Some of the language in this post is gut-level honest and may not be appropriate for younger children.
It has been a terrible day in Asian America, as so many of us feel the enormous weight of the news out of the Atlanta area. You’ve likely already heard about it, too – the mass murder of eight precious human beings, six of them Asian women.
I’ve especially felt moved by the outpouring of grief and anger from Asian American women. Because while these killings impact every Asian American, it’s Asian American women who feel the horror most viscerally. It’s almost so obvious that we might miss it – these weren’t just acts of racialized hate, but they were particularly directed at Asian women.
I don’t really, truly know what that is like. As an Asian American man, I have privilege that insulates me from the greater frequency and severity of oppression that my Asian sisters suffer. Part of it is the privilege of being a man in an America that still strongly advantages men. Another part of it is the male privilege that endures in Asian American circles, a cringey inheritance from the patriarchal cultures of our ancestors.
I can’t know from experience what it is like to grow up and to take up space as an Asian woman in this country. Yet I have heard so many stories from so many friends, and I have seen many incidents with my own eyes, that tell me Asian women have a much more difficult path to navigate in our society.
It seems almost universally true that Asian American women are familiar with the mix of gender hate and race hate that erupted in gunfire early Tuesday evening in Georgia. It is an evil rooted largely in prevalent stereotypes among non-Asian men of what Asian girls and women are supposed to be like. Yet if that were not enough, Asian American women also have to put up with persistent harassment from a segment of the Asian American male population; these men feel entitled to the affections of Asian women, and label Asian women who choose non-Asian partners as race traitors. The online trolling is especially pernicious.
Asian women have to put up with a hell of a lot. Yet in the midst of it, I see so many Asian women standing tall and proud, speaking their truth and doing so without apology. It is very much counter to the cultural expectations of previous generations. They refuse to cower; they don’t wait around for someone to rescue them; they give the proverbial finger to those who try to silence them. They are full of love and compassion and courage and strength. They are badasses.
So as we reflect on the absolutely horrific events of this past week, I want to use my space here to highlight the voices of my Asian sisters. They say things so much better than I can; their eloquence is born out of their experience. Here are some of their recent tweets, many of which begin threads with very meaningful comments, which I encourage you to read in their entirety. I’ve also included a link to an insightful blog post from a college junior.
May we all listen and learn.
First, though, a quick primer on the stereotypes of Asian women:
Asian American Representation in Media 101.
Hollywood and the entertainment at large have been complicit in perpetuating narratives that hypersexualize and fetishize Asian women. Two of the most common stereotypes you see for Asian women are “Dragon Lady” and “The Butterfly.” pic.twitter.com/tF7THy9jr0
— CAPE—Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (@CAPEUSA) March 17, 2021
As to the events of this past week, Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociology professor at Biola University and author of the critically acclaimed Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, spoke with Canadian news outlet CP24:
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) March 17, 2021
Here’s some of the reaction Dr. Yuen got:
Woke up to hate emails calling me a “foul, racist, disingenous c–t” and “MORON whines about being a ‘victim'” this morning because anti-Asian misogyny is a real thing folks.
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) March 18, 2021
Dr. Yuen has been interviewed by a number of other news outlets over the last several days, one of them being NPR’s All Things Considered:
— Nancy Wang Yuen 王嵐芝 (@nancywyuen) March 19, 2021
NBC Asian America’s Kimmy Yam addresses the same issue and expands on it:
GA suspect claims no racial motivation in shooting that killed 8, including 6 Asian women,bt experts say it’s impossible to divorce race from discourse, given the historical fetishization of Asian women,which has made them uniquely susceptible to violencehttps://t.co/dAfsUQUXO6
— Kimmy The Pooh (@kimmythepooh) March 17, 2021
Jenny Yang, most widely known for her comedic stand-up and activism, probably best puts into words what so many of us Asian Americans feel:
the white hot rage i feel right now
this piece of shit white terrorist targeted Asian women in Atlanta
not surprised they captured him alive
placing bets now on the manifesto to come out justifying this fuckery
— Jenny Yang (@jennyyangtv) March 17, 2021
Jenn Fang has the longest-running Asian American feminist blog out there; I’ve probably learned more about Asian American feminism from her than anyone else:
This. If you’re not talking about how misogyny against Asian American women layers both the current rash of anti-Asian violence as well as the larger casual violence/harassment we face in general including here online, you are not fucking paying attention. https://t.co/xxHP6ylK09
— Jenn | Reappropriate (@reappropriate) March 17, 2021
No, we are really not ok. https://t.co/bIzi1MY1fe
— Jenn | Reappropriate (@reappropriate) March 17, 2021
Jenn’s piece for The Washington Post (view it in an incognito window if you get paywalled):
— Jenn | Reappropriate (@reappropriate) March 23, 2021
Journalist Christine Bumatay asked for stories, and readers responded:
Hi fam, I’m working on an article about the fetishization of Asian American women.
