We’re done with putting our heads down, of silencing ourselves to try and fit in. If you truly love our people, our food, music, art, movies, languages you should be using your voice to speak up, writes Tao Lin.
I’m tired. My Asian brothers and sisters across the world are tired. We’re tired of the hate and the violence. We’re tired of being scapegoats, of being the butt of the same boring racist jokes, of being reduced to the same flat caricatures by popular media.
Most of all, we are tired of our pain being erased. Talked over. Unrecognised.
#StopAsianHate has been trending on social media following the mass shooting in the US that resulted in the murders of 8 people, including 6 Asian women. People were rightly furious at the way the shooting was framed by police and the media: the pizza-loving church-goer was having a “bad day”. His sex fetish was to blame for his actions. He swears it wasn’t a racism-fuelled rampage.
“Say their names!” “Call it for what it is!” “Speak up for Asian communities!”. These were the cries that echoed across the internet all day following the Atlanta shooting. Politicians, celebrities, your friend from high school who you haven’t spoken to in years – everybody seemed to have something to say.
Finally, I thought. Finally, people care.
But 48 hours after the shooting happened and I can already see the voices fading away. Those coming from Asian activists and Asian news accounts were always the loudest. But now they seem to, once again, be the only ones left.
How long are we expected to shoulder the burden of fighting our own battles?
I know that these issues seem so far away from us in Aotearoa. What’s a little racism-fuelled shooting spree in the US got on the frenzy of Team New Zealand winning The America’s Cup on our very own waters?
But, just like in the US, Asian communities in New Zealand have been putting up with discrimination and hate in this society for longer than a trending hashtag on social media. New Zealand too has a history of anti-Asian legislation and organisations. Did you know we used to tax Chinese people to enter the country, even if they were born here? And let’s not forget about the Labour Party’s “Chinese-sounding surnames” embarrassment of 2015.
Is anyone really that surprised by New Zealand’s anti-Asian and anti-Chinese past, considering our colonial history?
I’d bet that most Kiwis wouldn’t consider themselves racist or anti-Asian. But every single Asian person here will have at some point in their lives felt the shame of being othered. I hear stories from other Asians who have grown up here and in other western societies and it’s like replaying my own childhood experiences.
Of kids saying, “Yuck!” to our lunches.
Of being called, “Ching Chong”.
Of being asked where we’re really from.
Of being told how good our English is.
Now, we get to watch those same people who ridiculed us eat our food, go to our festivals, shop at our fruit and vege markets, but then stand back in silence as our communities continue to take the hits thrown by white supremacy.
Our Asian communities are stronger than you think. We have endured and we continue to endure. But the weight of centuries of discrimination and racism is literally killing us.
And we are saying: no more. We’re done with putting our heads down, of silencing ourselves to try and fit in. More of us are choosing to speak out, but how many of you are choosing to stand with us?
If you truly love our people, our food, music, art, movies, languages you should be using your voice to speak up against anti-Asian violence and hate.
Check in on your Asian friends. Let them know that you are thinking of them and that you’re there for them.
Stop perpetuating the model minority myth. If you don’t know what that is or why it’s wrong, ask Google. Don’t ask an Asian person to explain it to you.
Support your local Asian restaurants and eateries and don’t complain when vendors raise their prices. Why must our food always be dirt cheap for you to enjoy it?
If you’re a beauty influencer or into makeup and you’ve jumped on the fox eye bandwagon, then jump straight off. It ain’t cute to appropriate the very features that many of us are teased about.
Don’t look down on the elderly Asians you see on the bus travelling in packs or talking loudly. That is their community and that is how they feel safe. If you have never left the comfort of your own backyard and started a new life in a country where you don’t speak the language or know the customs, then you have absolutely no idea the loneliness of being an immigrant.
Get Asian names right. If you can pronounce Emily Ratajkowski or Saoirse Ronan, then you can pronounce Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng. Those, by the way, are the names of two of the women murdered on March 16.
Finally, understand that by supporting Asian communities, you are not taking anything away from other causes. You can care about BLM, as well as support your Asian sisters and brothers. In fact, if you’re doing one and not the other, then are you truly an ally?
So please, don’t let this fade away when the hashtag stops trending and the news stories dwindle. Recognise our pain and show us that we’re not alone.
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