quite frankly, I don’t need or want to hear another person tell me “I’m so sickened and disgusted about this.” That much should be obvious, and if the last year of racial reckoning hasn’t pushed us past this point, nothing is ever going to change.

Tell me what. you’re. doing. about. it.

In solidarity,
Janey

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