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Standing Together Against Anti-Asian Hate

March 24, 2021

Dear AIR Community, 

When I enter any room, I look for my people. I do my best to hear, see and understand who is present. I scan for who is ready and open to hearing and seeing others, and who is already resigned to fence-sit. It is a lived experience and skill that has been honed by years of entering rooms alone. As an immigrant kid growing up in Saint Louis, Missouri, I wasn’t looking for anyone who looked like me; there weren’t many of us there back then. I was looking instead to see those who understood and who I could conspire alongside, so the world could feel like a place of belonging for all of us. As co-conspirators, we took turns standing behind, in front and beside one another and shared every fear, frustration and hope between us. 

COVID-19 has denied us physical proximity and hugs, the ability to mourn, process and grieve together. For many of us, myself included, this is such an important way to communicate love and care when words fail us—to calm anxiety and unclench fists. 

At AIR, we aspire to cultivate a community of mutual support and accountability. We also know that when we aren’t hearing from the whole community, we aren’t hearing the whole story. That is why we will continue to create space for underrepresented audio storytellers and for all QTBIPOC people, communities and distinct lived experiences in media. That is why we will work to hold media organizations accountable—particularly at this time when nuanced storytelling and reporting is critical to dismantling and subverting harmful, discriminatory narratives that only enable more violence and vitriol. These values guide the AIR team’s evolving priorities, and we will share more around our specific plans and how our community can contribute to this ongoing work. For now, let us collectively commit to standing together as co-conspirators against anti-Asian hate and discrimination in all its forms.

In early 2019, I had a call with one of the largest podcast distributors in public media to pitch Self Evident, a podcast for Asian American stories. We had no tape to share, and it was a preliminary conversation, yet the call was over after several minutes when I was asked if there was an audience for Asian American stories. This was not the first time I had heard this. Naively, I had hoped something had changed. But that moment has stuck with me as it illustrates how much work remains to be done because the show is led by a generation of talent younger than me. I am inspired by my collaborators on this show, many of whom are AIR members, and would like to share the show’s response to the Atlanta killings and the rise in anti-Asian violence. They speak for me and articulate where I am in my emotional journey right now. I could not say it better. 

We're grieving for and with the communities who are still living through the events that many of us see as news or stories.

In April 2020, our team started producing some of those stories — about how Asian Americans respond to anti-Asian violence, harassment, and discrimination in their communities. Here are some thoughts and feels we’ve had along the way.

The way our news cycle works — and the fact that a part of being Asian American is being disappeared from public life — often means that following one of these incidents, we prioritize the acts of broadcasting, memorializing, and convincing.

All of that is essential work. It’s unfortunate that the burden of this work falls disproportionately on Asian American journalists, educators, advocates, and organizers.

It’s maddening to know that at some level, if we don’t prioritize these acts of broadcasting, memorializing, and convincing right now, many people in this nation will simply continue to ignore us.

And it hurts that survivors are expected to excavate pain and expose themselves to be believed. We shouldn’t need to know the details of their trauma to recognize that it’s real.

What we witness now isn’t only about anti-Asian hate. Most of this wave of anti-Asian racism has been directed at Asian American women, compounding their long lived experience of oversexualization and racist harassment.

Even greater threats are faced by Asian queer and trans women, sex workers, beauty workers, restaurant workers, non-citizens, elders, and others in precarious positions because of their class, their line of work, or their immigration status.

Knowing that, it’s frustrating that the most common reactions to violence — hate crime law enforcement and statements broadly denouncing anti-Asian racism — are questionable in terms of impact or ineffectual in terms of commitment.

Meanwhile, ICE continues to imprison and deport Southeast Asian Americans who originally came here fleeing a war that the U.S. waged on their parents’ and ancestors’ soil. Our political parties continue to cast the entire nation of China as a villain to all Americans.

Finally, many gov't and reporting agencies fail to disaggregate demographic, health, and economic data about Asian American populations — data that could support thoughtful resource allocation and decision-making to create safer living conditions for people most at risk.

It can be extremely tough to have conversations about all this that feel fruitful or healing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the question, “What’s the solution?” while skipping the questions “How am I processing this?” or “What do I need?” or “Who am I trying to help?”

When we gather to seek (and often debate) solutions, it’s easy to forget that everyone goes through their journey as a person of color in the U.S. — and so much more than just that — in their own time.

And it can hurt to acknowledge that the stories made most visible don’t necessarily help those who have been systemically rendered invisible.

This all sounds pretty dark, and it is. But we’ve also seen that potential solutions, and the people offering them, are closer than you may think. And they will inspire you to take action yourself.

But if you’re not really sure of what to do, or if you’re struggling with how you feel, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t forget to give yourself space to find out what you need. Try to grow that space with the people in your life. The world needs all of you.

In solidarity,

Ken Ikeda (he/him)
AIR, Association of Independents in Radio