We don’t need to rely on stats to know that racial harassment against Asian Americans is on the rise. We can feel it. From the comments about a US Olympian’s heritage to the non-Asian man shouting “go back to Asia” at an Asian American woman, to potentially separating families who have resided in the USA for many years and made a living there (which makes me worried about my own family), examples abound.
The question is, what do we do from here? What can one person like me, someone trying to get by and save money in their piggy bank, do to make a difference? The bright news is that we can do something that makes seemingly little impact now, but can work in the long term. Here are some solutions that I recommend from my personal experience.
Volunteer and invest in your local community
In my university years I volunteered for my local Vietnamese Student Organization to fundraise for Vietnamese cultural events. It was a rewarding experience because I had an opportunity to connect with not just college peers, but with the wider Vietnamese community. The 2018 midterm election is one big event we can all participate in as volunteers. We can take the first step towards policy change by volunteering for current Asian American candidates running for office or helping with voter registration of others.
We can invest our money in the community, from the business next door to a literary project. Many Asian American organizations and communities struggle from a lack of funding. Whether it’s due to the “model minority myth,” which suggests that Asian Americans are rich enough to take care of themselves, or any other reason, community donation is needed more than ever.
Even someone like me, who struggles to make ends meet day to day, can still speak with their wallet. Since I was little my mom made sure to buy most of her groceries at the Vietnamese supermarket. At first, I thought it was weird considering that there are other supermarkets nearby, but I came to realize the value of her decision as I got older.
Documenting or reporting hate crimes
There is a trend of underreporting crimes against Asian Americans due to many factors, from language barriers to discomfort when dealing with law enforcement.
Even so, we still can report crimes and make our voice heard. “Stand Against Hatred”, sponsored by the Asian American Advancing Justice organization, is a resource to inform “Asian Americans about their rights”. The reporting page is offered in multiple Asian languages and people can report anonymously at their comfort level to spread awareness about their experiences online. “Documenting Hate Project” is another collaborative effort between AsAmNews , New American Media and Pro Publica to verify hate crimes starting from November 2016. It is to show that there is a trend of Asian Americans being targeted on purpose for hate crimes.
Of course, the situation is sometimes trickier when you’re not a victim, but a witness. The general rule is to call law enforcement or help that person out, so long as it doesn’t jeopardize your safety. Even when you’re too scared to do anything on the spot, don’t let the guilt stop you from talking about it. After all, it’s not our fault.
Social media as a platform to spread awareness
As with the now widespread #MeToo movement, social media can be an outlet to make a real difference.
You can start a national conversation with your personal Asian American experience. Jeanne Heo, an Asian American woman, reached out to Twitter and documented being told demeaning things like “go back to Asia” and “we’re going to nuke your country”. People retweeted and her experience made headlines in the Huffington Post.
You can use social media as a platform to hold companies and enterprises accountable for their behavior. Just a month ago, a high school student named Emily Huynh tweeted an email from an HR manager that said to her father, “If you speak no English. I will send you home”. She requested the online community to contact the company and as a result, the HR manager was fired the next day.
On a more positive note, you can promote the works of other Asian American creatives. Liking or retweeting or simply talking with your friends about someone’s work opens new doors for underrated creatives.
Comic writers like Joshua Luna and Trung Nguyen recall that Asian Americans have had to adopt more “English sounding names” and deal with a high chance of being turned down by mainstream comic distributors. Many Asian American musicians, writers, and other content creators go through similar experiences. When they struggle to seek other ways to promote their work, your words, through social media or word of mouth, makes world of difference.
I know that. I used Twitter to cross-promote show’s like Paget Kagey’s Kat Loves LA and other April Magazine writers in Journey to the West, and the mutual empowerment has been rewarding on so many levels.
As we get older, we learn that big problems cannot be solved alone. It takes the simplest actions of many people and their dedication to the cause for progress to be made.
You don’t have to do something big to make a difference. Sometimes it just takes one minute a day to be kind to yourself in the face of adversity. After all, we’re a part of the community. Loving ourselves is to empower our community. That’s what I do every day, with my words, my voice, and my heart.