From o̶n̶e̶ ̶h̶u̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶r̶a̶c̶e̶ to our collective humanity.
Language matters. What we say matters.
For too long, we have relied on the societal equalizer of being part of “one human race” to evade conversations of race, racism, and systemic inequities.
To say that we are part of “one human race” simply does not suffice. The phrase “one human race” causes erasure of identities, dismissal of injustices, and gross generalizations of cultures and peoples.
We can no longer seek to only “equalize” ourselves in systems that perpetuate injustice.
We protect us.
We advocate for us.
We build — for us.
We must take ownership in our relationships with each other — including in understanding our stories and struggles within our communities, and in building solidarities while celebrating joy across societally-set lines of division.
Our language can be an act of resistance.
We can shift our language to speak directly against the harm in systems that continue to uphold white supremacy.
Each of us has the incredible power to play and act upon our critical roles in our communities where we live, work, eat, and create joy.
Together, we can freedom dream new possibilities to uplift our own communities and each other’s livelihoods.
We are all part of our collective humanity, one in which we all learn from, contribute to, and build upon. Within our collective humanity, we rise against our own and each other’s injustices.
We take collective stands against systemic inequities that harm us all, white protecting each other’s individuality and culture.
We have a collective responsibility to build our shared humanity.
Beyond language is action in the form of individual, internal thought manifested in active, daily practice lived-out-loud and shared within and across communities.
Actively reflect on, respond to, and re-envision yourself, your community, and our collective humanity.
We are free to be free in our collective humanity.
How to describe myself as an Asian American woman right now? I used to walk on the street, go on the subway and turn the music up real loud I’m a musician, a teacher, and I want to feel the sound in my bones Instead I’m scared of having my teeth or head knocked off my orange-seated throne
Every day I gotta choose on my commute, dependent on my mood Do I go through my lesson in my head, keep my eyes down on my shoes No, I can’t, instead I stay alert all around me On a good day I’m listening to a podcast, out of 10 on a volume of 3
How do I begin to explain the daily negotiations When news, media, and law don’t acknowledge the racial motivations 360 West 43rd, I used to live next door Will it be me or my mom you’ll shut out on the concrete floor
What if I spoke up, how you like that? I’m dynamite, and a firecracker and I won’t be typecast I won’t stand for society’s erasure of my i-dentity I’m here for good measure, for no one’s pleasure, for us and our entities
Strong like chrome I can’t be sanded down And unlike a cassette tape, I won’t be rewound Even with my small feet I won’t let me be bound I can step in and out of Chinatown for my words to be heard and found
My dad emigrated from Hong Kong so my last name TSUI is Cantonese But (in Cantonese) I do not speak Cantonese, (in English) I’m actually Shanghainese But (in Shanghainese) if I speak Shanghainese, (in English) y’all go weak at your knees, And as MC Jin says, y’all better learn Chinese
But being Asian is more than just being from China I’m a member, a representative of the collective from major to minor AAPI, a political term for Asian American Pacific Islander Is not just about East Asians or me that you hear rhyming here
For the South Asians, Brown Asians, Black Asians in our society Undocumented Asians, adopted Asians, more than obeyers of filial piety Shouts to Tony Delarosa, Dr. Kevin Nadal We must be more inclusive than the diversity and equity institutional walls
GoFundMe, Go Fund us in our neighborhoods, our needs and wants Don’t need the blue eyes white supremacy dragon slanted, tilted, a-Flaunt Remember, the system is built on the backs of Black people and labor When we divide ourselves up we ain’t doing anyone no favors
Maxine Hong Kingston reminds me of my fellow warrior women And I want you to listen to the LGBTQ+ and Trans fams, the non-binary people and visions We must have more than just my mom’s good luck superstitions Trust y’all, we need to do more learning and listening on our mission
We’re NO model minority, we’re the global majority Our voices together are stronger than any authority So my call to action is for us is to truly unite We cannot do this alone, we need each other in this fight
Justice is not just is it’s for just us We cannot take the master’s tools to rectify or make just We can call to those in power to help our communities But we must step off each other’s subway stops for true cross-coalition unity
Let’s stand together and if you need some perspective Remember that this is lifelong work as one intersectional collective We are striving for the liberation of our marginalized peoples Each one of us is a hero, rest in power 13-year-old Adam Toledo
Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, BBIA BIPOC solidarity, We’re here united and we will rise today Black Lives Matter as we stand on Munsee Lenape Indigenous Lands Deep within us, we’re together, our hearts, souls, and hands
It’s 4.4, the anniversary of Dr. King’s final breath countdown AAPI history, lives, and arts in schools, Ethnic studies is the starting ground We must eradicate anti-Blackness, It’s not simply just stop Asian hate Ask “how can I use my voice to activate and stop ALL hate”?
