For some time now I have quietly watched the events in America, watched people who look like me get spat on, screamed at, and shoved to the ground. But I don’t think I can stay quiet any longer, even if much of what is happening is on the other side of the world. Being Asian is almost synonymous with being quiet and I don’t want to be quiet anymore. I want to be angry.
Eight people, six of whom were Asian women, were shot to death at three separate massage parlours in Atlanta on March 16. The police have named four victims so far: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
A 21-year-old man was taken into custody and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. He is White.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Captain Jay Baker said the 21-year-old had a “sex addiction” and that he saw these massage parlours as a “temptation” and something he wanted to “eliminate.”
“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Baker said on Wednesday.
“Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
He had a bad day.
It’s still too early to determine the shooter’s motive, apparently. Police do not believe it’s a racially motivated attack, because sex is involved, as if the two are mutually exclusive.
Far away, on the other side of the world, it’s difficult to put into words what I’m feeling as an Asian-Australian, as an Asian-Australian woman.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have watched the gradual surge in racism, violence, and harassment towards my community in America. It was hardly a surprise, considering their former president constantly referred to the coronavirus as the “China flu”.
But this isn’t just an American problem.
Last November, the Australian National University found that four in five Asian-Australians said they experienced discrimination during the pandemic.
“In a survey of more than 3,000 people, 84.5 percent of Asian-Australians reported at least one instance of discrimination between January and October.” – Australian National University
A new Australian survey from February found 47 percent of respondents held negative views towards Chinese-Australians, as per the ABC. Asian-Australians reported the highest level of concern about discrimination, with 39 percent of respondents born in an Asian country saying it had increased during the pandemic.
For some time there, I just brushed it off. It’s what I’ve been told to do by society since I was a kid. “Casual” racism. It’s just a joke. Take a joke, you sook. There are always going to be racists out there, grow thicker skin.
The attacks in America? It’s so far away, don’t worry about it.
But racism doesn’t need to be violent, it takes many forms.
Discrimination can be subtle, too. My friends and I took a road trip out of Melbourne last year. During a pitstop at a restaurant for lunch, we were guided to a table far away from others, locals and tourists. The coronavirus had just started making major headlines. We looked at each other, we wondered, we didn’t speak of it again.
It’s easy to be quiet, to remain silent, to be the model minority people see me as.
But I can’t have it both ways. I can’t be part of Subtle Asian Traits, the almost two-million strong Facebook group and share in their experiences, but block out their suffering. I can’t turn my back on my own people. And that includes Asians on low-incomes, who are the elderly, or asylum seekers, or part of the LGBTQIA+ community; Asians who are sex workers, or homeless, or sexual assault survivors, or disabled.
So, I’m not going to be silent anymore, I refuse to be silent.
To any Asian-Australians reading this, don’t dismiss your feelings and don’t let others tell you what to feel. We have every right to be upset, to be infuriated at what is happening to our people. To 84-year-old Vichar Ratanapakdee, who died after being violently shoved to the ground on his morning walk. To the 89-year-old woman who was set on fire in Brooklyn last year. To the women gunned down in their place of work. To the 75-year-old aunty, who was punched in the eye in an unprovoked attack, yesterday.
Fuck being quiet and fuck being the model minority. I am angry, we are angry, and we will be heard.