It has been more than a year into a global pandemic and more than a year in the rise of brutal attacks on Asians in America. From being gunned down in Atlanta to being beaten on the streets of San Francisco, Asians in America have been and continue to be attacked.
Why does that matter? Why would that matter to us here in Piedmont?
As Piedmonters, we are fortunate to be able to live in safety and raise kids that will thrive in a world where diversity is now the norm and not the exception. At a time when Asians are under attack in America, it is our goal and responsibility to ensure that Piedmont residents acknowledge what is happening in our country and to take action in our own community.
The grandfather who is beaten to death. The mothers murdered. The grandmother who fought back but is left with eyes too injured to see. Those are our daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, siblings, and elders. As Asian Americans, we are wrestling with how to explain these attacks to our children and support them in the trauma they experience. How is it that people would attack us simply because of the color of our skin and the bodies we inhabit? How would you explain that to your own children?
We experience the attacks of this month against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II, the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, and the shootings and deaths in Atlanta. The perpetual message is that we — Asians in America, even those born here — do not belong. Our lives are not of the same value as the lives of our white neighbors. From the irresponsible use of terms like “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” from the powerful seat of the prior president, to the claims in mainstream news that the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta last week was not racially motivated, Asians have been minimized, and erased.
I write on behalf of PAAC members and our Board today. Piedmont is a safe place, with supportive schools and organizations like the Piedmont Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee and the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign. But we feel we can still do a better job educating the community and sharing our unpleasant experiences. Racist interactions, though not always intended, that we and our children experience in our schools and with our neighbors show the need to make the message clear.
Piedmont is our home and this is our community. We are here, wanting to make it a better place — together.
As a survivor of sexual harassment and victim of discrimination from our government, I know that the pull to keep quiet is strong. Saying something means making myself vulnerable to gaslighting, dismissal, and further attack. Those fears are what have kept me quiet until now – hoping that my silence would mean greater safety and acceptance into this community. It is a mistake to implicitly or explicitly tell my children and our community that it is okay for anyone to be attacked, beaten, murdered, marginalized and erased.
As I find my voice, I ask you to use yours. We need to move beyond performative statements to real actions. Our classrooms need to share the history our country was founded on which includes the atrocities against communities of color. Our educators need to feel equipped to make space for AAPI youth to be seen, valued and heard, especially now. Our friends and neighbors must not stay silent to what is happening around us because it’s “not happening to people that look like me,” and instead, be vocal allies and advocates. And finally, we all need to call out racism when we see it, and do the hard work to unpack and unlearn this internalized racism.
This is the work I am doing. This is the work PAAC is doing. Will you join us?
Cassindy Chao, Piedmont Asian American Club co-president
Catherine Zhang, co-President
Mary Geong, Robin Wu, Lee Chin Phmah, Jamie Totsubo, Alana Zhou