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Midlands Voices: Asian Americans have been 'invisible,' as has racism against them
Midlands Voices

Midlands Voices: Asian Americans have been 'invisible,' as has racism against them

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Maria Corpuz discusses her personal and family struggle with systemic racism and colonialism.

This past week, our community was shaken to the core by the murder of six women in their workplaces. We don’t mean Omaha; we’re speaking specifically about our Asian American community. As Asian American women, this event unleashed outrage and vulnerability, and compelled us to speak out against the hate.

We speak out to condemn the senseless violence that took the lives of these mothers, sisters and daughters. The women who died in Atlanta had whole lives — a single mother of two, a business owner days away from turning 50, a former teacher and a grandmother who loved line dancing. In an instant, their lives ended as a direct result of white supremacy and misogyny.

We call attention to the hyper-sexualization and objectification of Asian women that led to this attack. The dehumanizing element of this violence, coupled with the immediate centering of the perpetrator, exposes a culture that excuses the violence.

Like the victims in Atlanta, Asian Americans are diverse. We are not a singular category of people — we can trace our roots to 19 origin groups — and we are not your model minority. We have pain and joy, families and friends. We are part of the community. Without us, this community would not be diverse, and it would not thrive.

We also speak out against the rising acts of violence against Asian Americans. For more than a year, racist rhetoric has increasingly been weaponized against the Asian American community. The violence perpetrated against Asian Americans around the country, including in Omaha, is unacceptable. We belong here, yet how many times have we been made to feel “other” when asked, “Where are you really from?” or complimented for how well we speak English? Or used as the punchline of jokes? Or told to go back to where we came from? These micro and macro aggressions are hurtful and dehumanizing.

Speaking out feels unnatural to us because like many Asian Americans, we grew up striving to fit in. While assimilation has its benefits, it has also led to invisibility and silence. One Asian American put it well recently in The Atlantic when she said, “Because we’re invisible, the racism against us has also been invisible.” It is clear now that this invisibility must end, and we cannot remain silent. The opportunity is now for our voices to be heard.

As a community, we must recognize and dismantle our own biases, acknowledge each other as individuals, and treat each other with dignity and respect. When we build community and solidarity with others who are oppressed, we can work together to dismantle white supremacy. A culture of inclusion will ensure that the community we live in is a safe and welcoming one.

We must ask ourselves — what does racial and gender equity look like for Asian American women? How do we work as a united coalition of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to get our voices heard, while honoring the diverse backgrounds and interests among us? And how do we keep these issues in the forefront after this news cycle ends and the rallies are over?

These are complex questions and there are no easy answers. It will take time and difficult conversations, and it starts by calling out hate in all forms.

While assimilation has its benefits, it has also led to invisibility and silence.

Lorraine Chang, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is a retired attorney and strategic leadership consultant who has served on a number of community boards and was elected to the Learning Community Coordinating Council from 2009-2018. Krystal Vuong Wegner, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is a community volunteer and advocate for racial equity and gun violence prevention. Both are members of the Women’s Fund Board of Directors.

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