Un-Containing Asian/Americanness: #StopAsianHate as a Site of Struggle and Becoming
Introduction (not to be confused with a beginning)
This writing comes collected over four months of scribbled thoughts from bearing witness to the world’s intimate and collective raging and grieving, or in some corners, a dense immovability. I scribbled through the relentless intensity of anti-Asian violence gutted with the mass shooting in Atlanta; through the heart wrenching state-sanctioned murders of youth from Iremamber Sykap to Daunte Wright to Adam Toledo to Ma’Khia Bryant; through Derek Chauvin’s trial, re-traumatizing us into looping scenes of endless police impunity on Black lives. This, like many before it, is a living, breathing list of contextual moments, a brief snapshot that cannot be contained any longer.
I’ve been documenting my sense-making as “imperfect grief,” a wounded attempt at anchoring myself inside this drowning of anti-Asian violence. Containment, even within familiar boundaries, feels futile, an endless cadence against all the permutations of how white supremacy mutates into the most significant and insignificant of things harming us all.
We know racial violence when we see it, but what of the racial violence that seeps into the intimate spaces between lovers, kins, and fellow agitators? What of the racial violence within ourselves, on ourselves?
I’ve been struggling with containment, and in the backdrop of a global pandemic still raging one year later, I’m not sure containment is possible.
This writing, then, is one of un-containment. I write this specifically through the foggy ache, tenderness, and at times, sharp discomfort with being Asian/American in these past few months, years, lifetimes. I write this specifically to my Asian/American kins, and I also write this to all of you.
If there is an opposite to containment, it is to free, let go, and release. This is an un-containing — a freeing, a letting go, and a releasing—of Asian/Americanness in five imperfectly scribbled parts.
It took some time for me to see that this rage, this fury, was directed at my own Asian/American community, a sudden realization that unhinged me. Which is to ask, as an un-contained fellow Asian/American, do you see our brokenness the way that I do?
Rather than whitewash our historical and sociopolitical realities into a singular myth, how do we situate ourselves as sites of struggle in defiance of our origin stories here while remaining rooted in our creation stories elsewhere?
The organizing principle of #StopAsianHate compartmentalizes the racialization of Asian/Americans as outside of white supremacy, racial capitalism, and setter colonialism. What are we, Asian/Americans, mobilizing for?
Talking about allyship is another tired American ritual. Instead, ask: what would it look like to strive and persist in the work of building and belonging within movements?
In asking how #StopAsianHate can be a site of struggle that situates Asian/Americans inside of movements, I’m also asking how #StopAsianHate can be a site of love and abolition too.
Coda (not to be confused with an ending)
“I want to be a historian when I grow up,” said no one ever. As a child and teenager, history was never cool or sexy but now as a “grown up,” I am madly intoxicated by history. It turns out we’re all born into this world as storytellers of our smaller histories, only to grow and become historians orbiting around each other in this collective narrative that is grander and more uncontainable than any of us can ever imagine.
Even if none of us wanted history growing up, history has always wanted us.
Being a historian is a discipline of faith, a radical love for our past as part of our present and futures. As historians, we draft love letters and send them time-traveling into the future like maps and constellations of care for all the possibilities beyond our current imaginations and wildest dreams yet. This kind of love is not one of ease. It is gravity’d with pain, trauma, and loss from the bondage we’ve been resisting long before we became ourselves.
Yet we are called to love, still; beckoned to grieve, still; challenged to hope, still, that our stories will birth each of us, entangled together.
We are sites of love, too. And love persists the way that histories do, time-traveling into the future, enduringly so.
This collection of writings is a work in progress — open to your critiques, thoughts, feelings, wonderings, tensions, and tenderness. This collection, however, is not open to hateful comments or remarks that do not have the intention or invitation of trying to understand, connect, or “work out” conflict and differences.
Always and with immense gratitude,