Part 1 of this blogpost begins here.
My family, friends and I have been revisited by painful racist experiences on an unending loop this past month. A waking nightmare. Violence and hate have a snowball effect as they re-traumatize people who have experienced it.*
Reading news about the treatment of Mario Gonzalez who was a survivor of one of the March 16, 2021 Atlanta shootings compounds the pain. Mr. Gonzalez survived the shooting and was handcuffed in a squad car for four hours. He was not notified that his wife, Delaina Yaun, had died — for hours. I suspect that Mr. Gonzalez was treated this way because he is Mexican, and not White. Not only was he traumatized by the violent situation and subsequently, the murder of his wife, he was further traumatized by being kept in handcuffs for hours, for no discernible reason other than the fact that he is Mexican.
Based on US Census data from 2010 100 million is the number of people I imagine might have been re-traumatized** by racist violence in the last year. We also need to include the violence of racist policies like qualified immunity for police or the imprisonment of children near the U.S.-Mexico border.
I have heard from White friends that they don’t have enough time to become informed or get involved. So my question is, What is the threshold at which this crisis of racist violence becomes both urgent and important enough to take action?
Does it need to impact 300 million people? Does it need to directly impact your child? Does your spouse need to be attacked or killed to make it urgent and important? Do you need to be attacked on the street or in your home?
I don’t mean simply violence against AAPI people. I mean violence against all People of Color. This is not a rhetorical question. This is a real question aimed at saving lives. When does inaction stop and outrage and engagement begin? For people of faith the bar is higher because every major wisdom tradition centers the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have others treat you.
I am hurting and angry following the Atlanta area shootings in March. I just lost a close relative and am grieving that loss at the same time.
My capacity to work on projects is diminished and I need to rest more. Yet with the energy I have I am still organizing because as a person of faith, a mother and a grandmother, I feel called to justice.
The Dalai Lama was asked “How do you find time for meditation in your busy schedule?” And he replied that meditation is the most important activity each day, and everything else must revolve around it. Unless you are incarcerated or completely incapacited, you have control over your schedule and your priorities.
If you feel led to do something, consider these actions:
- If you have 5 minutes – Reflect on which parts of this blogpost triggered emotional reactions in you. Then answer the question, what is the threshold at which this crisis becomes both urgent and important enough for me to do something?
- If you have 10 minutes – Text or email your AAPI friends/colleagues and ask how they are doing. Offer to talk (though they may not want to talk right now). Tell them you are thinking about them and send your love and support. Let them know they can reach out to you.
- If you have 15 minutes – Read the latest Stop AAPI Hate Report on hate incidents aimed at AAPI folx in the U.S.
- If you have 30 minutes – watch Professor Viet Than Nguyen’s interview (25 minutes) on the Roots of Anti-Asian Hate from U.S. Colonialism to Anti-China Asian Rhetoric.
- If you have one hour – attend the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Bystander Training
- If you have more time and interest, here is a list of readings and actions to take and organizations to support.
Tips on Things to Avoid
- Avoid equating your experience, if you are White, with what People of Color are experiencing. White folx certainly experience pain and trauma, but it is not what I am talking about here, nor is it the same.
- Spend less time talking (or writing) and more time listening to friends and colleagues of color. Equity means centering voices of color: giving them more air time because they often don’t get enough.
- If you are White, avoid going to People of Color to process emotional reactions to anything I’ve written or something you have read or heard recently. (Note: sometimes the emotional response may take the form of a logical argument. Rather than writing an argument, just sit with your feelings.)
We should all be on a deep and truthful learning journey to turn away from the environment we inhabit that normalizes racism, and particularly, anti-Blackness. I am on my own journey to root out any vestiges of anti-Blackness in my heart, to decolonize my body-mind-spirit and to learn from others who carry an even heavier burden than me. I am open to hearing from anyone on this journey who has already overcome their defensiveness and fragile feelings, and is interested in heartfelt dialogue.
“Becoming ‘trauma-informed’ means recognizing that people often have many different types of trauma in their lives. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers . . . Understanding the impact of trauma is an important first step in becoming a compassionate and supportive community.”
**For me being re-traumatized means tightness in my stomach, an inability to focus, fatigue, fear and sadness from the uncontrollable replay of traumatic memories. An analogy might be a bad car accident or other close call experience that is triggered when seeing or hearing about similar events.