By: B Alvarez, Case Manager
Over the past weekend, after hearing about the mass shootings in Atlanta, I have struggled to understand what it means to truly hold a name. In holding Soon Chung Park, in holding Suncha Kim, in holding Yong Ae Yue, in holding Hyun Jung Grant, in holding Xiaojie Tan, in holding Daoyou Feng, what could I do to honor the stories that these names contained? As our communities push forward to organize and bear the weight of our collective grief, how would they have wanted to be remembered?
We have seen their names flash up on newsreel after newsreel, scribed onto web articles, political commentary, and social media posts; seen their stories tidied up and parceled into the name of victim. Mother-of-Two, Grandmother, Hard-Working Immigrant: these are the labels they have been given in an attempt to humanize their stories, labels cut short and truncated by a white man “having a bad day”. Through the media, we are told that their voices have been silenced, that they are simply six more women to add to the running kill count of white supremacy.
I refute this portrayal of what happened in Atlanta, I refuse to let these white supremacist narratives hammer in the idea that we are powerless to stop these acts of violence from happening; that we are simply victims who can be so easily parceled up and forgotten the next time a quote unquote “otherwise innocent” white man “slips up”. These women were not “hapless victims”, they were not merely the labels and roles that they played in their day-to-day lives. They were pillars, foundations, and sources of wisdom for their communities. Our femme elders are targeted not because they are the “easiest prey”, they are targeted because they are the crux of our support networks, the sites of ancestral knowledge from whom we learn how to build up the strength we use to collectively carry the burden of our oppression.
Asian femmes, Indigenous femmes, Black femmes, Brown femmes, none are hapless victims. Women of color have long been shoved into boxes and classified as the whipping girls of white supremacy. Their bodies have been used as the mortar from which the constructs of racism and misogyny have been built. Yet, efforts to subjugate women of color have only been so vehement because they are the biggest threat to white supremacy; because they hold the power to build one of the most formidable sources of strength in our communities, the power to build the collective. The violence wrought upon AAPI women and femmes of color by men like Robert Long, Brock Turner, and countless others in recent history is part of a long-standing effort to destroy these sources of strength, and yet they remain strong and steadfast because we refuse to essentialize our stories and the stories of our ancestors as victimry.
And so, I entreat you, remember Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng not as their labels. Celebrate the communities they built, celebrate the knowledge that they shared, celebrate that their stories will continue to live on in the lives of those they touched, celebrate the wealth of ancestors that they now belong to. Remember them as you do your own ancestors and carry their wisdom forward with you as we begin the work of healing our communities, together.
If these words spoke to you and you wish to directly support our elders and vulnerable members of our community, a comprehensive list of resources and places to donate can be found here: https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/
Furthermore, if you are able-bodied and able to spare some time escorting more vulnerable members of the community, there are initiatives both in Oakland: (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12Re9XS3_MlazkZ6DvhAhhtJ3zjJBUiYshK-HqAAecpM/viewform?ts=60222a9d&gxids=7628&edit_requested=true)
which you can donate your time to.
Sunqunchakusqawan, (With Gratitude)