As I’m sure you know. In Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, 8 people were murdered in yet another mass shooting. 6 of them were Asian women.
The gunman was white. He went to several locations to execute his murders. And he wasn’t just “having a bad day”.
Racism and violence against Asians is not new in the US. It’s just often ignored.
It’s not just the 150% uptick in hate crimes against Asians over the last year. The roots of this racism against Asians in the US run deep. It’s also:
- 1875 Page Act
- 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
- The Internment of Japanese Americans
- The 1982 murder of Vincent Chin
- The 1989 school shooting in Stockton, CA where most of the victims were children of South East Asian descent.
- The fetishization of Asian women (where we get an ugly tangle of racism and misogyny)
- My friends and family (and likely yours too, even if they don’t talk about it much) facing overt daily racism and bullying when they were in school and more covert daily racism as adults
When you saw this email pop up in your inbox today, you probably weren’t expecting me to be writing about racially motivated violence. It’s not what I typically write about. But this is what’s important right now. (And honestly, I’ve been thinking of little else anyway since the shooting.)
You’re used to productivity and stress relief tips. And I promise. We’re gonna bring it around full circle. But right now, let’s take a moment to sit with the discomfort of everything I listed above. And get angry.
Are you angry yet?
If so, you might be thinking: “Well sure, I’m angry but what can I do about it??”
As I’m so often telling my clients, we procrastinate when we don’t have a clear next step. When a problem, task or job seems big and overwhelming, we have a tendency to say to ourselves “I’ll get started on that tomorrow”. It’s amorphous, we’re not sure how to begin. So we just…don’t.
So, in that spirit, because racism is one of the biggest, most overwhelming problems our country faces, one of those issues that might just feel too big to take on if you are privileged enough for it to even be a choice, I want to offer a few ways to get started, from where ever you are.
And I’m also gonna caveat this by saying that I’m, by no means, an expert on race or race relations; I just want to offer a few things I’ve found useful in moving towards action, in case you’re also sitting there, not quite sure what to do. Or on the fence about whether it’s “your place” to do anything at all. (Spoiler – it is!)
Does it feel uncomfortable for me to write this article?. Yes it does. Am l gonna get something wrong here? Most definitely. But I’m biasing towards action instead of sitting in indecision.
The psychologist Susan David has a pithy little saying that I love: “What the func?” And what she means by this is that when you’re experiencing negative emotions, you should ask yourself “What’s the func(tion) of this emotion?”. For instance, if you feel lonely, that emotion is telling you that you need to seek out greater levels of intimacy.
When I was a teenager, my parents sent me to these summer camps called “True Colors”. Us kids called it “crying camp”. A lot of it was about understanding our emotions. (Yes, weird, I know. But helpful in retrospect.) And one thing I learned there is that the emotion of anger is about “not getting what you want”.
So, if I put these two insights together, the function of my anger is that I need to take action to get what I want. What do I want? Equity, justice, gun control. And you don’t get what you want by sitting around and doing nothing.
If you’re angry too, if you want things to change in this country, but you’re not sure where to start, here are just a few options to get you started:
- If you experience, or are witness to, hate crimes against any member of the AAPI community, report them here.
- Follow @DionLimTVon Instagram; she’s a Bay Area reporter whose been diligently covering the racism and violence against Asians over the past year. You’ll be horrified by what you see. And that might make you angrier. And therefore more likely to take action.
- Read about anti-Asian racism in the US, and talk about what you’re reading with the people in your life. Don’t let money, or physical distancing, be the reason you’re not reading these books. The public library system in the US is amazing, and even if we can’t leave our houses to pick up physical books, we can use the free Libby app to access digital library books.
- Choose one, or more, of the actions listed on StopAAPIHate.org.
- Listen to a podcast about race. Talk to your friends and family about what you learned. Code Switch is one of my favorites and here’s a recent episode about the long history of racism against Asians in the US.
- Donate to organizations doing good work. This one takes almost no time at all. If the resource you have access to right now is money, not time, here’s a list of organizations to which you can donate .
- Talk to your kids about anti-Asian racism. Do your best to raise anti-racist children. Not sure where to start? Here and here are some great resources to get you started. (Heck, this mom on TikTok even has a simple conversation framework for young kids.)
- Call your representatives and demand action! The 5 Calls app makes it so easy. Just input your zip code and it will give you the numbers of your representatives and even simple scripts for the issues you care about.
Action is the antidote. To a lot of things.
When we take action, we feel more in control. We feel less stressed. We’re moving forward and making progress. (See, I said I’d bring it full circle!)
You don’t have to spend a ton of time. You don’t have to participate in protests. You just have to do something. Be anything but complacent.
And if you’re thinking “but I don’t have time for this”! “My life is so busy already.” “I’m working full time and I’m STILL homeschooling my kids.” I get it. I do.
But you know what? We don’t find time. We make time. Don’t do everything I listed, just start with one single thing. Spend just 5 minutes on one of the actions above. (Trust me, you’ll feel better AND you will have helped to make a difference.)
Many years ago I started to rid myself of the language “I didn’t have time.” Because it’s just not true. We all have the same amount of time. What I now say instead is “I didn’t prioritize that”. Not only does this language allow me to feel a bit more agency. But it also keeps me in check. I don’t want to look back and have to tell myself (or my kids), “I didn’t prioritize fighting against racism”.
For myself at least, I want to redirect even just a small part of my productive energy to make things just a little bit better. So, my house is a little dirtier this week, but I wrote this article, I made, and distributed, a flyer for a friend’s march against anti-Asian hate, and I attended that march. I know that’s not enough. But it’s what I could prioritize this week.
What about you? What action will you take this week?
(PS. And if you’re wondering if this post sounds similar to something I wrote last summer about the murder of George Floyd. It does. Because racism is systemic. And widespread. And also specific. And there is still so much work to be done.)