On March 16th, a gunman attacked multiple spas and massage parlors in Atlanta, GA. His violent attacks took the lives of eight people, including six Asian American women who were the likely targets of the shootings.
Last year, members of the Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee emphasized the need to show up for our neighbors during the pandemic, especially community members of Asian descent on the receiving end of racism and hatred stemming from fears related to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, nearly 3,800 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate, ranging from harassment and to physical violence, were perpetrated against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Women were the most frequent targets of these attacks.
This attack was both racist and sexist. It also targeted low-wage workers, who are frequently treated as disposable in our society. We hold all these truths at once and mourn the fatal ways systems of oppression overlap in our world.
As Quakers, our testimonies guide us to feel our connections to one another and dismantle racism so that we may honor that of God in everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic did not create anti-Asian hatred and violence, but many people are now learning more deeply about the roots of racism against people of Asian descent. In the midst of growing threats to our community members and people we love, we are compelled to act. Here’s how:
Check in with Asian friends and community members.
You may want to check in with Asian friends and community members to see how you can support them right now. It's important to remember that every person is unique and will have a different reaction to the recent reports of violence, from sadness to shock to even feeling overwhelmed by the increased attention from the people around them. Hold that awareness and proceed accordingly. If you're not sure how to broach the question or show support for someone you're not in close relationship with, a gesture like sending a text or email that asks "How are you doing, is there anything you need right now?" or writing a message of support on an Asian-owned company's social media page can be small though very meaningful.
Share self-care and therapy resources with neighbors and community members who are most impacted by anti-Asian racism.
Community members of Asian descent in North America are still at risk right now, and that can take a toll on their mental health and wellness. Publicize some or all of these resources in your Quaker meeting's newletter and social media channels, as well as your own social media accounts. Many thanks to the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival for sharing these resources first on Facebook:
- HuffPost: Self-Care Tips For Asian Americans Dealing With Racism Amid Coronavirus
- Asian American Pyschological Association: COVID-19 Related Resources
- Asians Do Therapy Resource List
- Asian Mental Health Collective website
Here are resources for friends and neighbors in Canada:
- Mental Health Resources for Asian Communities in Canada
- Mental Health Resources by SOCH Mental Health
Learn about Asian American & Pacific Islander and Asian Canadian history, and the work of Asian Quakers.
Your local library may have a reading list or website containing recommended resources, like the Free Library of Philadelphia's Asian Americans website. PBS is also making its Asian Americans documentary series available for free. More people need to understand the actions in American history that have contributed to anti-Asian racism now, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Executive Order 9066, which called for the arrest and detention of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry (more than two thirds were American citizens, and over half were children) in concentration camps in America for nearly four years during World War II. This article from Elle Magazine offers an in-depth look at anti-Asian racism in American history, and why ignoring that history is an act of violence.
People of Asian ancestry have made important contribtions and broken barriers in Canadian history since they came to Canada in the late 1700s. The Canadian Government's Events in Asian Canadian history webpage and the Asian Heritage in Canada collection of The Canadian Encyclopedia offer important resources for further reading.
If you're interested in learning about a particular notable individual of Asian ancestry, check out this article about Korean Quaker Ham Sok-Hon, a Friend whose commitment to nonviolence was so inspiring he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice.
Once you've learned the history, don't forget to add books and documentaries about Asian history and Friends to your meeting's library!
Take action, both in your local and Quaker communities.
The Stop AAPI Hate website has lots of information that's worth checking out, from ways to report incidents of anti-Asian hate to strategies for staying civically engaged, and how to support organizations engaged in this important work. You can also reach out to your city or town's elected officials and encourage them to create a toolkit that shares safety resources and raises awareness of anti-Asian racism like this one from New York City.
Amplify the voices of community members of Asian descent and Asian-led organizations. Many Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting find valuable lessons in the writings and presentations of Kazu Haga, a nonviolence and restorative justice trainer. Kazu's work in conflict resolution and nonviolence, like his book Healing Resistance, is especially helpful for Friends who want to deepen their commitment to becoming actively anti-racist. Friends are invited to read, sign, and share the statement in response to the attack released by the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC). These statments are also worth reading and sharing:
- A Community-Centered Response to Violence Against Asian American Communities by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta
- Mourning Violence against Asian American Women by the Christian Reformed Church, which features quotes from Asian faith leaders
If you want to disrupt racism and harassment when you witness it in your day-to-day life, check out American Friends Service Committee's Bystander Intervention resource. For bystander intervention training specific to disrupting anti-Asian harassment, you can sign up for a virtual training by global anti-harassment organization Hollaback! here.
You may also want to read and discuss statements released by Quaker organizations in response to the Atlanta attacks, including statements by Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Friends Service Committee, and Quaker Voluntary Service in your Quaker meeting. This statement from the National Council of Churches is worth reading, too. We also encourage Friends to read this 2016 QuakerQuaker discussion post by Stephen Nakao, who lifts up queries about addressing anti-Asian racism in the Religious Society of Friends.
Once you've had a discussion, you can approve a minute condemning anti-Asian racism and express solidarity in other ways, like writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper denouncing the violence or hosting a virtual discussion with other houses of worship and Asian-led organizations in North America on how to curb the violence directed at our most vulnerable neighbors.
This update was written for the April 2021 issue of the Vital Friends eNewsletter.