We Need to Talk About Not Talking About Anti-Asian Hate

By Abi Wurdeman
April 1, 2021
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

 

The violence and harassment against Asian-Americans is very, very real. It’s happening. A lot. In our own communities. And you know what all the people talking about it on my social media timelines have in common?

They’re Asian-American.

With a couple exceptions, the non-Asian folk who lit up my social media during every peak in the BLM movement over the last few years are silent now. And while I think the reasons for this are probably many, varied, and complex, the two thoughts weighing most heavily on mind are this.

One: I think those of us who are not Asian-American do not see anti-Asian sentiment as something widespread, long-standing, and enduring. Many do not even see it as real at all.

Two: An elderly Filipina woman in New York City was violently attacked in front of a building where security cameras captured a security guard “responding” to the attack by closing the door of the building.

He shut the door on her. The security guard shut the door on an elderly woman as she lay injured on the sidewalk, even as her attacker walked away. I don’t know what was going on in his head, but to watch the video (and I don’t necessarily recommend that you do) feels very much like seeing the people on the Inside sheltering their own from the pain and danger that comes with being the person on the Outside.

Being white, I know this strategy well.

The enduring privilege of being white in America is that we get to choose what to see. We decide when to look, when to feel, when to open the door and when to close it.

I want us to make a different choice right now. The fear, anxiety, and physical harm facing our friends, family, and neighbors right now is heart-wrenching and wrong. But for us to deny it, ignore it, or debate goddamn statistics while people are terrified for their parents and grandparents . . . that’s abusive. It’s gaslighting. It’s erasure. It’s abandonment.

I don’t have the answers to this crisis. This isn’t about that. This is me asking people who look like me to see the problem and take the time to listen to those who understand the reaches of anti-Asian hate better than we do.

To that end, here are some articles, resources, and tips that have helped me gain more perspective and direction here. Again, these are things that have helped me, and many of them are things I found on my own. If you have additional recommendations from Asian-American writers or friends, please start there. They know better than I do where we should begin.

Please note, most-but-not-all of the following resources come from Asian-American authors.

Big Picture

This video from Eugene Lee Yang  provides an incredibly clear-yet-complex overview of the factors that play into Anti-Asian hate.

On the Model Minority

Some historical background on the model minority myth . . .  why it’s wrong, how it treats Asian Americans as a monolith, and how our acceptance of the myth isolates Asian-Americans from racial justice movements and gives us an excuse for failing to see very real racism.

Quotes and stories that illuminate what it’s like to live under the model minority myth.

On the historical exclusion of Asian Americans from social justice movements and the importance of including them now.

On Blindspots

This article really helped me grasp the scope of how much we non-Asian folk don’t know about the history of racism against Asians in America.

So did this one by The New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu. “A plea for context won’t defuse tempers between strangers in the street. But nothing is random, even if the logic of American life tries to persuade us otherwise. These histories may help us see patterns that, eventually, others might see, too.”

Here’s another overview of the history we often miss or ignore.

In the Context of the Everyday

“Your ‘thing’ for Asian girls is not a compliment.”

Set in the context of climbing and van life, this is a challenging reflection on belonging and not-belonging.

And here’s a column about something white people think about almost never: POC having to constantly affirm their own citizenship and belonging, even a few generations in.

How Hollywood is Complicit in the Violence Against Asians in America

“The truth is that it is entirely possible to love and care for one Asian American—‘your’ Asian American—and not see other Asians as equally, fully human.” This essay from an adopted child is a tough confrontation of “colorblindness” and how we might use our relationships with individual Asian-Americans as an excuse for failing to see prejudice.

On Allyship

I shared this in last year’s ally post, and I still find it really helpful: 5 Things that Aren’t Allyship. (Includes “what to do instead”s.)

What you can do to fight violence and racism against Asian Americans.

A guide to being an ally safely and effectively when you witness race-based harassment or violence.

And Hollaback! Actually does Bystander Intervention Training. As of this writing, there are no more spots open, but it’s worth checking back, and the linked page has a ton of other resources.

The following two articles are both on navigating interracial relationships, but they are not the perfect fit for this list. Both articles are specifically about supporting Black partners, and the Black and Asian-American experiences are not interchangeable. But when you look up articles on being supportive to your Asian-American partner, you get a few articles about white men who fetishize Asian women, a couple links to sites promising to help white men and Asian women meet each other, and the rest default to supporting your Black partner. I share these because I think they do provide perspective on humility, openness, listening, learning, and being okay with giving space. But please read with awareness that the challenges are not identical.

This one makes the extremely important point that “To be raised white in America is to be told in countless small ways that how you live is correct.”

This one focuses on showing solidarity when both partners are POC but from different backgrounds. (Several tips in here apply to white people, too. I mean, “Don’t make it about you when it isn’t” is pretty universal.)

Further Reading

A reading list to understand anti-Asian racism in America (Vox)

13 Books about Anti-Asian Racism to Understand it Better (Bustle)

This book list from Asian staffers at TIME runs the gamut from heavy non-fiction to YA romance, and it is particularly unique in that it wasn’t put together to educate non-Asians. “In putting together our own reading list at TIME, we asked ourselves what audience we really wanted to serve—and the answer was clear: each other . . . This list is not intended to educate, but to celebrate. To celebrate the richness, the diversity and the joy of stories by our community, for our community, and curated by our community. The books below resonated with each of us—and we hope they might make you feel, in some way, seen as well.”

Finally, if you want to support an AAPI-owned business when you make your next book purchase, here’s a handy list of bookstores.

 

If you have anything to add to this list, please share! Drop me a message in the comments or get in contact here.

About the Author

Abi

Abi Wurdeman is an author, screenwriter, and sidewalk poet.

Learn More

Subscribe to
My Newsletter

New writing, creative prompts, project updates, and links of interest… delivered right to your inbox.

Want a preview before you subscribe? Check out the newsletter archives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.