I grapple with thoughts of frustration I’ve had since the Atlanta spa murders. Ramble city.
The Atlanta spa murders hit me pretty hard. I’m still a jumble of thoughts as I try to make sense of the racism I’m seeing. I know the facts available are limited, but I have this need to put a label on the crime—to put it in the racism box, the religion box, the mental illness box, or the combination box. I ask myself, why does my need to categorize even matter? People are dead. I’m a stranger with no ties to any of the victims other than a broad shared ethnic background, and I’m engaging with someone in the comments about what constitutes a fetish. I can speculate and wrestle with my thoughts, and maybe I will eventually be satisfied with the box I put these killings in, but ultimately, these people are still dead.
I saw a GoFundMe for one victim’s sons. Two brothers who lost their mother in the shootings. There was an outpouring of love and support for them, and the financial goal has been met and surpassed by $2.5 million. I’m glad that they’ll be taken care of financially, but I wish their mom didn’t have to die. Later, I saw that someone shared an Instagram post of his. I clicked on his account and scrolled to the first photo. It was one of his mom, embracing him at his graduation ceremony. I cried thinking about how much our immigrant parents sacrifice so that we can succeed here in America. Land of the free, but people are still getting gunned down and elderly people are still getting shoved in the streets and people are still saying, “ThE KiLLeR wAsN’t RaCiSt.”
Am I allowed to talk about race if I never posted a black square on social media? In a weird way, I feel like someone will judge me. Even now, I hesitate to post anything against AAPI hate, because I feel like I’m not adding anything productive to the conversation. I’m just regurgitating all of the same rhetoric, reposting the same brightly colored graphics and the same illustrations of an Asian girl wearing a “hate is a virus“ mask and telling my mostly Asian American friend list what they already know: Racism is bad, Donate if you can. I don’t think anyone on my friend list is a racist, honestly. But is something (performative or not) better than nothing? Is it okay for me to be like, Let’s leave it to the Daniel Dae Kims and the Olivia Munns of the world to speak on our behalf?
They have a platform, and they’re saying what needs to be said. Is it enough for me, in my own Asian American bubble, to have conversations with my friends about how racism feels so big and how there needs to be more education to eradicate it, and finally, with a slew of pensive-sad emojis, how a racism-free world feels so far away?
For the record, I think the killer’s motives were steeped in both racism and religious extremist indoctrination, and possibly mental illness. People act like you can’t be both an Evangelical Christian and a racist. To that I say, LOL. To those that say that race wasn’t a factor, I’d argue that actions, not words, define a person. As Trevor Noah said, “Your murders speak louder than your words.” When a person specifically targets Asian businesses and kills Asian people, not gonna lie, seems pretty damn racist to me.
To those that downplay his religion as a factor, Christianity is not so pure and blameless as you’d believe. Evangelical Christianity is obsessed with making people feel disgusting for having natural sexual urges. Why are they so obsessed with whether or not people masturbate and/or have sex? Seems like they’re the freaks to me. When you’re constantly berated into repressing your natural sexual urges, an ugly culture of shame emerges.
Other points I must make about Evangelical Christianity: 1.) Women are treated as the sources of temptation. Don’t make a man stumble, they say. Thou shalt not display thy cleavage lest thy brother in Christ gets a boner, they say. It’s a misogynist mindset that bestows power to men, and it’s fucking bullshit. 2.) Evangelical Christianity has been used as a tool for white men to maintain power, which is why this religion is so deeply intertwined with racism and misogyny. 3.) Even Jesus was racist, but maybe that’s too much for now.
Back to the subject of racism. I’m “lucky” that I haven’t experienced overt racism and only little baby microaggressions. I’m "lucky” that my aunt and grandma live on an island that is predominantly Asian and Pacific Islander, where the chances of a hate crime occurring against them would be lower. But we shouldn’t have to be “lucky” to be treated decently, to not be attacked, to not be murdered. I think of my nieces, all of them Asian and smart, funny, beautiful, etc., and I don’t ever want them to experience even a hint of the racist microaggressions that I’ve experienced. How can we make that world for them?
Not everyone is willing to open their minds and embrace other cultures, but these people, whoever they are, I don’t know them. How can they be reached?
I’ve always been proud of my Asian heritage. It is rich and colored with sad and beautiful stories. My features are some iteration of the people who have come before me; I wear their history on my face. And as dark as times seem right now, it’s been pretty cool to see the AAPI community rise up together. I saw Mindy Kaling wearing a tie-dye “Asian American Girl Club” t-shirt, so I bought a tie-dye “Asian American Girl Club” t-shirt.
(I haven’t bought it yet. I’m eyeing the matcha sweatshirt, actually.)
I know it won’t eradicate racism, but that sweatshirt is a symbol that I belong to a community. And I just think the color and embroidery are cute.
Shit. I know I’m all over the place, but this is an honest reflection of the rambling in my mind these past few days. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’ve cried. I’ve talked out my feelings. I’ve scrolled Asian American Twitter until I couldn't tell if I was re-reading the same tweets or not. Now I’m writing this. We’re all humans. We all deserve to be treated with kindness. We shouldn’t have to kindly request this or even demand it. Let’s stop ALL hate.
And since there isn’t a neatly packaged solution to end hate, there isn’t a neatly crafted ending to this post. I’m just kinda ... going to end it here. Hope you guys are doing alright.