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*Warning: a few well-deserved curse words ahead.
AAPI Heritage Month: the conversation that once again woke me up to my own ignorance.
I met my husband in May of 2014. He lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and I lived in California.
I was a flight attendant at the time, so I had the perks of flying back and forth as much as my newly-in-love heart desired.
That following August was the Michael Brown tragedy. The devastation of an unarmed Black teenager who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo. (a suburb of St. Louis). The shooting prompted protests that carried on for weeks. After the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Mr. Wilson, protests and riots broke out again.
I remember being on a walk that summer and seeing Black Lives Matter signs everywhere for the first time. To be completely transparent at how unaware I was, I was confused by them.
This was before White Fragility, or Me and White Supremecy came out. I didn’t have a television and didn’t watch the news. After disappointments I experienced from being heavily involved in politics in the early 2000s, I removed myself from heated political discussions. You could say that I was in an ignorant state of White silence and bypassing.
Anytime I wasn’t flying or with my new boyfriend, I was traveling on a soul journey; deep-diving into all things spirituality (Reiki, feng shui, mediumship, the list goes on). Or at least I thought I was. Looking back, I realize something: spiritual learning without acknowledging human rights and equality is pure fucking fluff. But that’s a discussion for another time.
This was just the start of my anti-racism journey of learning, unlearning, and unpacking.
And there is always more to do. I am still a pre-schooler.
Fast forward to this month, May of 2021, and I was in a conversation with a client, colleague, and friend, Kim Stock (pictured above), who is half Filipino.
She said to me, “I am triggered. May is AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, and I am frustrated at the silence of all these people who said they are allies and are using their voices for BLM. I haven’t seen that same support for AAPI Heritage Month. Yet in February, there was a constant conversation for Black History Month. I am posting on social media, but the information is not being seen or heard, and it’s frustrating.”
My initial thought was, how could I not have remembered that May is AAPI Heritage Month? A visual list began running through my mind; I am staying in the conversation, getting emails from local anti-racism groups, and trying my best to do anti-racism work, (which never ends), but how could I not have remembered?
I immediately pulled up emails from the anti-racism organizations I follow, and only one had information about AAPI Heritage Month, which clearly, I must have skimmed right over.
I went back to look at Kim’s social media to reference the shares and posts she mentioned and sure enough, I didn’t see them.
I recognized that responding to her with, “I just wasn’t aware,” or “I didn’t remember,” just amounted to shit excuses. Yet at the same time, it was my truth. A truth that told me once again to step it up and do better, and be better.
Ignorance is not bliss, and not knowing is not acceptable.
So, I sat with why and how I didn’t remember this month. My own deeper anti-racism learning and unpacking started with BLM, and a lot of my time and resources are still there. So I find myself, once again, wanting to do better and wanting to do more. Which is not new. This is the constant conversation, isn’t it?
After discussing it for a bit, Kim shared her frustration with her social media not being seen, thanks to algorithms, and wanting to share her insights and perspective.
If she was willing to share, I was going to damn well listen.
So, Kim and I had the following conversation about her experience living in an invisible minority. It was of benefit to me, and may it be to you:
Q: Where is your biggest frustration you experience when it comes to AAPI awareness?
A: My first frustration is that there isn’t even an awareness, that the AAPI needs to have awareness, if that makes sense? It’s all part of the belief of the invisible minority. From my perspective, Asians have done such a great job of integrating themselves into society and culture to overcome obstacles. I witness so much “turning of the cheek,” and that frustrates me.
Q: What do you wish you would see more people doing in support of AAPI not just throughout May, but every month of the year?
A: I wish the AAPI community would be included in the anti-racism conversation more and have an opportunity to be heard. People can take practical actions, whether supporting AAPI owned small businesses, speaking out against the violence happening in my community, speaking up to the microaggressions against the AAPI community, or checking in with friends who are AAPI.
Everyone has different ideas about how support looks, but it comes down to helping add a voice to the conversation. We have seen just how powerful that is when looking at the shift in the BLM movement. I am not trying to compare the two, but the rallying around and support from the community has changed Black lives. The AAPI community hasn’t seen that.
I also see a need for more learning and self-educating so that the world can recognize the contributions the AAPI community has brought to society. Learning is a powerful act of support that can happen throughout the year, not just over a month.
Q: Many anti-Asian sentiments are disguised. What are some things you have experienced or seen, and how do you feel it could be different?
A: This one is difficult for me to speak on because it wasn’t until recently that I fully recognized and registered the impact and effects of the microaggressions I have experienced or seen happen to my family.
The first thing that comes to my mind is being asked, “What are you?” While I understand the question intends to learn my ethnicity, it’s dehumanizing. I am human. The same goes for people asking me, “Where are you from?” When I respond with, “I was born and raised in St. Louis,” I get pushback; “No, but where are you really from?”
Growing up, I have a clear memory of my mom on the phone with the owner of a local produce stand. She was having a challenging conversation with the owner because they took advantage of my grandfather and were overcharging him. They were using the language barrier as an excuse. He may not have spoken perfect English, but he was very understandable, and it was so unacceptable.
Then there are those times when others intend for you to “laugh with their” microaggressions. Like the time I was at a wedding reception with my friend, who is half Korean and half Filipino, we were the only two minorities at the reception, and someone called out, “Oh look, here comes the Asian invasion.” Or the time I was with a group of my cousins, running down the street in New York trying to catch a train to Connecticut during a family reunion, and people shouted, “Hurry up, or you’ll miss the boat,” and “The boat is going to leave without you.”
I may have laughed these off then, but looking back now, I think about how ignorant those comments were. I would not accept that now.
These are the types of things I have encountered my whole life. And they still happen, like hearing people reference the “the Chinese flu.” It is hard to reflect on all of this because even I, being Filipino, didn’t fully recognize what was going on. It wasn’t until I started speaking on these issues that I even registered this was all happening. There is a part of a self-forgiveness happening for me in that I didn’t recognize how deeply racism has affected me. From the microaggressions to things like not seeing myself represented in television, movies, books, or dolls.
Q: One thing we can all do is support Asian Owned Businesses. You are one! What do you do, how can we support you for the time and education you are providing?
A: I am an intuitive medium. I help individuals to find and rediscover their inner value and worth. I work with people in one-on-one sessions to source the root of their challenges and gain crystal clear clarity to move forward fully valuing themselves and life.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: We need to keep doing better. Continue to educate ourselves. Do our own work around these issues. Add our voices to the collective so that change can occur. We just have to do our part.
I am appreciative of Kim’s time and education. If you want to check out the goodness she is up to in the world and thank her; you can find her here.
I recognize that I am a woman who presents white, and I am a part of the problem if I take this information and make not one different choice.
May we all choose to keep learning, stand up and correct the microaggressions, and do better in each moment.