by Jyoti Parmar
On March 16 a gunman targeted and killed six Asian women in Atlanta – the latest attack on people of Asian and Pacific Islander origins in America.
On March 27 the people of Alachua County gathered in rage and grief to build a unified response to these horrific killings and the escalating violence against Asians and AAPI.
About 200 of us marched from Bo-Diddley Plaza to Depot Park and about 400 A/AAPI/BIPOC and allies gathered at the Vigil at Depot Park.
At this event, AAPI shared their testimony of Asian Hate, and BIPOC and allies gave their testimony in the spirit of solidarity.
This was the first large political gathering of AAPI in Alachua County in at least 30 years, and possibly ever (we are researching this).
The purpose of our event on the 27th was to stand together as A/AAPI, to raise our voices and speak out against the violence against A/AAPI fueled by Trump and his right-wing followers who falsely blame the Chinese for Covid-19.
We gathered to educate us all about the history of racial violence and discrimination against AAPI, to put it all in the context of historical racial violence in America, and to stand united with the A/AAPI communities against racism.
Most of all, we came together to honor the dead and to fight for the living.
Txong Moua, the march organizer said, “When I decided to help with this event, I knew I wanted to organize a march. It was important to show the Asian presence in this community – although a huge part of me was uncertain about whether I could get Asians of different ethnicities to come together. It’s important now, that we set aside our differences and join in this movement because it affects all of us. This is a defining moment for who we are. I’m sure every Asian American person has experienced some sort of racism or aggression that we’ve had to dismiss or process. We don’t need to comply with stereotypes anymore when our lives are at stake. We demand justice and equality. The increase in anti-Asian attacks since Trump’s presidency and during this pandemic is outrageous. The systemic racism ingrained in us may be difficult to dismantle but with the help of our allies, we can right the wrongs and find the strength we need right now to carry on.”
We, the A/AAPI community are not one community after all – we are many communities. We only become Asian/Pacific Islander in the American context. Before we became American, we were Chinese or Japanese, Korean or Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi or Vietnamese or Thai or Indonesian. Before we became “Asians” we were just people – individuals – whole human beings – people dealing with their own “-isms,” but it is only in the context of being in America that we are now Asians. Asians in America is a racial category – West Asians (people from the middle-east) are classified as white in the racial categories in the U.S., and many of us disagree with it and feel invisible.
The challenge of being Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander is that we are not any one thing, we have no single shared experience – except in how America perceives us, and how America treats us.
Four of the six Asian women who were killed on the 16th were Koreans – the attacker did not know that and he did not care. To him, they were just Asians – Asian women – whom he was allowed to treat as objects, inconvenient objects he was allowed to eliminate because, apparently, he was having a bad day. While we do not know the women who were killed – we also do not need to have known them directly and personally – we know that their lives mattered and that they were deserving of whole human dignity and to live their lives without fear.
This is certainly not the first incident of anti-Asian hate or mass killing. On Aug. 5, 2012, there was an attack on a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin. Six “Asian” people were killed. There was not the public outcry then as there is now. Then the people murdered were killed because someone was scapegoating Muslims – and in the American context, Sikhs looked like Muslims to the killer. Just as all AAPI look like Chinese to those attacking us now.
When a politician blames immigrants for “taking our jobs,” we are attacked; when Fox news blames “illegals,” we are attacked; when a man wants to eliminate temptation, we are attacked. We, who are not one thing – are attacked for not being that one thing that we have been defined as not being – White.
We are also used to bludgeon other minoritized communities – look at the Asians, they are told – they are doing so well – as if to say there must be something wrong with you if you are not doing as well … The racism against us is hidden, often hidden even to our own selves – until we look at the long, historical patterns, at policies and systems, and until we communicate across Asian communities and across generations.
My name is Jyoti Parmar and I am the founder of the Anti-Hate team in Florida. I am a first-generation Indian-American woman and I remember the day I became a “person of color.” I remember the day I realized I was losing my ability to be outraged at extreme, casual, racial insults. I claim my right to live without fear, or exploitation, to be able to aspire to and work for my dreams and I claim this right for all … no, I demand it – for all the people in America, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender. I work to restructure exclusionary systems.
I will not stand down, and I invite you all to join us at the Anti-Hate Team to dismantle hate in all its forms, wherever we may find it.