I come from a strong line of women — warriors escaping war and bamboo spikes while carrying children in their wombs, entrepreneurs running noodle shops and construction businesses, and survivors of the ocean’s relentless fury crossing waters into an entirely new life. Nothing could prepare me for the women in my family being afraid to go to the grocery store. Killed, punched, and being lit on fire. This is what we ran away from.
Today, this St. Patrick’s Day marks my 29th anniversary of arriving in the U.S. In so many ways, I am the American dream— a Harvard graduate, deputy campaign manager for a congressional race for a gay Cuban-American man, campaign manager for a mayoral race for an Indigenous woman, launching a smart, affordable housing company, working for the mayor of a major city and the governor of a state, and managing national coalitions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic for our most vulnerable communities experiencing homelessness. However, today, on this Americaversary for my family and me — my life, my work, and who I am doesn’t feel enough.
To some, like the white supremacist who murdered 6 Asian American women in the past 24 hours in Atlanta as a hate-crime, I am still not an American and may never be American enough. My passport, citizenship, education, service, allyship, and entrepreneurship does not protect the women in my family or me from harm. The knowledge that my body is the target for violence is not the America my family crossed the seas for. I still love this country and see its promise in where we go from here.
The one reprieve of life in quarantine has been the grocery store — now, even that is not sacred. Food businesses, cultural districts, and immigrant corridors are the lifelines of global cities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and deepened the fault lines of hate that have been cracking around the world. I’ve done work on xenophobia, racism, and the economic impact of hate in Chinatowns, immigrant, and cultural districts from Paris, northern Italy, to the American south. I have seen nothing like what my family and our community are experiencing.
Our elders being lit on fire, punched in the face when they cross the street, and screamed at to leave the country for merely existing. This is now our lived experience. While the Asian American community is not a monolith and we have a very complicated history with the systems of data gathering in this country — the impact is our humanity has become amorphous, without shape, form, difficult to define, and easily labeled a “China-disease” no matter where we are born or raised, what our respective histories are, or what our individual humanity provides. What currently unites us now as a community is a shared pain, suffering, and fear for the safety of our bodies, our well-being, our mental health, and our ability to continue.
The American dream is a verb.
Our privacy, safety, and security need constant watching, nurturing, and protection. Here’s where we go from here:
- We heal, we pause, we allow ourselves to be in wellness, and when we fully recover — we take action.
- We celebrate and honor one another.
- We demand excellence from our communities because this is not a time when we can be any less than what our ancestors have sacrificed for and what future generations expect of us.
- We show up, speak out, and step in when we witness white supremacy and patriarchy at play.
- We financially support the causes, businesses, and communities we believe in.
- We acknowledge our internalized oppression, do the work, see the therapist, build our support networks, ask for allyship with grace and kindness.
- We channel our rage, righteous anger, our pure fury — into measurable, impactful outcomes. We plan, organize, and take action.
- We survive, thrive, and claw our way to the shores of safety and thriving.
- We provide support, mentorship, opportunity, and cover for the next generation.
- We destigmatize mental health for our families, friends, and communities to have the support and well-being to continue.
How To Show Up As An Ally.
It’s essential to name these killings for what they are — hate crimes. This current moment of hate in America is another opportunity for intersectionality: our struggles are intertwined — any form of hate or oppression impacts the well-being and health of our democracy, and we must continue to fight for it.
- Step in, show up, and call what the killings are — a hate crime.
- Check-in with your co-worker, friend, neighbor. Ask how they’re doing, ask what they need, send them a love note.
- Support your local businesses in your respective Chinatown/International Districts. A great way to support Chinatowns/Little Saigons/Japantown/Koreatowns across the country is to donate to their economic development organizations.
- Read Asian American authors, and read up on Asian American history.
- Subscribe and follow Asian American media, journalists, authors, organizations, accounts.
I’m including some resources below to start from and will continue to add to the list as the week progresses:
- Journalists Naomi Ishisaka of the Seattle Times, Suzanne Phan of KOMO, Marian Liu of the Washington Post.
- Lucia Liu’s Rock the Boat Podcast
From Andrew Yang to Indra Nooyi, Rock The Boat is a podcast elevating the stories of Asian leaders, founders, and pioneers in their fields. Through candid and thoughtful conversation, the host and my friend, Lucia Liu, uncover stories of their upbringing, Asian identity, and the movements they’ve built.
- My dear friend Ocean Vuong’s books
Not only does he make the best homemade cornbread known to man, Ocean is also the author of the debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 15 other languages worldwide. Vuong’s writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harpers, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and American Poetry Review. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, alongside Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon, and Justin Trudeau, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, and The New Yorker. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at Umass-Amherst.
- The brilliant and sassy Thoai Ngo of the Population Council on Asian American data, global epidemiology, infectious diseases, public health, and an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
- Support the incredible work of Doris Ho Kane at 17.21 Women whose photo from her historic virtual archives capturing the journey of Asian American women is the feature image for this post. You can Venmo her @dorishokane.
Community Development Associations
There are many across the U.S. These are some that I know and have worked with. Please look up the respective CDC/CDA’s in your community.
- San Francisco CDC
The Mission of the Chinatown Community Development Center is to build community and enhance the quality of life for San Francisco residents. We are a place-based community development organization serving primarily the Chinatown neighborhood, and also serve other areas including North Beach and the Tenderloin. We are a community development organization with many roles — as neighborhood advocates, organizers and planners, and as developers and managers of affordable housing.
- Boston ACDC
The Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) works in underserved and immigrant Asian American communities in the Greater Boston region to create and preserve affordable, sustainable, and healthy neighborhoods. We achieve this by building affordable homes and vibrant spaces, empowering families with asset-building tools, and strengthening communities through resident and youth leadership.
- Seattle SCIDpda
The Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) is a community development organization whose mission is to preserve, promote, and develop the Seattle Chinatown International District (CID) as a vibrant community and unique ethnic neighborhood. Formed by the community in 1975, SCIDpda works to revitalize and preserve the neighborhood by providing services in three areas: affordable housing and commercial property management, real estate development, and community economic development and community engagement. We have over a 40-year success record of increasing neighborhood sustainability through innovative programs and projects that balance development and preservation.
- Friends of Little Saigon
Little Saigon is the social, economic, and cultural hub of the Vietnamese community in the Puget Sound region. In the 40 years since the first group of Vietnamese businesses took root in this area, Little Saigon has become a vibrant and vital part of the Vietnamese community as well as the Chinatown International District. Friends of Little Saigon was established in 2011, at the start of massive redevelopment in Little Saigon. Our mission is to preserve and enhance Little Saigon’s cultural, economic, and historic vitality.
- Stop AAPI Hate
In response to the alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University launched the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center on March 19, 2020. The center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Our approach recognizes that in order to effectively address anti-Asian racism we must work to end all forms of structural racism leveled at Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
Hate Is A Virus is a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers that exists to dismantle racism and hate.
We started as a movement in April 2020 in response to the rise in hate crimes against AAPI due to the pandemic. Over that past year, we raised $30k+ to help a host of essential, BIPOC community organizations across the nation such as (Act to Change, Kollaboration, Laos in the House, Arts Administrators of Color) and ran two virtual educational events featuring guests like Sandra Oh, Baron Davis, Apolo Ohno, Mirai Nagasu, and more. This year, Hate Is A Virus continues to amplify, educate and activate AAPI to stand for justice and equality in solidarity with other communities.