“𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗱𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝗔𝘁𝗹𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗮, 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗲𝗱 by 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗯𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱.”
I went through the day as normal.
And only now am I catching up with what has happened. Only now am I starting to feel any feelings.
I needed space to be numb. Space to feel at my own pace. Space to breath.
Interestingly, though, I don’t feel more upset than I would if this were a hate crime on any other race.
𝗛𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝘁𝗲.
On social media, Asian Americans were expressing their grief and distraught.
They were now afraid to go out by themselves.
They were ordering pepper sprays for their parents.
One stated she cried daily since the tragedy.
My own reaction surprised me: I was annoyed.
And then I was ashamed of being annoyed.
Why wasn’t I as mad as everyone seemed to be on social media?
Did I not care about my own people?
Was I being insensitive?
Was I being a coward?
Why was I not crying?
I felt like I wasn’t being Asian right.
It’s scary how quickly I can turn on myself.
But I took the time to sit in all of this.
I began to wonder:
Would we have publicly professed grief and anger if the perpetrator was Korean?
Does it matter whether or not the perpetrator was having a “bad day”? Whether or not it was a psychological impairment or a racial hate crime?
It would all hurt the same.
I grieve that Asian lives were taken unjustly.
But not because they were Asians. Yes, it could’ve been my mother, or sister, or any of my closest friends. That brings it closer to home.
But it’s not more or less tragic than any human life being lost to hate.
And then it made sense.
My annoyance wasn’t choosing not to care about the tragedy. It was my reaction toward seeing the ugly truth of racism and biases surface up in my own beloved community.
Don’t get me wrong; the killing of eight lives is absolutely to be mourned.
Children came home from school that day to the news that their mamas weren’t ever coming back from work. That makes me cry.
But if Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and the Orlando shooting of 2016 didn’t illicit this deep of a grief in us, it is clear that this is also a wake-up call for those of us that are only now starting to see the grief-worthy mess in our country.
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead!” (Ephesians 5:14)
I’ve been reflecting on the recent AAPI happenings, considering what our nation has been going through … the timeline of Black Lives Matter events, a global pandemic (the introduction of “Kung Flu”), a recent change of presidency …
And the long-awaited rise in concern I see in Asian communities (especially in my parents’ generation) toward anti-racism matters.
As a second-generation Korean who grew up in an immigrant church setting, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the moment we can talk about racial matters with the mothers and fathers in my community. I had been wondering where we would enter into the ongoing story, and what our roles might be.
While I am horrified and disgusted at all the atrocities happening to the AAPI community, it has also been a sober reminder:
We, Asians, do have a place in the story of America. Both in the pretty and ugly parts.
We do have a part to play and a responsibility to stand against the racism that has been playing out.
Beloved community, we were never exempt from all the ignorance and division that has been going around.
To my fellow Asian sisters and brothers, who have struggled with all sorts of mixed feelings these last few weeks: I am standing with you. You make sense to me.
I understand how Asian immigrant life works.
We were taught to not cause a ruckus. To blend in. To take as little space as possible.
We were taught to avoid conflict, to put our heads down and single-mindedly work towards success.
We were taught to stay out of other people’s business. Meddling and intervening when not asked is rude.
We were taught to start with ourselves first, before we try to fix anything or anybody outside of us.
I also remember how difficult the immigrant life was (and still is for a lot of us).
We never had a month that went by without worrying about how we were going to make ends meet.
We never had enough time. It was always traded for money.
We never had enough energy or attention than what it took to barely survive.
We grew up believing a not-enoughness about ourselves and our community.
“We don’t have the time to worry about others when our family is struggling.”
“We don’t have money to pour into anything aside from necessities.”
“We’re not in a position to help others, because we’re barely helping ourselves.”
And overall, consciously and subconsciously, what were we working so hard for?
(I’ll process my own story. Maybe you can relate.)
My grandparents used to talk about the soldiers that saved Korea from the Japanese attack. They were white men.
The theologians and pastors that my dad used to look up to were mostly white men.
The missionaries that came to Korea bringing Christianity to my family were white men.
Most of my professors in both my counseling and theology grad schools? White.
If I’m honest, my family and the immigrant Asians I grew up with always strived to be something deeply associated with white. It was not a conscious thing. It was a survival thing, wired deep in our subconscious.
Please understand: wanting to be white or be like white wasn’t a choice.
It was a survival mechanism.
I remember how hard I tried to fit in with the popular girls in junior high school. What I would have given to be white in junior high school! It might not have made me popular, but it would’ve saved me from the teasing and bullying.
While it is not our fault that we have bought into the white privilege model, I’m hoping we no longer excuse the ignorance of continuing to do so.
The uncomfortable truth is that we as Asians have believed the lie of white supremacy. It’s time to confront that. Because now, we see. We feel. We have to know better.
We have survived our immigrant lives. We’ve done well, not being a nuisance or a bother to anyone. We minded only our business, and many of us are successful. And now it’s time to step out of our own survival modes and expand our circle of care.
This hate was always our business. Even when we didn’t want it to be.
We were never separate from the movement, from the responsibility, from the various colors of people that have endured hate crimes.
This hatred has always been ours to deal with.
We were never exempt from the systematic way hatred plays out.
Honestly, we’re kind of late to the game.
But here’s what I know about my people:
When we make a decision, we firmly carry it out to completion.
When we are led by conviction, we follow with commitment.
When we catch a glimpse of what we are supposed to do, we pull through with hard work and sacrifice.
So, my fellow Asian brothers and sisters,
I pray you have also been sobered by the recent events.
Feel your feelings thoroughly, but do not stay discouraged.
Let Christ shine upon us!
Because now more than ever,
It. Is. Time.
To show up. And stand.
Now, a question for you:
To be continued …