I made a total of 32 unique posts this month about Asian American history.
It started several months back, when I realized no one outside of my Asian American community seemed to be seeing the violence we were enduring. If I’m being honest, it was an idea born purely out of frustration. My thought was, maybe if people were more educated, maybe then they would see how this isn’t new. Maybe then they would better understand the historical racial trauma we are re-experiencing right now because of language and rhetoric. Maybe if they learn, maybe they will care…. maybe they could care.
Then Atlanta happened.
Then. Atlanta. Happened.
I’m not sure how long it took for my throat to loosen after Atlanta. It felt as though my heart was trying to escape my body. It felt as though I didn’t deserve to contain a heart any longer.
You see, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt absolute sorrow for the lives who were stolen from our world because of a man who claimed them as objects of his sexual fantasy and nothing more. I felt even more distanced from my community when I felt I needed it most. I felt anger and distance from my estranged mother, and in some ways from myself. I also felt disbelief that it seemed so difficult for others to understand that this horrendous act could be sexually motivated AND racist in nature. It’s like the world forgot how complicated humans can be. I felt immense anger at the media for how they intentionally spun language to classify these women (in particular) as less than human. You have to understand, if they are impure then they are somewhat to blame for the harm that fell upon them. If we can see them as morally flawed, then they are less than human, they are less like us. They are not people like us, people with morals, people who matter. And if they don’t have morals or matter, then we don’t need to care.
I also felt guilty. I felt abhorrently at fault for not having done more in the past year. Yes, I posted a few times throughout the year about the atrocities we were facing, but I also held back. I held back out of pure self-serving intentions. I held back because I knew I would lose your interest. I knew only a few would follow, or read, or care. I knew if I posted more than the algorithms and attention spans could handle that I would get tuned out. I thought that a few interactions on a post would raise more awareness than no interactions on hundreds of posts. I thought I was beating the odds by limiting what I shared and how often. I thought it was a better way to raise awareness.
So yes, I felt guilty. I felt like I should have been screaming from the start. I should have been telling you all that WE are hurting. AMERICANS ARE HURTING. We belong here, we are one of you. And we need YOU. We need you to hear us, we need you to care. We need YOU to speak to your people. Speak to your families, your friends, tell them we matter. Tell them their words matter. You must tell them, because they will not listen to us. They will not hear us, because we are the others. They don’t see us as one of them. We are the forever foreigners and they don’t have to care about us. But, I didn’t do more. I didn’t say it as loud or as often as I should have. Not nearly enough anyway.
And then, Atlanta happened.
Atlanta happened, and finally I ranted for a week straight. I wailed, and I screamed, and I posted for days. I posted and I found myself on the defensive. I defended myself. I told people I would say what I needed to on my platforms. I defended myself from accusations of calling others racist. A word I do not use often, or lightly. I defended myself from men who messaged me violent and disgusting things. I also defended basic education and understanding against many who claimed they knew. I defended myself for speaking out against violence because it was being viewed as offensive. I defended other races against claims, using data and research that no one cared to hear. My pain, my hurt was seen as damaging because it was loud and often. I have never unfriended and blocked so many people in all my years on Facebook. I have also never felt so unsafe to exist fully and openly in my emotions in my adult years. I am now fearful of adding new people. Because I don’t know if they will turn out to be safe or not. I grew fearful of the pushback for being me. Nothing more and nothing less. Just me as I exist and as I need to exist. I grew to wonder who truly got it, who merely claimed to know, and who wanted nothing more than to create harm in any form.
I wish I could explain the exhaustion my soul felt for over a month after Atlanta happened. I wish I could make it make sense to others, so they would at least pause.
Just…. pause…….. to listen…. and not defend or disassociate from those we aren’t even trying to attach you to in the first place. Just pause.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
If you’ve been paying attention this month, maybe now you realize that Atlanta wasn’t the first time the Asian American community has been targeted. Atlanta isn’t the only (now) historical horror that has HAPPENED to us. Asians have been excluded. LEGISLATION was written specifically to EXCLUDE us. As citizens, and as humans. We were not granted the right to property, freedoms, or to being heard. We were called diseased, sexual fiends and threats, drug addicts, violent aliens. We were dehumanized, over, and over, and over. We have been stomped down and told to hush. We have been silenced. We have been blatantly ignored. These posts, this history, it hurts. It hurts to see images depicting people who came before me as predators, as violent ignorant pests, as sexual deviants. It hurts to see how Asians were methodically and consistently diminished time and time again. It hurt being diminished, like I have been recently, and wondering if it was simply a predictable repetition of history.
