In this moment of reckoning with the recent and ongoing incidents of violence and hate against Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, I find myself sitting with more questions than answers. I know I want to show up with open heart and mind, listening, seeing, with care and compassion. I know I can study, donate, hold space, go to protests, vigils, and rallies, and share resources. And, it’s about so much more than that when it comes to leading an organization that has a role to play in the undoing of cultures of violence, and I still have a lot of learning and unlearning to do before I’ll feel as comfortable and confident as I yearn to be in responding to the innumerable, brutal ways in which white supremacy impacts people and communities of color in this country, and the ways my internalized whiteness and privilege may have contributed to suffering. So, I sit with these questions, looking both inward and outward for answers, trusting that being in community with all of you will help bring some to light.
In confronting and learning more about the long history of racial, sexual, and gender-based violence against and criminalization of Asian Americans, particularly women, and seeing the pain so many are experiencing in light of the increase in violence and ongoing erasure of Asian American experiences and voices, here’s what I’m reflecting on (both in relation to myself and to JAC):
- How am I/are we actively confronting, unlearning, healing from white supremacy culture, capitalism, patriarchy, and contributing to and modeling cultures of care?
- How can I/we use our platforms to shine a light on the histories, struggles, and voices of Asian-Americans?
- What does solidarity mean/look like to me/us?
- How do I/we remain in integrity with stated values around inclusion and equity in all that I/we do, both internally and externally?
- Where are my/our learning and growth edges, and how can I/we support myself/ourselves/each other to stretch into them?
- How can I/we amplify and support the work of those already deeply involved in resistance, such as the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Red Canary Song, and Stop AAPI Hate?
Yes, some steps are obvious to me, like centering the voices and leadership of those most impacted by racism and carceral systems; using our platforms to amplify their stories, experiences, and wisdom and to educate the broader public; making sure JAC’s team, over time, becomes more and more representative of the communities most impacted by systemic violence and oppression and embodies/models anti-racist and anti-capitalist practices; ensuring that our organizational culture centers lifelong learning/unlearning/healing; more deeply embedding JAC in the transformative justice movement so that we’re more accountable in our work of reimagining justice while working to improve the lives of people caught in the system…and all this requires time for deep reflection, relationship-building, strategizing. How do I/we carve out this time when there’s so much to DO right now, in the day-to-day, to keep our programs intact and useful to those who rely on them and to continue to develop sustainably? I’m hopeful that the visioning and strategic planning processes our team is embarking upon will reveal that there’s space for it all, that none can happen without the other, but for now, I’m sitting with the questions, the dreams, the knowing that there are some significant changes that need to take place in order for me to feel like JAC’s in right relationship with itself and all within its community, and feeling very grateful that we have a team that’s ready and willing to have the hard conversations that will get us there.
One thought on “Reflections from JAC’s Founding Director in Response to Anti-Asian Violence”
In the wake of the anti-Asian murders in Atlanta, some say that nothing will come of it. There will be CNN moments of indignation, a vigil or two, and then nothing.
Wendy, your thoughtful questions, however, will persist. Over and over, we have to ask how do we, as a JAC community, heal? And how is that healing going to happen? How do we stay focused on supporting our artists while resisting the unjust systems that lock them in?
I don’t have the answer, but your post at least got me thinking about my own prejudices and history of micro-aggressions. They’re like the Virus, potentially lethal and easily transmittable,
For example, how many people who look Asian to me have I asked, “where are you from?” even before knowing their names? “Chicago,” the guy might answer. “No, but where are you really from? I say. What was that little exchange about? Was I hoping to be regaled with some exotic tale to break up the boredom of the checkout line at Trader Joe’s?
We have two girls adopted from China, the lights of my life. And yet, I realize how I expect them to define the model in model minority, as though being the lights of my life isn’t quite enough? No B grades allowed for you guys, right?
Recently, our town held a vigil with candles in the shape of a heart, set with empty folding chairs holding a place for each victim. What made me say to my wife that “they” – as in our Asian-American neighbors -– had done a good job putting it together? Why not “we did a good job?”
JAC, friends, let’s keep this conversation going.