Op-Ed: The day after
The day after the Atlanta spa shootings, I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to one class—Zoom on, camera off—and when that proved to be too much, I crawled under the covers once again. For the rest of the day, I slept.
These days, going on social media is a death sentence. By that I mean, it hurts me to see the news but it also hurts me not to. It pains me to see the statistics, the deaths, but also everything else. I cry even more when I realize that for some people this is just another day, and that I’m the only one who is crying.
In my head, I’ve started categorizing people into two different types: the ones who would care if I died, and the ones who wouldn’t. The ones who are willing to march at protests with me, and the ones who won’t. The ones who will learn to be better allies, and the ones who don’t care.
Here’s a lesson I learned over the past year, as I watched Asian-American hate crimes rise 1900% since the start of the pandemic: There are more people than I thought who don’t care.
Through my art, writing and social media, I share about Asian-American activism to the world. For many of my peers, this is the first time they’re hearing about any of this. They like anime and k-pop and know about nothing else, but at least they’re willing to listen. It gives me a little bit of hope; maybe I won’t be a stranger in my own home for much longer.
Then the pandemic hit, and Donald Trump called COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus.” The same month, a man on the Delmar Loop yells at me to “get out of this f—— country.”
For most of this tumultuous year, I feel like I’ve been asleep: like I’m dreaming, or like I’ve been screaming into an echo chamber, repeating the same chants to silent ears. I want to take a break—I need to take a break—but if I stop screaming, then who’s going to save us?
Asian-American hate crimes didn’t start with “Chinese Virus.” It started with the Opium Wars, the US invasions of the Philippines and Hawai’i, and the burning and lynching of Chinese migrant workers during the California gold rush. It started with the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese internment camps and the condemnation and demolition of Chinatown, St. Louis in 1958 in order to construct Busch Stadium. It started with wars, refugees and careless stereotypes. Do you eat dogs? Are you allowed to date outside your race? If I ask you to, will you wear a kimono and have sex with me?
Did you know? After 9/11, Islamaphobic hate crimes skyrocketed in the US and the lives of muslims everywhere have never been the same. I have always thought that one day, if I am murdered in the streets while walking home to my apartment, it will be because of my womanhood. If I am holding hands with a girl then, it would be because of my queerness. I never thought that most likely, it would be because I’m Asian.
In the dark, you see, I look like a white person. If you don’t see my face, you may be able to mistake me as one. Selfishly, I always thought that this proximity to whiteness would save me, and I don’t deny that as a light-skinned person I have privilege, but in the end, I am not white, and that will always cost me my life.
Today, I couldn’t get out of bed because I am mourning. I’ve been mourning for a while now, actually, but Atlanta was the last nail in the coffin, the last drop of water before the dam breaks. If the age was not dark before, it is dark now, and all I want to do is sleep in the dark forever. So, here is what I ask of you.
While I am sleeping, I need you to share the infographics, donate to the funds and go to the protests. I need you to attend the seminars, unlearn your inner biases and include Asian-Americans into your anti-racism agenda. I need you to learn the history that has been written out of history books, and #stopasianhate. Please, do this for me while I sleep. I’ll wake up and join you when I’m ready.