#StopAsianHate: Feeling Suspended between Movement and Direction.

** Disclaimer: These opinions are strong, and my own. **

During a pivotal time in history when Asians across America were calling for activism and outrage, I felt nothing.

I couldn't name why I paused at the edge of our #StopAsianHate movement, and consequently, why I felt the need to remain silent during such necessary outcry. When I did search, I found an anger that seemed too complex and counteractive. I grappled with where that anger seemed directed: at us. At Asian Americans.

Brief historical context: online influencers, then the media, have called attention to the rise of Asian-American victims of violence in 2021, challenging the public to identify these attacks as hate crimes. This, along with the tender rawness of victims being elderly and vulnerable, generated enough collective outrage to (1) give national attention towards Asian victims of violence, (2) demand everyone evaluate their personal opinions towards Asian-Americans (which flamed when COVID-19 was linked to China), and (3) demand the awakening, unification, and participatory activism of Asians across America.

As Asian-Americans stepped into our roles, holding mountains of confusing, complex, and conflicting emotions, I found myself standing still. As social media exploded with calls for justice, "How You Can Help" resources, "Community Healing Circles," businesses expressing solidarity, well-intended-but-tone-deaf mistakes co-opting BLM movements ("yellow squares" and "Asian Lives Matter" being a few) – I struggled with judgment and frustration.

As the community exploded, I imploded.

When I got my fifth "Hi Jess, checking in!" text from a borderline stranger, I recognized the feeling: I felt trapped, forced into watching a remake of a movie that didn't need a remake, recasted by people who looked like me. If you were immersed in social activism during Black Lives Matter, #StopAsianHate unfolds predictably: white people texting me about their canceled vacations as a way to relate to my "tiredness," white people texting the only Asian person they know for "places to volunteer their children," Asian writers and facilitators demanding white companies "stop asking them to do the work," extensive book lists for people to "educate themselves" on Asian oppression, and so on.

I finally named the anger I felt, the complexity this presented, and what it meant for someone like me. So yeah, here goes.

Asian Americans exist in "otherness" even within the social justice movement, right? We are not Black, we are not white. We certainly experience injustice and oppression, ancestral and generational trauma, multi-faceted violence from white supremacy (especially from America) – but in ways that are very, very different from the black community. We are isolated from our own histories, both culturally and as Americans (which is shockingly oppressive, aggressive, and racist).

On the other end of the spectrum, we are given the privilege, protection, and upward mobility of not-blackness (and for East Asians, not-brownness). We are allowed – and encouraged – to celebrate our ancestral cultures, and our diaspora does not include the erasure of ancestry, tradition, lineage. (Except for the parts of "AAPI" fractured by European colonization, eg Phillippines, Polynesia, India, etc.)

What does this mean for us as activists?
What does this mean for us in terms of privilege?

Until recently, our collective activism (for this generation, in this country) did not intimately include the fear of murder or physical harm, the fear of losing our most loved and vulnerable to sudden, senseless, racially-motivated violence without lawful retribution. It did not shake us to our core, make us scared to go outside, make us worried for our relatives and our own literal lives.

And now, suddenly, it does.



#1: The Asians most shocked, most hurting, most broken open during this #StopAsianHate movement:

  • ...are those who GENUINELY believed that white supremacy didn't exist. Or that it protected us. We believed we were exempt from the same violence that Black, Brown, Indigenous communities have been naming, protesting, for generations.

    Me, scowling: Ok. Really? How's it feel? Good. Let that hurt radicalize you.

    I withdrew and resisted community engagement: I cannot find it in my heart to hold your (very valid) shock, traumatic loss of safety, traumatic loss of identity, and sudden fear of white supremacy during this time. Maybe someone else can, and someone else needs to, but not me. I got mad at gently prodding texts inquiring after my feelings: Go check in on your Asian friends who just realized what it actually meant to be a POC in the eyes of white supremacists instead. You can't help the feelings I have today.

