In the face of anti-Asian violence, White people must take a stand against White supremacy

How many racism-fueled tragedies will it take for us to understand that we can’t turn the work of dismantling White supremacy on and off?

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Stop Asian Hate and Protect Asian Lives Signs at a rally
Photo by Jason Leung

In my predominantly White, suburban Texas school, I learned the Disney version of Asian and Asian American history. Meaning, like most people in the American education system, it was a whitewashed, harmful history. It’s long overdue that we reckon with our country’s horrific history of anti-Asian violence and policies.

Our country’s surge of anti-Asain violence is a tragic reminder that White people must do more in the face of White supremacy. 

As we watched news around the racism-fueled murders in Atlanta unfold and continue to hear stories of anti-Asian violence, we see the familiar ‘on’ switch of momentary outrage and some, but not enough, support from White people that will likely fizzle out – until the next tragic event.  

I’m a White woman who has vowed to bring a race and equity lens into my work. Yet I know firsthand that White people like me are guilty of treating racial equity work like a light switch we can turn on and off. I’m reminded daily that for Asian Americans and other Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), there is no metaphorical light switch, no safety net for the pain, grief and reality of racial trauma.

How many racism-fueled tragedies and deaths will it take for us to understand that we can’t turn our work off and on? We cannot dismantle White supremacy unless we are actively and consistently doing the work in ourselves and with each other. We must do something.

What I’m sharing is what Asian Americans and other BIPOC have been begging us to hear for centuries. Here are five ways you can take immediate action in the face of anti-Asian violence:

  1. Listen & Acknowledge 

Many Asian Americans are doing heavy emotional labor right now – sharing their stories, grief and advice. We need to be listening, acknowledging it and saying thank you. We have to remember the violence is not new, only the spotlight. 

In a recent emergency town hall held by Dallas Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT), Dr. Aileen Fullchange said, “to be Asian in this country is to not be seen or heard even when we yell, we cry, we scream.” 

  1. Recognize our own role in anti-Asian violence

As White people, we need to recognize how we perpetuate deeply harmful stereotypes and the racial gaslighting of Asian-Americans, from the fetishization of Asian women to perpetuating the model minority myth to upholding movies and TV shows where anti-Asian stereotypes are at the core of the movie’s jokes. It is on us to recognize and stop the harmful ways we continue to perpetuate anti-Asian violence with our words or actions, or lack thereof. 

  1. Hold everyone around you to the highest standard

Do you know how to report hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders? Is your workplace addressing anti-Asian sentiment? Are people and companies that profit off Asian Americans speaking out? Are you letting normalized anti-Asian sentiment slide in everyday communications? Those of us who benefit the most from a White supremacist culture need to speak up and speak often – and it starts in our inner circles.  

  1. Check on your Asian-American friends and family

A friend recently told me through tears how she canceled plans because she couldn’t face friends who, after Atlanta, never reached out to her or even acknowledged her pain and grief when she vocalized it. If you are not reaching out to your Asian loved ones, they’ll likely notice.

“Check on them. The vicarious trauma of seeing these violent headlines and news stories. The erasure of our humanity when a killer is treated with more empathy than his victims. Denial of the racism we face every day. The isolation of living through a pandemic compounded with the fear of targeted anti-Asian attacks outside the safety of our homes. It’s a lot. SAY SOMETHING,” says Stephanie Drenka, Communications Director at Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation.    

  1. Give & Support

Give money, support Asian American businesses, seek out volunteer opportunities, and contact your representatives to encourage legislation to protect AAPI communities.  

As a White person, it is because of my privilege that I feel a responsibility to speak out. I believe shouldering this work and doing simple actions is the bare minimum we should be doing as White people. 

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have to carry this burden because I don’t perpetuate racist actions. Or, I have an Asian child/spouse/friend/coworker. Or, that hate crime was terrible, but it’s not my fault.” 

No, you may not be personally responsible, but when White people benefit every day from a culture of White supremacy while other communities in our society suffer – we all lose. So this burden is most certainly ours to carry. 

Until we eradicate tragic, race-fueled violence like what happened in Atlanta and hate crimes that happen daily, our work as White people will never be done. 

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