I don't know if anyone has coined the phrase "The Silent Minority" but I will. Asian Americans have traditionally been the Silent Minority in this country. Our parents told us to be quiet, don't cause trouble, keep your head down, suck it up. Compliance and conformity are part of our inherited culture. There's an expression in our first generation community which explains why: "The nail that sticks out the most gets hit on the head first." But in light of the year-long physical and verbal attacks on Asian Americans as the "China virus" and "Kung Flu" and especially the deadly killing of eight people, six of whom are Asian women, in the Atlanta area two weeks ago on March 16th, the Silent Minority must no longer be silent.
It is gratifying to hear from almost every AA and AAPI group I know issue their statement of horror, protest and denunciation. You can read them all here:
It is also encouraging and a step forward to hear President Biden directly and publicly address the anti-Asian hate issue in Atlanta the Friday following the Asian spa shootings.
As a Chinese and Asian American born and raised in this country, I find it shocking that these anti-Asian attacks are happening; I thought we were past this. I grew up in Brooklyn with my three brothers and three sisters where racial discrimination and verbal assaults were a regular experience. Sometimes, it would get physical. My older brother Peter would get into fist fights. When I was about twelve, some punk through rice in my face and we got into a scuffle. Trying to get up from the ground and get him off me, my right arm slipped behind my back and I dislocated my elbow. It has never been perfectly straight since. Then, in the many years that followed most everything was fine. I don't ever recall hearing the work "chink" again. Perhaps, the discrimination just went underground.
But last year in late March, at the beginning of the pandemic, my wife came home one day from the supermarket very upset. She's the traditional "don't make trouble" type of Chinese person but even she sent out an email to her relatives with subject line: "Grocery Shopping - bad experience!." (She doesn't have a Facebook account.) I won't get into the details but let us just say that she experienced two notable anti-Asian incidents at a major supermarket chain here in northern NJ!
I believe the change in climate is complex and complicated by (1) the rise of China as a major economic and political rival to the United States, (2) the anti-Chinese rhetoric played up by the previous Trump administration and (3) anti-Chinese rhetoric amplified by certain propaganda outlets on social media.
Regardless, it is no longer good enough "to be quiet" anymore. We must speak up. In this country, only the "squeaky wheel gets the oil." For far too long, Asian Americans are the first to be overlooked and the last to be hired. Even President Biden has failed to appoint barely any AAPI's to his cabinet and high administration posts. See OCA Demands AAPI Inclusion from Biden Administration and White House Pledges Asian-American Focus After Democrats Threaten Nominees.
But as a Christian minister, I don't believe we should answer anti-Asian hate with more hate, and anti-Asian rhetoric with more rhetoric and anti-Asian violence with more violence. I just watched today a wonderful Virtual Talk with Larissa Lam and Baldwin Chiu on AAPI Violence and Identity sponsored by the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. Larissa quoted Will Smith, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, who said that when it comes to racial issues "Most people are ignorant not evil." And so, when we speak up, we speak up to educate not to antagonize or threaten. Education Lesson #1: Asian Americans are Americans not foreigners. Education Lesson #2: Asian Americans have nothing to do with the coronavirus.
The Asian American Christian Collaborative has called for a National Rally for AAPI Lives this Sunday, Palm Sunday, March 28th. I will rally with many others this Sunday in New York City's Union Square Park at 4 pm. I hope you will join us. It is time to be "silent no more."
Milton's observations on life, faith and the contemporary.