Ladies – if you have the energy today – please share with me 👇🏼 the worst experience you had being fetishized / harassed / etc.
Time to share our stories 🙏🏼♥️
— Christine Bumatay (@SosyalGal) March 17, 2021
Author Christine Liwag Dixon recalls some of the specific ways she’s experienced the sexualized racism so many Asian American women and girls have:
“’Why do you think Asian women have finally started speaking up?’ people have asked me.
We’ve been speaking up all along. You just haven’t been listening.”https://t.co/k2uOAkXgcr
— Christine Liwag Dixon (@cmliwagdixon) March 19, 2021
Southern California journalist Josie Huang expresses some of the questions many Asian Americans are puzzling over:
In the Atlanta-area shootings, police have charged the suspect w/8 counts of murder but are not calling race a factor at this time.
Why, when 6 victims were Asian? When his first target was Young’s Asian Massage? (1/x)
— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) March 17, 2021
Christian minister and author Kathy Khang addresses the murderer’s religious roots:
Are they really wrestling or trying to distance themselves by telling themselves their theology has nothing to do eight the shooter’s behavior?#StopAAPIHate #StopAsianHate #atlantaspa https://t.co/y5sfLXK7g8
— Kathy Khang is still here (@mskathykhang) March 17, 2021
Kathy also speaks a word of truth to ministers, of whom I was one for a number of years:
#AAPI male pastors, if you are going to preach about,
refer to, or mention racism + #StopAAPIHate then you MUST confess + repent for your complicity in the misogyny + purity culture that AAPI women experience within our own churches, communities + sometimes in our own families.
— Kathy Khang 강경아 is still here (@mskathykhang) March 20, 2021
International news producer Heidi Shin on talking with kids:
I wrote this piece for The New York Times. It’s about the time our 7-year old heard that Chinese people shouldn’t be allowed in this country. She asked: Am I Chinese? #AAPIHate #ActtoChange https://t.co/KRX4tO8OrK?
— Heidi Shin (@byheidishin) March 19, 2021
Linda Sue Park, award-winning author of numerous books for young readers, on how we can respond when we hear people say dumb racist stuff:
Thread, first steps to #StopTheHate: Imagine that you’re in the presence of someone being microaggressive. A racist or ableist joke. A misogynist aside. “Kung flu.” Practice responding by saying aloud:
“I’m not comfortable with that.”
“That makes me uncomfortable.”
— Linda Sue Park (@LindaSuePark) March 19, 2021
Nicole Chung, one of America’s most incredible writers and author of the best-selling memoir All You Can Ever Know:
I hope every white adoptive parent of an Asian kid is paying attention and deciding how to talk to their kids about racism. My white family long believed that my adoption = assimilation = protection. I’ve known this to be false since I heard my first slur at the age of 7.
— Nicole Chung (@nicolesjchung) March 17, 2021
Nicole’s heartfelt reflections in TIME:
“I hope that white people with Asian family members recognize and internalize the fact that no amount of love, good intentions, assimilation or proximity to whiteness will protect their loved ones from racism.” My latest, for @TIME: https://t.co/I3XgUFiDKC
— Nicole Chung (@nicolesjchung) March 22, 2021
And as so many Asian American women experience when they dare to share an opinion, especially online, she got this:
what it means to be a somewhat visible adoptee who’s open about her experiences 🤷🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/aeSQocLUEj
— Nicole Chung (@nicolesjchung) March 23, 2021
A Generation Z perspective comes from college junior Alyssa Yeh. Her post in its entirety can be found here. She begins:
Finally, but not least significantly, here are comments from the highest-ranking Asian American woman in the country:
Vice President Kamala Harris called the deadly shootings in Atlanta a tragic reminder that it was critical to always speak out about violence, and expressed solidarity with Asian Americans, who have experienced a rise in hate crimes https://t.co/WfL1kU4mb5 pic.twitter.com/eLSn36NPVl
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 17, 2021