And beyond that I’m asking that we spread so much love As powerful as the firebird’s flames and the peace of a soaring dove And to tell every kid we know in our lives and see, “You matter, and know your voice can set you free”
For my grandfathers and my grandmother, who I’ve never met I am your wildest dream each day from sunrise to sunset Today is 清明节 (Qing Ming Jie), a day that means literally clear and bright In many Asian cultures, it’s a day of rituals for our ancestors’ spirit and might
And for them, our ancestors, our presence, our future, for all to hear it’s not just we belong here It’s we belong – together.
For our ancestors, each other, this moment, our children, say this with me:
I shine bright with my golden light. I shine bright with my golden light.
Dear grandfathers, grandmothers, I will protect your daughter and son My mom and my dad, I will protect all our loved ones As my students say, our joy is revolutionary, Because we are golden, we are worthy.
Today, I want to end with Isang Bagsak. Isang Bagsak is a solidarity clap that originated in the cross-cultural fight unifying Filipinx and Latinx communities through Larry Itliong and Cezar Chavez. Isang Bagsak literally translates to “one down” and is a unity clap – to signal unity in movements together and that this moment is one down, of many more to go. I learned this from Tony Delarosa, and I am not the culture bearer of “Isang Bagsak”, I am a culture sharer. I, along with all of you, will start clapping together – slowly. As we gain momentum and the clap gets faster and louder, pulsating here in New York City, I will say “Isang Bagsak”, and right after you hear that, we will clap ONE TIME together – as a collective. Let’s do it.
Isang Bagsak 加油 (Jia You) My name is Alice Tsui. Thank you.
On the complexities of yellow and yellow peril, and offering an alternative: Golden Power.
A non-comprehensive list of what WE ARE NOT: We are not yellow foreigners your yellow fever yellow peril invisible dangerous coronavirus exotic model minorities a monolith the enemy.
“Yellow Peril” is a racist term that has been used to describe Asian people as a danger to the Western world. The term was coined by Russian Sociologist Jacques Novikow in 1897 and used by Western empires and white people in power, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, to encourage colonization of Asian countries and people. Using “Yellow Peril” perpetuates xenophobia and anti-Asian hate.
“Yellow” as a color for Asian people stems from “Luridus”: “Lurid”, “Sallow”, “Pale Yellow” – a label assigned by Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus. “Luridus” was also used to characterize unhealthy and toxic plants, and “yellow” helped reinforce an irrational fear of and danger from the perpetual foreigners: Asian people.
“Yellow” and “Yellow Peril” have been denounced and reclaimed by people of the Asian diaspora. Only Asian people can decide for themselves whether to denounce or reclaim racist terms that have been used against us. If you are not Asian, you cannot decide for us. Each Asian person’s voice is valuable, and yet does not speak monolithically for all members of the Asian diaspora.
Asian Americans: We actively renew racist rhetoric in our language if we do not understand the intersectional history of standing for and with Asians. We can embrace the history of activism that comes with “yellow peril” and denounce its usage when used by non-asian folx to describe our humanity. We can bravely share our narratives because each one of us matters – individually AND as part of the Asian diaspora.
I want to offer an alternative. Golden Power. GOLDEN. POWER.
Affirmations for my Asian American community: We are Asian. We are American. We are Asian American. We are Golden.
Rise up in solidarity. Speak up to protect BBIA. Embrace our Golden Power.
Close your eyes. Take a moment to envision an American person.
Now open your eyes.
It isn’t me.
It was in elementary school when I came home one day and told my mom that I was American. She chastised me, as if I had burnt her as badly as overcooked, inedible rice.
“No, you’re not American. You’re Chinese.”
Elementary school me was confused, but didn’t talk back (#filialpiety). I knew not to bring it up again, because I had learned that saying this was just wrong in my mom’s eyes. To her, saying I was American was equal to saying that I was white and that I had abandoned my Chinese roots – almost in shame. I took that to heart, and have never said “I am American” to her again.
I don’t remember exactly when I learned the term “Asian American”, but I remember feeling some type of identification with it. To a high school me, this term was for people who “weren’t Asian enough”, and simultaneously “weren’t American enough” – but rather just existed in this middle haze. A term that did not diminish me because of something that I wasn’t. A term that unified people who also felt that they “weren’t enough”. In what we lacked, we strangely found unity. I stopped saying that I was Asian, or Chinese, or American, and now always say that I am Asian American, specifically Chinese American. The two words must come stuck together like two tapioca pearls up a bubble tea straw, of an order I made in English.
