Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Let There Be Light


I realized yesterday that I’ve seen this image so many times recently that I somehow thought I had already written about it.

This event to show solidarity with AAPI communities is today at the Lakefront, beginning at 5:30 pm. I can’t be there because, yes, I’m still self-isolating, but my heart is every bit as much in this as it was in June’s HoCo for Justice event in June. Because health concerns continue to be on my mind, I’d like to stress that mask-wearing and physical distancing are still very much a thing we should be observing. Turn out in solidarity but, for heaven’s sake, stay healthy and help others do the same.

Governor Hogan visited Howard County the other day to express concern and show support for AAPI communities. He encouraged residents not to be afraid to speak out if they experienced acts of hateful speech or aggression. His visit was covered by Ana Faguy in the Baltimore Sun:

Under string lights, numerous people — largely Asian American — stood up in front of the diverse crowd and shared deeply personal stories. Many said in recent days they struggled with their identity and felt uncomfortable in their own skin but felt a sense of comfort by seeing a crowd of supporters lifting them up.

“I hope everyone here can feel that we are light and that no one can extinguish our light no matter how they try,” one woman said who declined to give her name.

Just this week an Asian-American resident was attacked on a Columbia pathway and reported it to the police. Details of the attack were shared on social media by concerned residents. There was a sense that this had been motivated by anti-Asian sentiment. Why wouldn’t there be? Crimes against people in AAPI communities are on the rise. It’s not a rumor; it’s a trend.

As more information about the incident on the pathway emerged, it seemed as though it might be possible that it had not been a crime motivated by anti-Asian sentiment. (I don’t think this is fully resolved even as of this moment.) What appalled me was the backlash (from whites) that followed, shaming the victim and anyone who had linked the assault to ethnicity. 

There seems to be this intense aversion to allowing the open discussion of prejudice and oppression. If you don’t have absolute, one hundred per cent evidence that would convince the most cynical of doubters, well, then: keep your mouth shut. If you even suggest it you will be mocked and accused of making something out of nothing.

How on earth are people going to feel comfortable “coming forward” if an army of the privileged is waiting to smack them down? It is not our job to delegitimize other people’s lived experiences. In a national atmosphere where anti-Asian incidents are on the rise, it is completely reasonable to expect that Asian-Americans will be living in a state of fear/unease and that it will color their perceptions and experiences.

White people don’t get to control that conversation. In fact, listening would be a really good idea. If you find yourself passing judgement on someone whose day-to-day existence has become significantly less safe, I suggest that you are actively contributing to their suffering. This is true no matter what ethnic or racial group they belong to. 

Gaslighting is ugly:

“People who talk about ethnicity or race just want to divide us.”

No. People who shut down conversations about ethnicity and/or race want to erase the uncomfortable truths coming from people who are not like themselves.

Last week, in response to the horrific shootings in Georgia, I asked:

Is there a way for us to be a light in such a terrible darkness? Or do we simply sit in the darkness with our neighbors and hope the simple act of companionship will do some good? 

It seems as though the very least we can do is to cease trying to extinguish the light of our neighbors who need us. If you see someone doing this, call it out. Let them know it’s okay to talk about it and that you are willing to listen.

“I hope everyone here can feel that we are light and that no one can extinguish our light no matter how they try,” one woman said who declined to give her name.

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