Affirm: Asian American Solidarity

Recent videos of people harming elderly Asian Americans break my heart. I try to make sense of them and feel ashamed as an African American. While I know that not only African Americans have been targeting Asian Americans, seeing people with my skin color harming anyone—especially senior citizens—is soul-crushing. I sense gravity in this moment that I don’t yet fully understand.

I remember being told months ago of the hate being directed at Asian Americans. I stated how sad it was to hear, said a quick prayer for the Asian community, imagined appropriate governmental responses, and then moved on. I didn’t give the issue space in my heart, soul, and mind.

My response was wrong. I did exactly what many people do when they hear about horrors being committed against African Americans: say a quick prayer and follow up with excuses to blame someone else for the problem.

The recent violence against Asian American senior citizens shows me how I too have fallen into my culture’s typical response to right and wrong. Instead of standing up for the vulnerable, I have followed our society’s pattern of viewing the issue as someone else’s problem; worrying about how it might affect me personally; and then trying not to get involved.

When I speak out about issues facing African Americans and this nation, I am quick to tell White Americans they must act; they cannot sit comfortably on the sidelines. I recognize that this holds true for me as well. Whether it’s a hate crime against Asian Americans or any other group, I am called to voice the wrong—better said, the many wrongs—that these incidents against bring to light. It is shameful that individuals are being victimized for their racial identity. It is shameful that elderly persons’ physical vulnerability is being exploited. It is shameful that so many in our society have deemed the elderly unworthy of our attention.

I, like many, want to figure out why these crimes are happening. In particular, why are African Americans targeting Asian Americans? Is it the loss of family values, poverty, hunger, unemployment, poor education, or the new coronavirus?

Any of these systemic problems may be contributing to the recent aggressions against Asian Americans, but before we continue to investigate and look for explanations, we must first and foremost condemn the wrongs committed and find ways to protect those being victimized. When George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, our nation in its great diversity stood in solidarity against the wrong. That same collective response must be seen now when another group is being victimized. All of us need to stand alongside neighbors when their trials come, advocating for justice and lending a helping hand.

Today I purchased Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics: Volume 1, African Americans and Asian Americans (American Political Landscape Series) by Jeffrey D. Schultz. It’s my first honest step in trying to understand the plight and history of Asian Americans. If you have suggestions on books or movies I should read or watch, please email them to me.

To the Asian American community: We see your beauty and your strength. We stand against all hate and racism toward you.  

Affirm: The Lowly Boast

This past weekend I lost four family members—none to COVID but simply age and health issues. At one of the three funerals I attended, God spoke to me through a sister, a woman I grew up with. She told me she has been richly blessed because God has brought her through many things in the past year. She blessed me with her story.

This woman who self-identifies as blessed told me that her husband left her, she lost her job, and she lived for months in her storage shed. When she could no longer pay for the storage unit, a friend let her stay with her a few nights until she got into a local group home.

God has been good to her, she told me. God has seen her through. She is blessed.

My encounter with this woman’s story shocked me out of the protective shell I’ve been cowering in. These past few months I have found it hard to write. I haven’t sent out blog posts. I haven’t written articles. I struggle to be positive and hopeful in the midst of the pandemic and racial tension. In my isolation and lack of travel, I’ve missed hanging out with other women across the country. It’s been a bummer, and I thought I had it bad.

My conversation with this woman opened my eyes to blessing. To help the organization stay afloat, I cut my hours—but I did not lose my job. I have a home. My family has been okay financially through the pandemic. Even as we lost three of our matriarchs, I have welcomed three grandbabies since March. God has been good to me.

We followers of Jesus are told that, somehow, all of this amounts to joy:

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away” (James 1:2-4, 9-11).

As I try now to dwell on the positives—as evasive as they may be—I consider this: we as a people are more aware. Instead of being too busy to simply be with one another, we are longing to be in the presence of others. Instead of ignoring those in need, we are confronted with the scale of it. We can no longer ignore the unemployed; we and those we love are increasingly among their ranks. The rich are being brought low.

No matter how these months have treated us, let’s remember the many families who have lost their homes or are unable to pay utility bills. Remember communities of color battling the virus physically and economically. Remember women enduring domestic violence and seniors unable to hug their loved ones. Remember those in poverty whose state of well-being goes from bad to worse. Let us pray that those who suffer will be raised up so that they might boast. 

I thank God for my conversation last weekend with the women who unknowingly humbled me, reminding me that I am rich, and I must boast when I am brought low. When I am low, I must boast when I am raised up. As hard as this pandemic and racially divisive time in our history, I am blessed. I will praise God.