‘A’ is for Atlanta. Asian. Americans.

‘A’ is for…

ATLANTA

ASIAN

AMERICANS

What happened in Atlanta shook me to my core. As my own American experience is deeply rooted in growing up Asian in Arkansas.

During a time when identity was literally labeled as black or white, my family and I had to live in the ‘in-between’. We confused the hell out of everyone. And when people feel confused, sometimes they lash out.

Like the relentless slanted eye jokes and being karate chopped by kids at school. Because they just assume you’re related to Bruce Lee. Or the time a brick was thrown into our bedroom window, followed by a “get out of here you chinks." Or when my father was running the only Chinese restaurant in Conway, AR and a pick up truck ran full speed into it.

Just for being Asian in Arkansas.The fear was always that the violence would escalate to something fatal. And today, we all shared that experience with what happened in Atlanta.

‘A’ is for…

ASSIMILATE

AT

ALL COSTS

Stay silent. Don’t say anything. Just blend in. When combined with the immigrant mentality to survive at all costs, these are the grave cultural norms that reinforce our silence.

As Asian Americans Advancing Justice have stated, “We must invest in long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence and hate in our communities.” One way we can do that is to be silent no more. Tell the stories that have not been told. We are not a “one-size-fits-all” monolith. We are MORE than just Bruce Lee. We are NOT a global scapegoat for COVID-19. In this moment, we need to change the narrative that is leading to Asian hate. Because when left unchanged, it perpetuates the violence we are experiencing today.

‘A’ is for…

AN

ASIAN

APPRENTICE

We need to represent Asian Americans in different ways and beyond the model minority myth. I have spent so much of my life as the token minority. So much so, I was cast as the token Asian on The Apprentice. What was reeling about that experience for me was two-fold: i) the power of media to influence the masses and ii) the way systemic racism is deeply embedded in the most unconscious of places.

I was constantly portrayed to match how I looked and what broad audiences could accept for an Asian female. Often myself and the only Black male contestant, Kevin Allen, would be brought by our peers into the “final boardroom”. As Kevin and I advanced, it was harder to hide who was really doing the work. And yet the unconscious bias to continually target us for the final boardroom from our white peers remained. So much so that in one episode, our white colleague couldn’t even explain it himself. He was so indoctrinated by the bias, it was that pernicious. And Trump was a master at leaning into that which divides us. He learned quickly that it can make some really compelling TV and record-breaking ratings. Little did we know back then, what normalizing that behavior would lead to.

I wanted to deeply understand that which controlled me and so many. It was like a dark art to me. What is this magic? This super subliminal control that would compel complete strangers to come up to me in the airport, on the street or at a restaurant — 100% convinced they knew me from their hometown high school or college. And this was long after the show was over.

That’s when I discovered the power of media. And I wanted to know everything about it. Because I wanted to understand that which not only took my voice but used my own voice against me to create a reality for others. When I tried to articulate this rift in my media experience with my own family, it was the same response as what I experienced being Asian in Arkansas. Stay silent. Don’t say anything. Just blend in.

Remain Voiceless. Powerless. Invisible.

‘A’ is for…

ACTION

AND

ALLIES

This is a call to BE INVISIBLE NO MORE. If current events have not proven already, WE CAN NO LONGER STAY SILENT. It is not ok and we need to break out of these cultural norms that bind us. Because it is coming at the cost of OUR VOICES, OUR PEOPLE, OUR LIVES.

  • WE have an opportunity in this moment to change the narrative.
  • YOU can be the driving force to bring to bear these diverse perspectives and stories about the API experience
  • TOGETHER we can lift up Asian voices that break the mold and the bamboo ceiling

If you identify as API, it’s your time to RISE AND RAISE YOUR VOICE. We need to hear from you. We need to represent the Asian American experience beyond the tropes and stereotypes portrayed for us. People need to know the rich and diverse ways in which we are human.

And if you are an API ally, we need you now more than ever. We cannot leave these harmful acts left unchecked. We need to take it to task. For all under represented, marginalized groups and people of color. For fundamental HUMANITY.

United together, let’s raise our voices in this moment into a movement to #StopAsianHate and end racism for everyone.

Mother, daughter, wife and friend. Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

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