If you are an Asian-American that falls into this category:

  • What does it mean to align with the word "privilege" during this time in society? It is extremely painful and anxiety-causing to accept that one was subscribed to "Safety in Proximity to Whiteness", especially when realizing Whiteness was abusive. It is important to do so, though, or else your activism will scrape surface-level, performative at best.
  • Make room for Shame and Guilt. Very painful emotions we immediately try to avoid with action, denial, or safety seeking. Recognize the impulsive desire to "make it right" or "present as a good person." Find room, as they add chaos to the emotions you are already experiencing.
  • Where "Educating Yourself" actually comes in handy: Learn Asian-American history if you haven't already. It isn't what you think. I had to seek out this information in college, and it liberated my lived experience. Allow that education to unify you with other communities demanding social justice.
  • Really reflect on what Anti-Blackness and Pro-whiteness might have meant for you before today. Because listen, something prevented you from seeing yourself in BLM. And pro-whiteness is deeply embedded in Asian culture back home. There's layers to this. So name it in order to heal it.

#2: Asian-Americans fucking tired/angry at AAPIs might be those:

  • ...who have been shouting into the void for years, for their parents, friends, partners to name the common abuser and find outrage within themselves. And who received immense pushback from their own communities.
  • ...who have never found home in the AAPI community, eg, south asian, southeast asian, pacific islander, of a particularly cultural euro-colonized diaspora, poor, abused by the asian community, etc etc..

If you are an Asian-American that falls into this category:

  • Name all your feelings. Every single one of them. They can all exist at the same time, and honoring each separately will allow us to recognize which universe our responses come from. It is okay to name the anger. It is okay to feel conflicted. (And like me, it is okay to not know what to do with any of it.)
  • The blinding rage and sorrow we feel, the absofuckinglute unraveling of our cores when an elder with a bruised face or a concussed skull or a grieving family enters our memory, is going to need room. Make so much room. Find your ancestors and pray to them. Let it keep you anchored.
  • That's it. I genuinely don't know. Do you?

#3: The #StopAsianHate movement mirrors the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

  • And before this fuels anymore interracial resentment, remember: Our 1960's Asian-American Movement, which birthed our rights and identity as "Asian-Americans" today, was a DIRECT spark of the 1960s Black Liberation movement's fire. It didn't just fucking happen. We are repeating history.

    There is an opportunity now to deeply accept and internalize this opening for unity.

#4: All this contributes in some ways to the underlying resentment between Black & Asian activists.

  • The "Where were you when we needed you?" complexity, the "Choosing what you call racist is racist!" mentality. While many reasons form this, I believe this is one of them. If you fall into this category:
  • Avoid insulating within the Asian community. Instead of allowing the shame and guilt and fury to increase isolation and insulation within the Asian identity, recognize the parallels between your experience and the movements before you. There is one common denominator.
  • Acknowledge the truth: A lot of us showed up for BLM, but most of us didn't. Instead of shouting, "They should understand! Why aren't they with us?" there is an opportunity to note: "Fuck, this is the magnitude of what they experienced?"
  • If you're Black and reading this, and you're mad at us too, it might help to familiarize with Asian-American history as well. Because all of it points to white supremacy, and how we've been systemically pit against each other while also oppressed and murdered by law. History is just repeating itself.

#5: Movement is just movement without a sense of direction.

  • What are we calling for? Collective outrage, but then what? What about those of us who has been outraged this whole time? What's our plan? I feel an unwillingness to contribute to all this amplification, because without a plan it feels like noise. In a burst of anger, I shouted that this movement felt like an MLM - just collect as many angry people as possible, for the sake of getting people angry. That's it, that's the engame – "I've done my job." NOW WHAT?


*Deep breath. Adjusts hair.

That's it.

In the meantime, stop texting me to check in on me, or to "challenge my activism" and "gently call me in." If you know me personally, you know how long I've been involved in Asian Anti-violence coalitions and Black Anti-violence and Anti-X-violence. I'm not interested in having panel discussions or putting up carousels or sharing volunteer resources today. I respectfully decline <3

That's it. I'm sure this is all a necessary part of awakening, but I felt overwhelmed by my vague, complex, conflicting emotions. Perhaps I'll just direct future inquiries to this entry.

Welcome to the world, it's fucking scary here. Now what's the plan?

-Jess S.


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