Sometimes I just respond too slowly. Last year, as protests were happening in the US in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and all of the other murders of African American men and women that had happened before and after his, it took me a while to speak. Internally I was busy processing my anger, grief, and fear for my own son and husband. Externally I just wasn’t talking about it. I didn’t want to. I was tired and scared from way back when as a child my family sat in fear after being pulled over by a white male police officer in my hometown in California. My father had already trained me and my brother on how to behave in this situation so we were prepared. It didn’t make us less scared. I am no less scared today.
I’ve done it again. While I am responding and speaking right now, the violence that is happening now (and has been happening for quite a while before now) against the Asian American community in this country, required me to speak yesterday, last week, last fall. And it requires me to keep speaking, and keep speaking, and keep speaking. Even those of us who are tired now and have been since the dawn of this country because we have had to fight to survive in a country that was designed for us not to do so, even we need to speak and keep speaking and keep speaking. Silence is a form of complicity and we (the collective we) simply can’t be complicit in our own subjugation, oppression, violence, trauma. We just can’t. We collectively need to represent and respect humanity for all of us – and right now in particular we need to do so for our Asian American friends, families, and communities that are experiencing the worst of what this country has to offer BIPOC.
And lest it go unnoticed, we must name the racialized misogyny at play with the violence that is occurring. It is not by accident that the majority of victims are women as the recent New York Times article points out (and many of us know from experience), racism and sexism often combine in ways that result in violence against women of color. Then add to that the commercial sexual exploitation of Asian American women in particular, and the urgency to speak now is even greater. IDF partners with several organizations that are actively fighting for women of color at these intersections (10 Thousand Windows, Chab Dai, Willow International, My Life My Choice, CEASE Boston, World Without Exploitation, International Justice Mission, Precious Women, Mother’s Heart, Route One Ministry) – fighting against the racialized misogyny that allow people like Captain Baker to incorrectly treat Asian American women as either women or Asian American claiming that the deep hatred of the white man who killed these women could not be based on the intersection of both. Kimberlée Crenshaw has been telling us for years that we must understand the intersectionality of women of color in order to address the resulting unique vulnerability faced by women of color in our society:
Intersectional vulnerabilities are not simplistic identitarian claims; they are explanations of the multiple dynamics at play in what we witnessed this week. Indeed, the root causes of these killings — misogyny, racism, and economic precarity — are only further entrenched by the erasure of certain dimensions of this violence. For Asian Americans, and Asian-American women in particular, the bullets that ended the lives of so many in Georgia were the endpoint of a cultural frame that makes them vulnerable to racist, sexualized violence. (The African American Policy Forum)
On behalf of the Imago Dei Fund, we strongly denounce the violence that is happening against Asian American people in this country, and in particular against Asian American women. The humanity and dignity of Asian American women is “bound up” with our humanity and dignity. The violence must stop now. And we must all do our part to interrupt it, to be allies and not bystanders, to support and to care, and to hold each other accountable for how we act and what we say (or don’t say). This requires a persistent commitment in the context of fighting for racial justice. IDF, continues to commit to racial justice in our grantmaking, with our voice, and in our actions.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson