On Tuesday March 16, the lives of
Hyun Jung Grant
Paul Andre Michels
Soon Chung Park
Yong Ae Yue
were taken senselessly in an act of racist violence, and for that I offer condolences to their families, and stand with the Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in the fight against Asian hate.
And in this stance, I particularly want to take a moment to discuss the ramifications of racism and violence perpetrated against the women of the AAPI community.
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Over the past year nearly 3,800 incidences of violence–which included shunning, slurs and physical attacks–against the AAPI community were reported, and of that 68% of this violence was directed toward Asian women.
Professor Russell Jeung at the University of San Francisco states that, “There is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets.” More simply put, the cross section of racism and sexism have placed Asian women in an extremely vulnerable position.
It should go without saying that this statistic is deplorable and should be unacceptable. Yet sadly in the state of the U.S. institutional racism, patriarchy and violence are more expected than equity and equality.
I talk all too often about the ills of racism, but seldom have broached the topic of patriarchy… So let's get one thing clear: even though the patriarchy has goaded society into believing that women’s bodies are playthings meant to bend to the will of men (read: white men) –especially the bodies of marginalized women–they are not.
Women deserve to be seen for the strong, beautiful, magical beings that we are. Our bodies deserve to be treated as holy, hallowed and revered dwellings, not just when men find them “attractive” for their own use, but in our autonomy and individual existence.
And while I can not embody the experience of an Asian woman, as a Black woman, I say to the women of the AAPI community…
I see you;
I hear you;
I fight with you;
I affirm your stories;
I affirm your voice;
You do not deserve this.
As I turn my gaze toward the individuals and institutions who continue to allow and actively perpetrate these abhorrent acts, I say to you what my mother always said to me growing up. Don’t be sorry. Be better.
Don’t just apologize after a highly publicized incident or racism, but actively work toward dismantling white normativity, and inherent racism in our everyday structure. I send this message most especially to the two institutions I hold near, the academy and the church.
To the religious academy…
I implore you to stop teaching solely through the lens of white male dominance. Diversify your professorial staff; privilege the voices of scholars of color. Do not teach ethnic studies as “niche” or divergent, but teach them as central, valid and necessary.
Read theologians such as Andrew Sung Park, Peter Phan, Fumitaka Matsuoka and Anslem Min with just as much weight and value as you read Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth and Paul Tillich. Go a step further and read Asian Feminist theologies through theologians such as Chun Hyun Kyung, Kwok Pui Lan and Grace Ji-Sun Kim the same way you would read their male counterparts.
To the church, once I state again I state, stop normalizing the story of white men. Teach the stories of marginalized Christian communities. Unpack the colonial narrative and legacy of Christian violence on communities of color. Find and read the narratives of people of color through the Bible and seminal Christian texts. Find beauty in the theologies of marginalized communities, and preach them from your pulpits–not just in the wake of tragedy but on a regular basis.
Of course this won’t happen overnight, and it may not solve every problem, but it will further dismantle and disrupt the constant notion that white male privilege is allowed to go unchecked. Through privileging AAPI voices into seminal institutions, the academy and the church have the power to change the formation of those who live and work within them in order to be the first step in the critical process of upending and dismantling Asian Hate.
Tatayana Richardson is a Trinity Senior who thinks everyone should read "Liberation Theologies in the United States: An Introduction." Her column "searching for Canaan" usually runs on alternate Mondays.