I’ve been thinking….
The rise in anti-Asian racism is a reminder that we must adhere to the terms and conditions too. You can put your head down, work hard, try to assimilate, but the arms of white supremacy will randomly lunge to pull you back into a place. It’s not right, and of course, none of this is new.
Waves of Asian discrimination are the norm across these lands. Head taxes, internment, marginalization of new immigrants from Korea, Vietnam, or India. Heck, look at some of the largest COVID outbreaks in the country (meat plants) take place and who takes the brunt of the impact. Most recently, we’ve seen a meteoric rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. Vancouver alone saw a 700%+ increase YoY, propelled by the racist tag-lines, “China-virus” and “Kung flu”. The West is rooted on whiteness where Asian faces are too foreign or ‘Oriental’ to fully belong.
Although assimilation means survival for many, it comes at a cost. Matching expectations determined by the dominant white society creates the “model minority”. A myth meant to distinguish Asians as “different” than Black, Indigenous, or brown bodies. To match, Asian versions of anti-Blackness emerge to stoke misguided fear. But there are costly penalties to play the part, not least of which is violence. We saw that play out in Atlanta. We see it play out day-by-day. The increase in anti-Asian racism during COVID reminds the “keep your head down” crowd the invisible and random limits to success and belonging are very real. Anti-Asian racism was always here, we’re just getting a reminder.
Whiteness seeks to perpetuate supremacy at the expense of ALL others. It’s the same evil that many protested against last summer, calling for an end to anti-Black racism, that now flips to target Asian bodies. Same enemy but the impact is different. Asians don’t have to contend with history and hatred that our Black brothers and sisters face. We don’t know what losing our land means like our Indigenous friends. We have to reach into our own unique experience scaled along the lines of white supremacy versus all others.
Developing awareness surrounding white supremacy in the DNA of the nations and its institutions is therefore worthy of our attention. It’s also worthy of our time to decolonize and dismantle. This fully includes the western church in all shapes and stripes. In fact, white churches are spaces of radicalization for white men to perpetuate violence. Although that may illicit defensiveness in white churches, “certainly not mine” it doesn’t cover complicitness. White church traditions produce bad fruit.
Whiteness in Christianity is both explicit in a fundamentalist/white nationalist kind of way, but also deftly hidden in “faux-woke” liberal or “multi-ethnic on the outside” way too. The latter perhaps more dangerous. To complicate matters, there have been few substantive changes in denominations to address racist formation. This, as we know, isn’t a new problem. The Civil Rights movement began sixty years ago. That’s a lot of time to change, but institutions aren’t designed to do that. Instead, racial segregation is the key marker for most churches. That’s a problem.
Where do we go from here? I can imagine there will be many come Sunday wondering if the white person next to them in the pew shares anti-Asian (or any racist thought) resentment or formation. The answer is “of course”, we just can’t be sure to what degree. Which begs a different question: why stay? In a real way the proof of whether a church is safe was made last summer.
Many churches, white churches especially, struggled to respond to the cry for justice in the face of rising calls to dismantle anti-Black racism. Most have not made any formative change. This should be all we need to know when it comes to change in the institution surrounding anti-Asian racism. Nothing happened last summer and nothing will happen now.
So although Asian bodies must adhere to the terms and conditions of whiteness, we know in our bodies that ain’t right. As we make sense of trauma imposed by anti-Asian racism, we must also spur into action. For Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, our liberation is tied. And who better to lead than marginalized people who know the experience of subjugation? Marginalization spurs dreams for better rooted in our experience. Voices bound together in solidarity to re-imagine better for ALL. Justice and equity is on the horizon.