With heavy hearts, we recognize the violence facing Asian American communities, including the most recent incident in Atlanta yesterday. What happened yesterday has really struck an emotional chord with all of us here at NCAAT, and as a community, we witness and share in the collective grief and mourning during this time.
Last night, eight people were murdered in massage parlors in Georgia. Six of the victims were Asian. This is another tragedy on top of the anti-Asian hate that has been mounting over the last year.
This violence against Asian communities is not new. We just recently passed the six-year mark since Our Three Winners Razan, Deah, and Yusor were murdered in an Islamophobic attack in Chapel Hill. This racist and discriminatory hate is part of the fabric of our everyday lives, and it should not be. In the last year, there have been over thirty anti-Asian incidents reported in North Carolina.
Now, our community is being forced to deal with the rise in anti-Asian violence at the same time that we are suffering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that this pandemic has disproportionately harmed our communities and other communities of color. At first glance, Asian American communities may appear to be doing well, but we are not a monolith. The worst impacts of the COVID-19, like many of these attacks we have witnessed over this past year, have been disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable among us, including the elderly, low-wage workers, and people with limited English proficiency. Filipinx/a/o nurses are at higher risk to contract COVID-19. Nearly one-third of nurses in the US who have died from COVID-19 are Filipinx. Additionally, Bangladeshi Americans, many of whom are working-class have been contracting COVID-19 at higher rates. These examples are reflective of the broader inequities that are routinely invisibilized within our communities.
When speaking to the rise of anti-Asian violence during the pandemic, it is impossible to ignore the harmful and inaccurate racialization of the Coronavirus as “Asian.” Such racist discourse as espoused by the previous presidential administration links back to a much longer history. Dating back centuries ago, East Asians were lumped together as an existential danger to Western countries under the racist label “Yellow Peril.” And we also understand this violence in the broader context of Islamophobia and xenophobia, as our government continues to attack and otherize immigrant communities. People continue to be deported and caged, regardless of which party is in power in the US. Just earlier this week we saw 33 Vietnamese people deported, including Huynh, a 49-year old refugee who arrived in 1980 with his family after fleeing the aftermath of the war in Viet Nam, and Tien Pham, a Vietnamese refugee who spent years in a refugee camp and resettled in San Jose, CA, following the war.
This most recent attack in Georgia speaks to the dual misogyny and racism that Asian women face. Authorities have hesitated to call the Atlanta attacks a hate crime because the attacker seemed to have other motivations like “sexual addiction” and that the attacker frequented those massage parlors. This ignores the long history of fetishization of Asian women and sexual violence against body workers. This phenomenon has been referred to as “Yellow Fever,” often in jest, but with real consequences of violence, like human trafficking and murders like those we saw yesterday.
These examples demonstrate some of the ways in which anti-Asian violence is ingrained in our society. This violence takes many forms. What shows up in the form of interpersonal violence — from casual “jokes,” harassment, and shunning all the way up to murder — is a symptom of a larger system of state violence built from white supremacy. We recognize white supremacy as not only individual acts from a few, but rather a larger system we all live under, which has otherized people through rhetoric, discrimination, immigration policy, and denying equitable resources to address basic needs like housing, health care access, food, and safety for all communities of color.
Our pain and trauma are being used as a wedge between communities in the form of the model minority myth. We are incorrectly and harmfully lumped together into a monolith, effectively erasing our diversity and struggles. We refuse to be used as media fodder, as a tool in this system. We recognize that all oppression is connected and that we are not alone in experiencing this state-sanctioned violence.
Solidarity is the only way forward. We must recognize the connection between our communities and the violence we face each day, in all its forms. We cannot break these cycles of oppression without addressing our histories and healing our generational traumas. We must stand together and put forth community solutions that do not perpetuate these cycles.
North Carolina Asian Americans Together will be hosting a vigil tonight at 7pm to honor and grieve the lives of those lost due to anti-Asian hate. We will also be holding space for Asian folks to discuss and heal together. Over the next several months, we will have workshops about racial justice, immigration, youth mental health, as well as events celebrating our communities, our cultures, and our histories during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
NCAAT is also offering a safe space to report anti-Asian discrimination at www.ncaatogether.org/biasreporting. NCAAT will not release or disclose any personal information without prior consent. All submissions will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested.
Additionally, we have a crowdsourced resource bank for Asians in NC here.
We all hold and handle loss differently between generations, communities, cultures, and as individuals. One of the most revolutionary things we can do is to be graceful with ourselves and others during hard times and create moments to slow down, take a breath, and remember that we are not alone. Now is the time to hold the victims, their families, and one another in our hearts.