Reflection on Atlanta

Reflection on Atlanta
Posted on 03/22/2021
Dear LS Students,

I have been thinking a lot about the killings in Atlanta where 8 people died, 7 of them women, and 6 of them Asian. As I read the initial reports while it was clear to me the violence was sexually motivated I wasn’t sure I was ready to label these killings as hate crimes. But now it is clear to me that they are. The facts of what happened didn’t change for me. What changed was my relationship to this news being of Asian descent.

A hate crime is any criminal act that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership (or perceived membership) of a certain social group or race. Whether the killer ‘hated’ these women is not the point. No matter what his motivation was, the point is that he targeted these women for killing because of their race.

My delayed acceptance of this has caused me to reflect on what it has been like to grow up and live in the United States and why my acceptance wasn’t immediate. I have lived on both coasts, either near Boston or San Francisco. It doesn’t matter that I was born in Boston or how many generations my family has been in the United States from China. I don’t think my experiences vary greatly from those who are first generation versus being third or fourth generation; or that they are that different for some of you who are of Asian descent.

We have all likely had slurs shouted at us by strangers when you least expect it might happen – in a mall parking lot, in a local pharmacy, etc. And then there are the micro-aggressions. Last month I was in Chinatown when a young college-aged non-Asian couple approached me and asked me in ‘broken English’ for directions. Even though we exchanged information several times they never stopped, politely, speaking to me in broken English. And of course, there is the often asked, “Where do you come from?”

I have integrated these experiences in my life as occasional annoyances and move on. Unfortunately, I think many of us have repressed so many isolated incidents that we experience or witness as such and may be slow to recognize it is time to stop. Escalated Anti-Asian sentiment over the last year has precipitated an increasing number of acts of violence directed at Asians across the country. These occurrences further threaten the vulnerable status of our racial climate, one in which we hope any of us feels safe enough to just be who we want and where we want to be. A world like that is the best kind of world for any and all of us. Anything less than that is simply less than and a slippery slope to worse. Less than is where we are at the moment.

The pandemic has challenged us in so many ways it can make us think this is one more thing I/we really can’t deal with now. Which is why it is important to recognize that any thing any one of us does, a little or a lot, will make a difference all together. We can make a difference but only if we act all together.

First is to acknowledge within ourselves the need to stand as allies with one another to recognize the biases we all have that distort our perceptions about members of various social and racial groups that lead to intentional or unintentional commission of microaggressions. I am confident that this acknowledgement and reflection is possible for each of us. There is no one path. There is one that is unique to each of us. My path is different than each of yours but in this sharing with you our paths have in this moment intersected. It is through these intersections that we will influence and learn from each other. I encourage you to think about these thngs happening in our world and ask questions. Microaggressions in the aggregate against any group corrodes the fabric of our community and diminishes the threshold for increasingly aggressive acts of violence to happen. We can each do our part to make this stop so everyone can just be who they want to be and where they want to be.

Sincerely,

Ms. Wong