It’s been five days since the shootings in Atlanta where six Asian women were hunted and shot down by a White misogynistic terrorist. The press, from day one, has said they couldn’t be sure that the killings were racially motivated. The police department stated that the shooter was “having a bad day” and that his sexual addiction was what caused him to kill.
That is a shit ton to process through. So many simultaneous emotions: fear and anxiety for AAPI people I know in Atlanta, anger and disgust toward the terrorist shooter who is blaming his actions on the very women he slaughtered, rage at the media and police for further erasing and dismissing the victims and the fears of all Asian people, and even incredulous laughter at myself for being angry in the first place because this is something new? Because this kind of gas lighting isn’t the norm? Because these people don’t actually believe the shit that comes out of their mouth?
So much anger and rage, I felt like my head was splitting apart, and it wasn’t just at what happened in Atlanta. What happened made me even angrier at a friend I had had who doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists, that White privilege is a myth. It made me angrier at White family members who are so convinced that immigrants come over the border illegally to steal jobs from hard working Americans, but believe themselves to be good Christians who aren’t racist. It even made me angry at the well meaning White family members who, when I confronted their Facebook “friend” about calling Covid-19, “Chinese chiggers,” just deleted the post as if it would delete the ugliness of it all, instead of calling that person out. I thought, they did this! Every time a person chooses to hide it, to look the other way, who choose to deny millions of people’s reality, who gas light and blame, who are not actively anti-racist, they create the space for people like this White terrorist to feel justified and emboldened to do what he did. And what he did, was a hate crime. Let us be clear about that.
And I did this. I am a Korean American woman, first US born generation, and I believed that I was somehow safer at least from the more violent forms of racism because of the model minority myth. Because we are the “good minority,” we couldn’t possibly experience violence; they like us. I know who put that false sense of safety there, I know why it exists…but still, there is no denying that I benefited from it. It was easier for me to fit in, if awkwardly, into White society. I was the dog that was allowed to sleep at the foot of the bed of its master, while Black people and other BIPOC who are not Asian, were chained outside. I am ashamed to know that while I didn’t think of myself as White, I didn’t exactly want to think of myself as Korean either. And I know this is a complicated issue for me with many layers involving my family of origin, but the issue of race cannot be denied. And I have never been more aware that I am not White. That my daughter is not White.
We were in line for doughnuts the day after the shootings. Every single person in that line, except for one White man, was Asian. And I felt so much fear. I thought, “Are we making it easier for them to target, to hunt down?” And how do I even explain this to my daughter? It broke my heart that I couldn’t tell her she was safe, that this would never happen to her, because it can. And all because of what she looks like. How do I explain the very real dangers without stealing the joy and ease with which she navigates this world? How do I explain that I may one day be taken from her? And this one conversation that I had with her? It’s nothing, nothing compared to the conversations that Black people have with their children over and over again in hopes of keeping them alive. Just alive! We all deserve to be able to just be without the constant threat of harm that is White supremacy.
One person reached out to me, to check in on me and just ask if I was ok. And that person is half Black. Not even my family, who are White, checked on me, though in all fairness I didn’t give my mom a chance to. (I reached out to her and let her know how I was.) It was incredibly kind of this person to send a simple text. It’s not lost on me that this person, the only person to do so, did so because they truly understand what this feels like, because they’re half Black, which in society’s eyes means just plain Black. And I hate that they understand. No person should ever be made to feel this way. It makes me rage at all the people who buy into the willful, hateful ignorance that White is better, that they can do whatever they want and they will get away with it, because even if they break their own laws, they control the narrative. The denial, the gaslighting, projection and just mental gymnastics that they do, I just can’t understand. How do people not see this? Feel this?? How is it easier to lie, to turn away? To keep the “peace?”
No, I am not ok. But I will be. And that’s because even with all this ugliness, I still see and believe that people are capable of so much good, so much love. If we would just go inward, if we could be courageously honest especially about our most tender and shameful places, if we could take responsibility for the harm we cause without expectation of anything…then I think we could see that really, we all want the same thing. And that is to be seen and heard, understood and accepted for exactly who we are, loved and cherished just because we are, not because we do, and to feel the safety of such a love. And that is what we all deserve.