The Broken Model of The Invisible Minority
In light of recent attacks, highlighted by the act of terrorism in Georgia-although this has still not been formally acknowledged. Rather the immediate sentiment that followed, as expressed by the mouth piece of local law enforcement, was one of sympathy towards the perpetuator with a attempt to rationalize his behaviour. An alleged sexually addiction of a white man take precedence over the murder of several Asian woman, among others. I’m not here to reiterate these past events, numerous journalistic outlet that have performed their duty in that regard. I encourage you to educate yourselves, and implore you to help and support the individuals and their families who have suffered from such tragedies. But my purpose is move the conversation forward, and examine the next course of action for our communities.
Persevere and Protect:
What took place in Georgia made it impossible to continue ignore the increase in targeted hate crime towards the Asian community. But that does not mean these attacks will stop or even decrease, there are new incidents reported on a daily basis. Awareness is a good first steps but does not solve the problem. There are things we must do as a community to protect ourselves and our most vulnerable. Form neighbourhood watch groups, go on patrol, weaponize yourseves if you have to, violence is not the answer but sometime it is the only solutions. If any harm must come of theses situations, it must be these vile cowards who preys on seniors and woman. I refuse subscribe to the notion that Asian people should self exile and avoid contact with the outside world. Now is not the time to find shelter and wait for things to blow over, this time we must go on the offence and address the issue head on. Pragmatically speaking, everyone should minimize their time spent in public while COVID is still a pressing concern. However this is not the same as forgoing your most basic mobility rights to go to work, to run essential errands, or even just a walk around your neighbourhood. No on should not have to fear for their safety every time they step outside of their home.
If you wish to be an ally, there are small things that you can do to make a difference. If you see a senior by themselves in public spaces, walk with them, make sure they get to a safe destination, your mere presence is a huge deterrent. Support you local Asian owned businesses. The COVID pandemic have proved difficult for everyone, but especially stigmatized local Asian businesses. Plan your daily walk route around them, again to increase presence and deter would be attacks. Even you do not transact with them, just drop by and check in to let them know you care.
The Ugly Truth:
There are issues surrounding racism and race relations that no one wants to talk about. The conversation have always been black and white, literally and figuratively. For better or worse, the struggle of all minorities have to take precedence from the black experience, and will be in some way measured and compared. This can be highly reductive and create a conflicts between communities. As if the public attention span is only capable to digest one at a time, and that social progress and equality is a finite resources only only to be granted to the loudest protest. An argument could be made that in a world where the BLM moment never occurred, #StopAsianHate would have even less of a social imprint than it currently does. Outside the rallies in a few major cities in America and the hashtags itself, there seems to have limited outreach of those outside the community. It certainly does not have the same global impact, and momentum is dissipating each passing day.
There is so doubt that the collective consciousness does condemn the perpetrator of these hate crimes, and is just as willing to support the hashtags, but there is no gravity to any of this. There is no story on the victims and their families, followed by a prominent celebrity- the most recognized musician, athlete or activist. The victims are just names that most readers/viewers cannot pronounce. Unless you have direct and personal tie to the Asian community, what happening does not trigger your most elemental sense of empathy. You cannot arrive at a a place where you could even begin to imagine those gunned down could’ve been your mother, your sister, your best friend. There are significantly less Asians than Black people in North America, but should representation by population really apply in the case of social justice? Do Asians not meet the statistical threshold to evoke the idea of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere that dominated the summer of 2020?
We cannot ignore the facts that a number of these hate crimes are committed by other people of colour. There have been a history of violence and conflict amongst minorities competing for physical spaces, limited economic resources and employment opportunities. Racial tension persists in these community as economic condition turn neighbours into adversaries. At best, there is an undeniable chasm between the ideals of unity amongst all marginalized people, and the zero sum real world. It is very difficult to address this conflict without improvement to greater condition that created the dilemma in the first place, but calamity can be a great harbinger of change. The first step towards reconciliation hold our own house accountable, speak up against racist discourse and eradicate ignorance from those around you. Use this as a opportunity for community building, foster communication and cooperation. Now perhaps more than ever, it is the time to respect and celebrate our differences, instead of seeing it as an point of contention.
Looking inwards, there are certainly issues that needs to be addressed within the Asian community. For first generation immigrants, it is very challenging to overcome the language and cultural barrier and to venture outside of their cultural enclaves, reinforcing the sojourner stereotype. There is also a history of political apathy amongst this demographic, similarly due in part to their disconnect with dominate culture. However, it is also no secret that Asians have been deemed “statistically inconsequential” in political strategy for decades, thus there is no outreach by the political parties or other political organs. Those who tried to express their concerns were ignored, leaving them disillusioned and disengaged. Constant futility leading to resignation is understandable, but we cannot merely criticize an administration and its policies without active participation. There are now more ways than ever to engage with your government and amplify your voice. Being a silent minority is becoming a choice, we must shift our mentalities reflect this.
The children who witness their parents’ struggle for acceptance but ultimately concede to the power structure are anesthetized by the incremental upward mobility merited through education and assimilation. The illusion of comfort of the middle class can, and often does, disconnect them with members of their community below their income bracket or social class. Further informed by traditional sensibilities that is very risk adverse but place a preeminent emphasis on economic self preservation, those with the most resources and strongest voices hesitate to advocate the disenfranchised. Maybe because deep down they’re fully aware their social status is far more precarious than it appears on the surface. Venturing outside the cage of the model minority is a thankless peril, a seemingly futile act of self sacrifice.
In the face of ignorance, hate and discrimination, your degrees, your title, your address, everything you worked for your entire life in order to prove your belonging and contribution to this country, mean nothing. You’re reduced to nothing but your skin colour. COVID proved to be another litmus tests, and the results is quite clear. We, all of us, we are viewed as“other”, unremarkable to a faceless mass. Regardless our contributions, our effort to assimilate, we are still seen as threat or scapegoats. Our reservation and perpetual sense of uncertainly is not paranoia. The threat of hegemony is very real, the interment camps were not ancient history of a bygone era. The paradigm have shifted, choosing to remain silent now means losing everything — our history, our dignity, our lives.
This could very well be the one opportunity of out life time that could truly bring change and progress for our community. A chance to denormalized racism towards Asians and plant our flag to be recognized, considered and respected. The onus is on us to be vocal, strand and fight for the cause, for ourselves. But also step outside of our comfort zone and bubbles, extend ourselves more outside our community. Not to assimilate but educate, initiate conversation and dialogue to exchange ideas and share our culture. The only way to cure ignorance is with knowledge, the only way to kill hate is with love.