For years I felt silenced and minimized. Receiving texts and calls from random friends asking if I was okay was both calming and terrifying.
In the beginning, I didn’t know what was happening. I believe a piece of me didn’t want to know because I had the intuition that the silence and hurt I was repressing for years would explode. I was right.
On March 23, 2021, 21-year-old, Robert Aaron Long opened fire at three spas in northeastern Atlanta killing eight people; six were Asian. Initially, reporters said it was too early to confirm the shootings were racially motivated so they diverted the reason for the murder was potential sex addiction.
After this news broke, social media platforms created the hashtag #StopAsianHate to bring further awareness. This brought me so much relief and happiness to know people do believe it was racially motivated, Asians are sexually fetishized and Asian hate crimes have been occurring for longer than perceived.
I can easily describe to you the number of times I’ve been sexually fetishized and targeted as an Asian-American. I’ve grown up with a tolerance believing it was normal and I had nothing to worry about. Clearly, my judgment had been clouded for years by the lack of education I was provided and the environment I was set in.
Knowing this event had happened and watching my phone sit in silence for the first 24 hours with no concerns was a shocker. My close-knit friends are aware of some accounts where I’ve felt uncomfortable around people who have sexually fetishized me. So it hurt to notice the people I felt were the most significant in my life didn’t think to ask how I was doing.
For years upon years, I was minimized and told it’s not a big deal or to not worry about my race being a targeted factor of negative comments. It’s terrifying to know there is a person who went out and murdered these women to “eliminate the temptation.”
My friends and family know that I’m a physically small person who has had more than one account where I could’ve been kidnapped or trafficked. So the idea of going to a spa for one day of relaxation, and I rarely ever relax, is something I will never look at the same because of Mr. Long. I will always be scared for my own safety to go anywhere alone especially now considering this tragic event has happened.
According to CNN, Asian and Asian-American women are perceived as submissive, hypersexual and exotic. It is incredibly unfortunate that reading this didn’t surprise me. I have had too many accounts where men have asked me to dress like their favorite anime character, doing something with them to “check it off their bucket list,” have a chance with an oriental woman or experience the “Asian persuasion.”
Frankly, it’s disgusting.
Something that continues to bother me is that it genuinely feels odd to explain how I feel about how the Atlanta shootings have affected me. I’ve felt so silenced and small for so many years that I have become used to it. I ask the questions, why do you care now? Do you only ask because I’m older and more educated? Do you want to be accounted for the few people who’ve asked me just for your own reassurance that you asked?
It’s amazing and daunting to me the questions I haven’t been asked. Ever since the pandemic, Asian hate crimes have been on a continuously increasing trajectory of abuse. Businesses, verbal harassment and physical assault have been significantly worse with no end in sight.
In my recent ex-relationship, I was asked by an older adult if “[I] had any questions or comments if I had COVID-19.” Usually, when someone asks an inappropriate racist or sexist question I can physically feel it not sit right.
This was that type of question.
Out of respect for the older adult and the relationship, I responded courteously with “no, I actually have not.” Only a few could understand the weight of how uncomfortable that felt on me.
As I grew up in my community, my tolerance to take racist comments grew. I was able to laugh off an ignorant remark and keep pushing. This is no longer the case. I will continue to stand up for myself and my community even if I stand alone. I will continue to advocate and educate the people around me, no matter how disrespectful and incompetent they may be. I will continue to be a better version of myself every day.