“We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before. We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.” – Andrew Yang (Washington Post)
Reading this severely angered my Asian American self. My identity that I had so strongly valued in its togetherness was separated, with one prioritized over another. I felt my Asian Americanness separate and unequal, with Americanness prioritized – no – STOMPING OVER AND SPITTING AT at my Asian roots. Is my existence as an “American” insufficient? Do I have to prove how “American” I could be? I already know the answers to both of those questions; I can never be sufficient or prove my “Americanness” no matter how much red, white, and blue clothing I don.
“We are still, in the public eye, a perpetual foreigner.” – Tzi Ma (Time)
“One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners, who “brought” the virus here… our belonging is conditional.” – John Cho (LA Times)
Every day when I walk my dogs, you see my eyes and think FOREIGNER. Then you see my mask and you think COVID-19 – not because everyone else is or isn’t wearing a mask, but because I’m wearing a mask. What’s worse – my un-American eyes or my disease-ridden mask? I only feel somewhat safe when I have two medium sized dogs whose leashes are attached to my physical body, and even then, am I really? I no longer know how to react to being a Brooklyn, New York Asian woman if acid gets poured on someone else who is one also. I’m not safe alone. I don’t know if or when I will be again. If Jeremy Lin is pleading for people to “just accept us as humans”, is my existence beneath humankind?
“To be Asian in America during the time of coronavirus is to feel very alone. You might think that everyone’s alone during the pandemic. But it’s a different form of isolation carved out by that insidious model-minority myth, with its implication that as long as you worked hard and didn’t ask for handouts, racial inequities could be overcome.” – Cathy Park Hong (NY Times)
“Like fame, the “model minority” myth can provide the illusion of ‘raceless-ness.’ Putting select Asians on a pedestal silences those who question systemic injustice. Our supposed success is used as proof that the system works — and if it doesn’t work for you, it must be your fault.
Never mind that 12% of us are living below the poverty line. The model minority myth helps maintain a status quo that works against people of all colors.
But perhaps the most insidious effect of this myth is that it silences us. It seduces Asian Americans and recruits us to act on its behalf. It converts our parents, who in turn, encourage us to accept it. It makes you feel protected, that you’re passing as one of the good ones.” – John Cho (LA Times)
I’m only American on the few days my dad made me ham sandwiches for lunch in elementary school because I asked for it instead of my Shanghainese or Cantonese rice dish. I’m only American when it’s convenient for the media to celebrate the successes of people whose faces resemble mine. I’m only American when the model minority myth works in my favor and has duped my parents into believing in the possibility of achieving an “American dream” where hard work could overcome racial inequities. Am I, and are others, truly included in #AllAmericans, one that extends beyond activism by and for Asian people, one that stands in solidarity with the disproportionate deaths of LatinX and black people due to societal inequities? While we all support healthcare workers (or at least I certainly hope we all do), when will we truly support each other without perpetuating further discrimination – Asians included? Am I really that radical by saying EVERYONE, STOP HATING EACH OTHER?
In my middle school, the loudspeaker blasted “Proud to Be An American” as sung by Toby Keith daily after we recited the pledge.
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” – “I’m Proud to Be An American”, Toby Keith
Will I ever be free?
Will my parents ever be free?
Will my fellow Asian Americans ever be free?
Will Black, LatinX, Indigenous, and all marginalized groups ever be free?
Will America ever be free?
When you closed your eyes and imagined an American, did your own reflection come into the view of your eyes? Did you envision yourself? Are YOU free? Do you want to be free in America?
But questioning all of this, isn’t enough.
“I don’t want your love and light if it doesn’t come with solidarity and action.” – Rachel Cargle
My mother survived the “Cultural Revolution” in China. By the way, “Cultural Revolution” is read as cease all education, subscribe or die from the Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book, starve every day of your childhood, shut up or else during the house raids at my grandparents’ house, and the death of my grandfather – based on the little that my mother has told me.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be or feel fully free, but the one freedom I will never cease to use is my freedom of speech. My mom didn’t have it, and is terrified to use it now. I don’t blame her, but I can’t sit silent. Because of my parents immigrating here, I have this right, whether my “fellow Americans” acknowledge me and the fact that I can exercise it or not. I carry a lot of privilege to be able to use it, even if I feel it diminishing these days. But I have to take my chances.
Vaccines are never 100% effective, and I don’t know if any will be created that are in my lifetime. There’s one I’m testing out now, every single day and in all aspects of my personal and professional life.