Last week Axios and Ipsos released the results of their recent “Hard Truth Civil Rights” poll, which looks deeply at how Americans view issues of race, justice, opportunity, and policing after the events of the past year. The results show some stark differences across racial lines in the lenses through which we see the world, most notably between white and Black Americans — but also with Hispanic and Asian Americans. While we talk a lot these days about BIPOC communities, they are far from monolithic: the experiences of racial and ethnic groups in the United States vary substantially, as well as what they worry about, what they think about law enforcement, and where they see racism affecting their and others’ lives.
(This article was previously published by Real Change and has been reprinted with permission.)
On the cover of Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings, aptly subtitled “An Asian American Reckoning,” flames dance around the uppercase title of the book. An arresting design, the cover art suggests danger, drama, and daring — three elements that are unapologetically present in this essential interrogation on race and writing.
Minor Feelings is a collection of seven essays that explore a question of rising importance: What place do Asian Americans occupy in America? On the one hand, Asians are often called the model minority, considered “next in line to be white.” Asians as a whole are more economically privileged than other minority groups in the U.S. and are often high-achieving students and employees. But events in recent history, from the 1992 LA riots that took place in K-town to the 2017 incident where the Vietnamese doctor David Dao was forcibly dragged off a United Airlines flight, suggest that Asians are more likely in line to “disappear” — to assimilate to or be swallowed up by the very system of capitalism that exploits them. Asian Americans, who have even been told that they don’t “count” as minorities anymore, are still often made to feel inadequate — if not by others, then by themselves.
“Not enough has been said about the self-hating Asian,” writes Hong. This self-hatred, which foments when Asians see themselves through the lens of white people, is among the “minor feelings” discussed in the book, along with emotions such as ingratitude, hostility, and jealousy. The term describes the “cognitive dissonance” that Asian Americans feel when they are gaslighted by American optimism, as well as the negative emotions they are “accused of having” when they confront their racialized reality. Reading the book, I felt seen; I wouldn’t be surprised if many AAPI readers realized that “minor feelings” is a term we have been hoping to come across for a long time.
A video storytelling campaign was launched at the beginning of this month to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage. “Our Stories Are Your Stories” (OSAYS) is a growing video collection of short oral histories from AAPI people of all walks of life in the greater Seattle area. Coinciding with AAPI Heritage Month, another goal of OSAYS is to help dispel harmful misconceptions about these diverse communities and create empathy as a response to the disturbing trend of anti-Asian violence and xenophobia.
Notable Seattle athletes, artists, actors, and community leaders like Doug Baldwin, Dr. Vin Gupta, Hollis Wong-Wear, Gary Locke, Lana Condor, Yuji Okumoto, Lauren Tran, and more have kicked off the campaign by contributing their stories — and OSAYS expects more to come. The oral histories don’t have strict guidelines but primarily explore the questions, “What does it mean to be Asian American or Pacific Islander?” and “How does identity inform your life?” Anyone from the AAPI community is encouraged to contribute. The OSAYS videos will become part of the Wing Luke Museum’s oral history archives.
What was supposed to be part of a nationwide “White Lives Matter” protest at Westlake Center on April 11 turned out to be a “Picket against white supremacy!” Organized by local community groups, the event was attended by close to 100 people who were there to “stand up to racists and fascists.” The Seattle “White Lives Matter” non-event mirrored other planned rallies across the country — NBC News reported that the rallies, which were hyped up by organizers as events that would make “the whole world tremble,” ended up being busts when the turn-out on Sunday was much lower than organizers had anticipated.
For more than a century, philosopher George Santayana’s warning has been often repeated: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the day when we stop to remember the Holocaust, in which as many as 17.5 million people were systematically tortured and murdered by the Nazi regime between 1939–1945 throughout Europe. The largest groups that Hitler targeted were Jews, Slavs, and Romani people. LGBTQIA+ people, the mentally or physically disabled, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, People of Color, leftists, and dissidents made up the majority of the non-Jews who were also murdered. There were others, such as trade unionists, members of the Baha’i Faith, Catholics, Protestants, Socialists and others whom Hitler considered “unpure.”
What does “unpure” mean? It was the main driver of Aryan race propaganda, which is a legacy of American slave-owning racist ideology. Hitler harnessed the concept and convinced ethnic Germans that they were the superior race. The sophisticated propaganda campaign had a profound effect on the German people and proved to be the gateway to the horrific genocide of historic proportions that occurred during World War II.
In response to a disturbing recent rise in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans locally and across the U.S., Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other local leaders this week condemned attacks in Seattle and Washington State. A series of marches and rallies are planned across King County this weekend calling for investment in and resources for Asian communities and solidarity across racial lines with the victims and families of those who have suffered from the attacks.
“We saw this ugly trend surge a year ago, when COVID-19 first emerged in our state,” Inslee said in a written statement. “One year later, we have a vaccine for the virus — but racism is still running rampant. We must all condemn the acts of hate and violence displayed in the rising incidence of anti-Asian hate crimes in both Washington State and across the country.”
Kevin Mather said he was “tired” of paying an interpreter for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who wanted to return to the Seattle Mariners as a coach. Iwakuma’s English, Mather said, is “terrible.” And prospective outfielder Julio Rodriguez?
In June 2020, Hugo House, a Seattle nonprofit writing center, posted a brief message via email and on their website in an attempt to condemn racism and show solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Below the statement, Hugo House promoted a short list of poems and essays by Black writers. But by July, over 200 writers of Color and allies had signed an open letter addressing the performative nature of the statement and the organization’s lack of real investment, advocacy, and endorsement of local Black writers and communities.
“Hugo House’s recent email professing solidarity with the Black community rings hollow,” the letter reads. “The new civil rights movement makes clear that breaking down systemic and structural racism is all of our work, and we demand that Hugo House move concretely and transparently to invest its resources and make that change happen.”
(This article is co-published with The Seattle Times.)
Listen to this column:
Americans are trauma-ridden people. The sooner we admit this, the sooner we can heal.
Our inherited legacy is threaded together from slaughter, slavery and brutalization, the humanity of millions of Black, brown, Indigenous, poor, trans and other people sacrificed for this country’s prosperity.
Over the span of a month we have seen white supremacists raid our nation’s Capitol trying to rip out the throat of our democracy.
It was a rare sunny day in January and the curtains in my dining room were drawn open to let the light in. I sat fidgeting with my sewing while on a Zoom meeting for work. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man come into my yard.