We Will Not Be Silenced

In the end, we will remember
not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King Jr. 

Yesterday, I participated in a virtual rally to mourn and honor the victims of Asian Hate yesterday. I am so inspired by the next generation who are empowered to break the silence. The silence that allows hate to fester. Silence that tacitly condones racism. Silence that makes us complicit.

Asian victims by Jonathon Chang

I transcribed this rallying cry that was read by activist Justin Zhu at the San Francisco march. It beautifully captures the emotion, the impatience and the dissonance so many Americans experience with this country, especially Asian-Americans.

We will not be silenced any more 
Since we first set foot on American soil, Asian Americans have been told a lot of things.

We have been told that this country is equal.
We have been told that we should be grateful.
We have been told that we’re the model minority.
We have been told that we’re not a minority at all.
We’ve been told that the racism we experience isn’t real.
-that our people aren’t targeted
-that our communities aren’t underserved.
-that our lack of representation and agency in the country and corporations,
we help build is more than what we deserve.

This narrative, this lie has gone on for generations.

And with the strength our ancestors gave us, we have taken it in stride.
We have continued living, we have continued building we have continued dreaming of a day when those who define us by our own misguided narrative will see us for who and what we truly are integral equal Americans.

We have been excluded. We have been ignored. We have been silenced.
And the silence ends here.

Because the truth is not what we’ve been told.

The truth is that our communities are facing poverty, evictions, widespread systemic lack of language access, and a lack of accessible health care.
The truth is that Asian elders and women are afraid to walk alone at night.
The truth is that we have seen violence against the Asian American community.

But it is not the first time we have experienced the bitter taste of prejudice. Since we have been in this country, we have faced racism in immigration in the courts in our streets, and our universities and our jobs and in the media.

Now we are sharing our stories and speaking our truths.

And those truths do not come with requests, they come with demands for safety, for equality, for equity, for justice, for a seat at the table we helped to build,
and we will not be silenced.

We call on Asian Americans and all people of conscience to stand up, speak out and demand to be heard.

We will not be silenced about the racism we face.

These are portraits of most of the victims of Asian Hate who died over the last 2 years. They were created by LA artist Jonathon Chang. I snipped this from a newspaper article so it is not super readable. But I wanted us to be reminded of the faces of real people. At the top left is Vicha Ratanapakdee, a kind bespectacled 84-year old grandfather. A peaceful Thai American man who, unprovoked, died after being forcefully pushed to the ground in a daylight attack in San Francisco on January 28, 2021. His senseless death catalyzed the Stop Asian Hate movement. Thousands gathered this weekend to march in San Francisco. Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York to mourn his death and the 10000 Asian Hate incidents that have been reported. 1 out of 5 APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders) have experienced hate and/or violence. These victims have names, families and stories. Their lives were cut short prematurely because of brutal ignorance. While stricter enforcement of hate is necessary, we need to greatly expand the the inclusion, the representation, and the education of API history and contributions, to fight ignorance.

What is your view of Asians?

Be honest. How do you view Asians in America? Not good friends, but Asians who you don’t know. Especially as it pertains to the issues of social justice and inequity. What is your relationship with the “Model Minority Myth? The mythology that has inequitably altered hiring policies, admission standards, government funding allocations and on and on. Did you know that ethnic segments of the API population are among the poorest in the country? Do you notice that Asians are not polled? On the other side, the largest non-white population graduating from the top 100 universities is Asian. Their combined consumer spending tripled since 1990, substantially faster than any other group. Yet their opinions are not relevant, why? As in any population that we aggregate together, we have to disaggregate. We have to see the diversity within the diversity. Economic status matters. History of exclusion is relevant. Next time you are talking about “Asians” ask yourself, ask the people around you, “Which Asians?”

Thank you for reading. John

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