I Am Asian-American

Posted by Stanley Wang, Contributing Writer on Mar 24, 2021

I Am Asian-American

As I’ve tried to gather my thoughts and feelings over the horrific events of last week, I keep coming back to this basic, unchangeable reality.

I am Asian-American.

As with so many events over the past few years, the predictable, awful churn of ideas and information has kicked into high gear. Was it racism? Was it a mental health problem? Was it a problem with shame regarding his behavior? Was it sexism?

The answer is “yes.” It is all of those things because we all navigate life through an intersection of everything that make us who we are. I cannot be a male apart from being an Asian American. It’s not possible for me to just be one or the other. I also cannot be an American separate from being a child of immigrants.

This past week—no, this past year—has shown me that I cannot choose to be just one aspect of my identity or the other, even if my safety and security are at risk. The phrase “China Virus” and other misguided rhetoric about the pandemic has made people that look like me into a public enemy. I have had elementary aged kids shout “China! China!” at me while I wait to pick up my kids from school. During this pandemic, I have definitely felt more Asian than American.

As a child of immigrants, I was raised to value safety and security. After all, my parents came to this country to establish a safe and secure foundation for us. We had no time for fear. Keep your head down, get a good education, do good work, and most of all don’t rock the boat. Standing up and speaking our minds isn’t worth the risk of losing our one shot at a better life.

We are lucky to be here.

One of our most admired traits is the perception that we work hard and never complain. We don’t complain because underlying everything we do is the belief that we are lucky to be here. It’s on us to validate our right to be here, and every incident of “othering” sets us back.

“Go back to where you came from!”
“Where are you from?”
“Ching chong”

I have heard all of these things before.

Growing up, no one ever bothered to answer the question, “Do we belong?” in the affirmative. The pain of this past year is rooted in my anxiety over the answer to that question.

That’s my experience as an Asian American male.

Asian American women are experiencing all of that, interwoven with the additional history and pain that comes with being a woman that looks Asian in America.

Six Asian American women were murdered last week. It has been stated by authorities that they were murdered because some man needed to fix his problem of sexual addiction. They were murdered in the same way he would clear his browsing history.

We don’t need to hear him say he was specifically targeting Asians. It is clear he saw the victims as objects, as things to purge to help him deal with his problems. His warped, dehumanizing objectification of Asian women is an all too familiar one.

There is a long history behind that view of Asian women in this country. In 1875, growing xenophobia and denigration of Asian women resulted in the Page Act, which prohibited the entry of Asian women “for immoral purposes.” The law ended the historically open immigration policy of the U.S. and also led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned people who look like me from coming to this country for “cheap labor.” The result? Reinforcement of the view that Asians don’t belong in this country, and an even greater fetishization and objectification of Asian women.

This sordid history, unaddressed and left to fester in the American psyche, helped pave the road to last week’s tragedy in Georgia.

So what can we do now in response?

First of all, as the Church, we lament.
Dr. Soong-Chan Rah says, “Lament is the appropriate liturgical, ecclesial, spiritual response to the reality of pain, suffering, and crisis in the world. There are two parts to this definition of lament. The second part is the appropriate response. But before the response, there is the acknowledgement of the reality of suffering and pain. Take the time to listen and hear the pain of the Asian American community. Review the data on the disturbing spike in hate crimes and violent acts perpetrated on the AAPI community. And lament—not how it impacts you as a non-Asian person, but on how it has actually brought great harm and pain on the AAPI community.”[1]

Secondly, we reflect.

What have we done intentionally or unintentionally to cause people harm, pain, or to feel like they might not belong?

Third, we stand.

We must learn how to stand with those who have no voice, or whose voices are only given the time the news cycle affords them.

Finally, we remember.

The victims of the horror in Georgia are all people made in the image of God, just like you and me.

Soon Chung Park 박순정, age 74
Hyun Jung Grant [김]현정, age 51
Sun Cha Kim 김선자 , age 69
Yong Ae Yue 유영애, age 63
Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33
Paul Andre Michels, age 54
Xiaojie Tan 谭小洁, age 49
Daoyou Feng 冯道友, age 44

In remembering their names, we acknowledge they were not objects or statistics but valued people, with families and life stories.

Americans who belong.

To learn more about resources for understanding and dealing with Anti-Asian violence, click here.

[1] https://sojo.net/articles/lament-appropriate-response-reality-pain?fbclid=IwAR1xcqWX7mE56C-t8uXvsfy6TczbrWBR5TuFsgcvvIqzw6LrzSgiuOy5Y48

Share This:

Recent Stories

Swipe to Discover more

3 Ways To Keep Learning About Black History

Feb 25, 2024

Black History Month celebrates the heritage and achievements of black Americans, past and present. But why and how can we keep learning, once February is over?

Remembering the Dream: Honoring MLK, Jr.

Feb 23, 2024

Several Chase Oakers share their reflections on the impact and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Five Things You Can Do For Lent This Year

Feb 11, 2024

What's the history of Lent? How is it observed? It's not just a way to pass time before Easter. It's a great opportunity to take some steps toward personal transformation.

Creative Ways that Everyone Can Celebrate Love

Feb 09, 2024

Valentine’s Day: love it, hate it, skip it? Whatever your view, love is for everyone at any age or life stage. We’ve got some fresh ideas for how everyone can celebrate love this week and beyond.

Where To Celebrate Lunar New Year 2024 in DFW

Feb 05, 2024

Happy Lunar New Year 2024! We've listed just a few of the many places you can celebrate the Year of the Dragon in DFW.

Four Reasons Why We Should Celebrate Black History Month

Jan 30, 2024

Black History Month is a celebration of the lives and achievements of African Americans who have made a difference in our world.

The Local Good Pantry: Nourishing Communities, Creating Hope

Jan 26, 2024

The newly opened Local Good Pantry offers hope to the surrounding community by addressing hunger and food insecurity with dignity.

12 Bible Verses for When You're Feeling Anxious

Jan 21, 2024

Feeling anxious? You're not alone. Be encouraged by these 12 Bible verses and the reassuring perspective they provide.

Finding Freedom and Forgiveness After Abuse: Rowena's Story (Part 2)

Jan 11, 2024

In confronting the cycle of abuse in her life, one woman found hope, healing, and something else: the freeing power of forgiveness.

Finding Freedom and Forgiveness After Abuse: Rowena's Story (Part 1)

Jan 10, 2024

Seeking to end years of domestic abuse, one woman found healing from an unexpected source.