An Open Letter to the Asian Community from your (kind of) Asian Sister

To say I am without words would be an understatement. Thinking of an opening line for this letter was incredibly hard, because there is no way to put into words how I feel. 

This week a white man killed 6 Asian women in a spa, and today the news wants us to hear his side of the story. With COVID we have seen a rise of anti-Asian sentiment around the world. Emphasis on Anti-Asian, because despite labeling it a ‘Chinese Virus’, perpetrators can’t tell Asian people apart. Korean, Japanese, Filipino and Chinese people have all been grouped together and targeted in racist attacks around the United States and around the world. 

I don’t know where to place my anger, and it would be a lie if part of the anger was not placed on myself. In the past year, my mind has been occupied with the BLM movement. With the rise of black voices, I have found a greater community and comfort in the black people around me. As a mixed race woman who presents as black, anti-black racism has been really the only racism I have experienced first hand. Sure, I felt it when my friends in primary school pulled their eyes back and said ‘ching chong’ or when they made fun a kid for having a smelly lunch, but it wasn’t the same. I was an undercover Asian, the one whose feelings they would hurt thinking I would take it as a joke. 

I’ve had a very complex relationship with my Asian identity. Both my parents, raised by one black parent and one Asian parent, did not feel they belonged in the Asian community, but rather that they belonged in the black. If you ask my mom she will say she is Chinese, and if you ask my dad, he will painfully admit he is Indian, but neither would voluntarily give their mixed race heritage away. Though hundreds of years old, the one drop rule still persists today. If you look black, you are black. And it is true, if you look black you are treated black…. But what happens to all the other parts? 

After my grandmother retired she started spending more time visiting Canada. Though she was really our only grandparent present growing up, she did so much that she easily fit the role of four. Despite our close relationship, I never put a race on my grandmother. Growing up I rarely ever took a moment to look at my grandmother and think of how the world saw her. My grandmother was my own, but the Chinese community wasn’t. It wasn’t until highschool when I casually dropped into a conversation my Asian heritage and my friend said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have invited you to Chinese New Year!” To be honest, I had never thought that my racial history was something to announce. As someone who didn’t grow up with a large Chinese background besides my grandmother, being accepted by someone of the Asian community meant a lot. We don’t speak consistently, but yesterday, this same friend texted me about the shooting. 

With the rise of the BLM movements I’ve tried to take time to speak openly to my non-black loved ones about my experiences as a black woman. I’ve tried to articulate how their actions made me feel. The other week my grandmother told me she was reading up on the Black Power Movement, and all excitedly I told her I was proud of her. But yesterday made me reflect. In trying to get my grandmother to understand my experiences, I completely disregarded hers. 

A year ago when Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd were killed I was mad at my non-black friends for not checking in and for not speaking out. I was mad because they disregarded my experience by failing to acknowledge it. Now a year later, the lost lives of 6 Asian women have made me reflect on how I have done the same. During the year that anti-Asian hate crimes were at an all time high I did not take a moment to reflect. I have done my friends, my grandparents, and ultimately myself a disservice. 

I need to do better and I will do better, and I am sorry that it took this long for me to recognize.

With love,

Kai

To any non-asian on here looking for ways in which they can do better here is a resource I found helpful.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Asian Community from your (kind of) Asian Sister”

  1. This was really really well articulated and well done, especially considering how personal and gut-wrenching this subject can be. I really admire and appreciate your honesty and ability to reflect on the past. At the end of the day, we’re all constantly learning, reflecting, and growing– I’m so glad you shared your process with us ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sister, I’m sorry I haven’t recognized you as sisters publicly until these tragedies made us connected and your piece on your grandma awoke my consciousness.

    I’m deeply touched by reading this piece. Maybe part of it is because of my up-bring growing up with my grandparents. But I have never gotten to chances to learn about their lived experience of transition from “feudal” to “modern” world when Japanese colonialism and Korean War displaced their lives and families in all different directions. Most of all, though, I’m touched because of much-needed solidarity that Kai expresses coming from grounded knowledge in dealing with the current situations that racialized racisms — anti-Asian racism after BLM — remind me of selective memories mainstream media/academic knowledge spread around for the anti-colonial movement in the world scale back in 20th century (known as Third World Movement) and also for so-called LA riots in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

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