In the midst of all this, in the middle of an intentional erasure, we prevailed. No, not Asians, not even just Asian Americans, but Americans… all of us, WE prevailed.
Because of the horrors and the ongoing fight to be included, Asian Americans established what it means to BE AN AMERICAN. Wong Kim Ark fought to be seen as a citizen because he was born on this American soil. Because of him all people born in America are considered citizens. Thanks to Patsy Mink, we all have access to affordable childcare. She also fought for gender and racial equity, because she knew what it felt like to be excluded for loving a man who didn’t look like her. Anna May Wong led the way for Asian American women to see themselves on screen. No, she didn’t get the leads she wanted in media. But she paved a hard road for future Asian American actors, perhaps even actors like Bruce Lee who changed the narrative for Asian American actors. Mabel Ping Hua fought for the right for all women, except herself to be able to vote. She wasn’t considered a citizen because she was Chinese, but she knew that women should be given the same rights as men. She knew all people were created equal.
There were so many pivotal historical moments I could have shared. It was overwhelming to choose, to be honest. I felt I would leave out someone or a moment that needed to be known. I felt I wasn’t doing our history justice. I also saw you interacting, and not interacting. And I wondered whether it was making any difference at all. I wondered if this history was being learned, or even re-learned. I wondered if it mattered.
This has been a long month emotionally. May is always hard, but more-so this year. It felt ironic for May being both mental health and Asian American month when you consider how many in the Asian American Pacific Islander community are deeply devastated right now.
Beyond posting, I also participated in a great number of Asian American conversations and gatherings. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard my community say they are fearful, they feel unheard, and that they are at a point where they no longer know who they can trust outside of the AAPI community. I understand this feeling, and in many ways I’ve felt it. I’ve received hate filled messages. I have had people doubting me. I’ve had people telling me that “I’m posting too much Asian stuff.” I’ve felt fearful of those who may just never get it. I have wondered, is this just hopeless?
I say all of this, to say, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”–George Santayana
We are all condemned because so few know or understand the deep truths of our multitudinous histories. We are all condemned because these ignorant patterns continue to happen over and over in different forms and fashions against those with different faces, forms, and feelings.
You see, hate doesn’t always look like hate. That would make it too easy to identify and eradicate. That would make it obvious. Sometimes hate looks like a cage. Sometimes it looks like excluding others from spaces because they are different. Sometimes hate looks like not letting someone who is not like you sit with everyone else. Sometimes hate looks like ignoring the pain others are feeling because it doesn’t affect YOU so why should you care. Sometimes hate looks like small words being hurled by small minds with the hopes of hurting the hearts and happiness of others. Sometimes hate is an awful comment on a thread that never needed to even be said.
You all know how I feel about suicide prevention. The only way to truly prevent suicide is to reach the soul of a person and let them know they matter. To let them know AND feel loved without expectation, without judgement. Every person deserves to live in love and peace.
I’m telling you all now, love is not exclusion. Love is not limitation. Love is not legislation that eliminates life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. Love is listening. Love is compassion. Love is setting your feelings aside so you can show someone how much they matter especially when it means sacrificing for them in-spite of yourself. Love is larger than any of us, therefore it must accommodate all of us.
Love Lessens the hate found in History Lessons, but History MUST be told completely and often by those it belongs to, or hate will continue to happen.
Until we acknowledge and learn from the hate filled histories of all our pasts, we will never know the true limitlessness of absolute love.
I am an Asian American Woman.
And I love you enough to allow your pain the space to speak over my comfort, without interruption, indignation, or insecurity. Because your voice has value.
Thank you to those who have been paying attention. Some of you have stuck through the entire month and all the posts. Some haven’t. My only hope is that someone learned something, realized something, or questioned something they hadn’t before.
I made a total of 32 unique posts this month about Asian American history, who is YOUR Asian American historical hero now?
-Susie Reynolds Reece 5/31/21