Stop Anti-Asian Hate
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."-Jimi Hendrix
I commissioned this photoshoot (image above) in 2011 (or 2010). It was important to me that I have diverse representation in my African clothing line, including East and South East Asian Canadians. This is Lelo de Artist. Lelo is Cambodian Canadian and one of THE baddest make-up artists in Toronto at the time. I wanted her on my team and paid her for her work. She had my models together for a few shoots, and I also invited her to be a model. A Cambodian in traditional Asante Kente is actually quite normal and made sense to me.
A few years ago, when Crazy Rich Asians came out, I took my younger cousin and I on a cousin’s date-night to go see it. The similarities were uncanny. Of course, not every aspect of the movie was relatable, nor my experience to claim, or appropriate. However, I did feel very much at home with some of the tropes that emerged. The same was true about Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. The whole time I watched the series I kept asking myself, “Are the Kim’s African.” As a 6ix girl, this Korean Canadian family based in Toronto was much like my own immigrant family which also chose to call Toronto a second home.
I also watched Bombay Begums this past weekend, and Indians are pretty much, Ghanaians. Or West Africans. The messiness of rich aristocratic Indian women in Bombay felt like a scene out of a Nollywood movie. It could have been Accra, Ghana. If you ask me, us immigrant kids are more alike than different. This is why representation matters. Why sharing our stories is important. It humanizes each other. Shows us how we are more alike than different. Helps us to celebrate and embrace our differences.
As I watch an increased onslaught of anti-Asian hate since the pandemic started (Trump Nations misinformed COVID analysis adding flames to the already dangerous fire), I’m brought back to the complicated intersections of straddling oppressed and oppressor territory. Binaries never worked for me, not even in these instances. In recent months especially, I’ve been called to interrogate my own unconscious anti-Asian bias in my thought patterns and language. A short story I wrote earlier this year highlighted pervasive institutionalized racism even in me. In the story, I wrote the following.
"Oh gosh, if only de Trini’s knew that “Destra” is our safe word,” you laughed. Your accent as unique as the Trinidadians themselves. “They go charge we with blasphemy. Dem Trini’s act prim and proper so, like dey not kinky demselves same way. You know de Yellow Devil’s come out at night ehn? The Jab Jab’s on de other hand,” you continue. “The Black oil says it all,” you joked, as we sat down to draw our boundaries. We decided on the Queen of Bacchanal as our safe word. That was our first encounter. Before we started to go South."
For those who know, this was an obvious immigrant queer love story. One honouring Afro-Caribbean culture. Trinidad and Trini's are explicitly stated. As is Carnival and J'ouvert culture. I was naming a factual experience. The Yellow Devil was me. I was the literal and actual Yellow Devil in 2015 when I played with a band in Trinidad called "Yellow Devils". We came out at night for J’ouvert. It was a kinky and perverted toying with words. One that requires context. I’m assuming that this is not the first time that Trinidadians and folks like myself have had to reckon with systemic racism and how its deployed in language and literature, including the band’s name. (I didn’t play with Blue Devilz, another J’ouvert band, so I can’t speak to that experience). I played with the band that my girls and others had recommended. I had a great time. “It’s part of the culture,” I was told. (There are Chinese Trinidadians in Trinidad). Problematic and slippery none the less. As an autistic writer, I should have foreseen the confusion. It was also meant to highlight systemic racism in the Caribbean and beyond.
In the end, I came off as the xenophobic racist. And fair enough. I have adopted anti-Asian sentiments growing up, and still unlearning them. I have made inappropriate jokes and bought into harmful stereotypes.
I have also experienced anti-Black racism from those in various Asian communities. Including being called the n-word, and having East Asians fall prey to the idea that their proximity to whiteness makes them inherently better/smarter/more right than Black people. I’ve been betrayed by Asian friends, and been the butt of their jokes, and harmful stereotypes. China is also playing a really dangerous and dirty neocolonial game in countries like my homeland Ghana, and other African nations. We don’t talk about this, but these nuances are integral to a whole and full conversation.
I wish more people posting #stopasianhate would be honest about their own internalized anti-Asian programming. If even in the past. White supremacy and anti-Asian hate has seeped into most, if not all of us. (Asians included). Include this in your analysis. Don't just point fingers. No one ever wants to be the "bad guy". But white supremacy makes us all complicit to some level of badness. Let's hold space for the full range of narratives. It would be disingenuous of me to stand in solidarity with the Asian and Pacific Islanders community without also acknowledging the ways that I have bought into these harmful tropes.
Heck, I can’t even talk about anti-Blackness without teasing out my own internalized forms of anti-Blackness and self-hate. Anti-Blackness is pervasive across all communities. It holds anti-Asian hate up. The two intersect. It's okay to mention this, even now. Especially now. Because when Black people are free, we all are set free.
It's not easy admitting to mistakes. The vulnerability is scary, especially in cancel culture. Identifying what Angela Davis calls, “the state in us" is difficult. But truth-telling and radical honestly has to be at the forefront of decolonizing work. Black feminists have been telling us this. Tease out the nuances. Tell the whole and full truth. That too is an art of solidarity.
In the end, the only person I can control is myself. “Doing the work” means having to smash white supremacy and anti-Asian hate in me. I will continue to commit myself to this. Stop AAPI Hate has some resources on their website. Check out the STOP AAPI HATE NATIONAL REPORT.
“Why Is Decolonizing in an Immigrant Household So Difficult” and “Are the Kim’s African” are 2 blog posts I want to share in the future. Stay tuned. In the meantime, let’s all stop anti-Asian, anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic hate.
If this resonates, please pass it along and share it with others. If it doesn't, that's okay too. Like others, I and my words are not meant for everyone. If it is for you, please consider making a donation to paypal.me/DeeArchives. I'm also on Buy Me a Coffee at DeeArchives. Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time, in solidarity.
Photo Cred: Maxwell iToonz Bonsu Model: Lelo de Artist Make-up Artist: Lelo de Artists Stylist: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan Image Description: A Cambodian Canadian smiles big for the camera. Both her hands are wrapped around the back of her neck. She has long Black hair and is wearing a purple Kente dress with pinks and blues in it.