Greetings Dear Community,
What violent times we are surviving.
We are once more aggrieved as news floods in about the mass shooting of eight people in Atlanta. Across the country, the pervasive fear and profound vulnerability that Asian Americans were already feeling due to a surge in racism during the pandemic has been exponentially compounded in learning that six of the victims were Asian women.
While devastating, it shouldn’t be surprising. This is what happens when those in positions of power and trust initiate a sustained campaign to racially scapegoat people. This time last year, after weeks of downplaying the threat of the virus, Donald Trump and his administration changed course and used a heinous tactic: they branded the pandemic calling it “the China virus.” Between March 16 and March 20, 2020, he used the term over twenty times in public briefings. At a time when every human being on the planet was vulnerable to this global threat, when we could have banded together globally as one humanity, the administration deliberately depicted the coronavirus as a foreign threat, activating xenophobia and a knee-jerk jingoism that spread, well, like a virus. It wasn’t long before Trump—then a sitting president—deployed another moniker for the virus: on June 24, 2020 he said it should be called the “kung flu.” Too many people found this hilarious. Anyone who has studied genocide and histories of racial internment, however, was aghast.
We immediately recognized the hallmarks of a deadly recipe - a fearful, ignorant public, a racially vulnerable population characterized as foreign and “other,” and a time of anxiety and uncertainty due to the pandemic and its’ profound impact on our economy. For over 15 years I have trained people in how to spot the slippery slope that can move like wildfire from casually venomous jokes to outright violence. It is incredibly hard to stop the momentum of campaigns like this after a certain point. Calls for accountability went largely unanswered or were dodged via elaborate communications schemes. Today, those responsible for inflaming racial hatred are comfortably immune to repercussions while those who were targeted are living in a state of fear and hyper vigilance. This cannot continue in America.
Victimizing people to avoid accountability for the administration’s massive failure to protect Americans from the coronavirus is not just morally reprehensible, it should be considered a hate crime. Anyone who went on to repeat the words that were spewed from Trump’s bully pulpit is an accomplice. Anyone who has allowed these words to circulate in their midst without rebuttal is complicit. We must see this behavior as it is: actively contributing to the creation of an environment that endangers lives.
As we face this national tragedy we must also acknowledge the profound injustice that yet another armed and deadly white gunman has been peacefully taken into police custody while police consistently use deadly force against black men for nonviolent offenses. As we prepare for Derek Chauvin’s trial here in Minnesota, this painful irony begs for perspective: Dylan Roof was taken to Burger King on his way to the precinct after murdering nine black people during their Bible study; George Floyd’s life was taken for purportedly using a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. Captain Jay Baker’s response to the violence in Atlanta serves as a reminder that many white police officers can extend their empathy and compassion toward violent white people but reserve a similar recognition of humanity when encountering African Americans.
If we are going to face down the virulent scourge of racism in this country, we must stand in solidarity with communities fighting for survival. Even as the black community is bracing for reactivated trauma surrounding the Derek Chauvin trial, we are asked now to dig deep into our reserves and show up with a profound and actionable outpouring of love for our Asian American sisters and brothers. Banded together we can focus our attentions when and where there is acute need, pool our resources, and speak with the clarity of one voice that denounces the racism and misogyny evident in these murders.
Fighting racism requires stamina, strategy, but most importantly love: a love greater than the hate. It requires a sense of shared humanity that is bigger than the fear engendered by those who use racism as a diversionary tactic from their own moral failings, greed, and ineptitude.
Our love, our magnanimity, our endurance is needed. We are sending love and support to the families grieving the violent loss of their loved ones and to Asian American communities across the country — we see you, we value you, we stand with you, you are not now and will never be alone in this struggle. Together, we rise.
With abiding love,