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from the suburbs

*This is a personal post unrelated to urban farms/sustainability that shares my thoughts on the wave of anti-Asian hate that has finally caught this country’s attention.

I’ve been thinking about why I feel so frustrated about the news coverage, rallies, and social media conversations about the violent attacks and murders of AAPI human beings in America. I took some time to mourn, have important conversations with my community, and reflect on the source of my skepticism and reluctance to paint a protest sign and join the amazing advocates and allies who are outside demonstrating solidarity and calling for peace. For me, it comes down to intersectionality.

What does intersectional feminism actually mean? | IWDA

Intersectionality is the framework shown above that helps us understand that our society’s wicked problems – poverty, homelessness, racism- are not only rooted deeply in our history, but also stem from a cocktail of conflicts and prejudices. Intersectionality is missing from the conversation we are finally having about AAPI discrimination. And the core issue is that we, the AAPI community, isn’t having this conversation for ourselves.

I was born and raised in the suburbs. I grew up playing in gated communities and going to pool parties in friends’ backyards. I went to a high school in an upper-middle class area where most classmates were also Korean and we all went to the same hakwons (after school tutoring classes) and Korean language school on Saturdays. In college, I hung out with mostly other AAPI students, and also learned quickly that non-AAPI students assumed all Asian cultures are about the same. When I studied abroad in South Korea, I was heartbroken to find out what I expected to be a “homecoming” turned out to be a wake up call- too white-washed to be considered a true Korean, I felt more alone than I ever have in Southern California.

Back in LA, I have been on countless rides on public transit and Lyft where strangers will approach me and ask where I am REALLY from. I don’t like to admit I’m Korean-American because that opens the floodgates to “I LOVE KBBQ!” “Annyonghasaeyooooo” and, for some reason, long rants about tae kwon do. If someone asks me if I’m from North or South Korea one more time, I may consider never speaking in an Uber ever again.

So, now it seems like CNN and new allies (welcome!) are learning about these experiences I just described to you. I know I should be happy about progress, but to be totally honest, I am exhausted. I don’t want to explain the Korean War anymore. I don’t want to explain North Korea. I don’t want to explain the difference between Japan and Korea. And I don’t want to listen to how much folks love our food, music, fashion, makeup, and fetishize our aesthetic.

I’m also tired of having the same conversation with other Suburban East Asians over and over again. I’m tired of encountering light-skinned Asian Americans who refuse to acknowledge their privilege and deny BIPOC’s struggles by choosing to stay mute and look the other way.

Basically, I’m tired of East Asian Americans (primarily of Chinese/Korean/Japanese descent) pretending like we’re not the white people equivalent of the AAPI community. So now, I am patiently waiting for our conversations to become more diverse by including the struggle of Southeast/South Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, and I will pour tea and make a seat at the table for our LGBTQIA family members when other folks at the table are ready to have difficult, heavy conversations about immigrants’ generational trauma, generational wealth gaps, affirmative action, toxic masculinity, orientalism, homophobia, transphobia, women’s rights, abortion, and skin bleaching.

Thanks so much for acknowledging AAPIs exist. But could you please excuse us while we step into the other room and have an important conversation amongst ourselves?

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