A week ago, my niece sent me an Instagram screenshot of my favorite bubble tea spot in the area. Bubble tea: If you know, you know. Anyways, she told me that Kung Fu Tea in Columbia, Maryland had been looted and vandalized along with two other Asian-owned businesses in the same block. And all of this happened on the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year. Kung Fu Tea is literally a homing beacon to me—it calls me to it at least once a week. It’s a spot that people of every nationality imaginable patronize in our city, and we have collectively kept it alive even during this pandemic. The other two establishments that were hit are also never at a loss for business. These places are as much a part of the community as any other spot.
This is just one more incident of racist, idiotic violence against a community in a rash that has swept the nation for many months. Is this new?
Of course not. Chinese workers built our railroads, in case anyone is unclear on that. But do you think they were treated with even a smidgeon of respect for a job that literally linked the entire nation for the growth of commerce and settling all 50 states? No, they were barred from nearly all aspects of life in America, hence the growth of Chinatowns in basically every major city in the country.
Did you know that Japanese immigrants were not allowed to become United States citizens until 1952? It was not until 1965 that the ban on immigration from Japan and other Asian countries was lifted. You of course are well familiar with Japanese Americans being incarcerated in camps during the war—losing their property and livelihood—which some never regained. All this while entire squads of Japanese American soldiers still fought for the United States while sending letters home to families living in squalid wooden sheds in the most desolate and unwelcoming places the country could find for them.
None of this racism, marginalization, and violence is new. Indeed, for any non-White American, encounters with racism in its many vile and disgusting forms is a part of our story.
But just as all Americans and friends of Americans who abhor racism in totality have spoken up for other groups, we have to speak out and expose all perpetrators of crimes against Asian-Americans from coast-to-coast. Incidents have indeed ratcheted up due to the pandemic and the small-minded notion that harming an Asian person will suddenly eradicate the virus and bring back the ‘Murica of yesterday.
I mean really. What kind of low-life idiot clearly lacking brain cells feels like these acts of stupidity somehow make them more powerful in their sad assertion of white supremacy? You know, because attacking elderly Asian people is a sign of strength.
To me, it’s pointless to attempt to sway the misled viewpoints of people like this. Physically harming someone’s grandma or grandpa? Randomly beating up on Asians walking down the street. Vandalizing and looting Asian places of business? Yeah, you’re accomplishing so much. Don’t worry, you’re Medal of Freedom is coming in the mail. Please.
So, here’s what we can do:
Support Asian American businesses. In the United States in 2021 if you aren’t familiar with Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc., food, please send me a picture of the giant rock you live under. For the rest of us, indulge all your noodles, sushi, pho, pad thai, cravings. And get all the bubble tea you want with my blessings.
Seek out Asian owned spots in your town and give them some business. If you’ve got an H-Mart or some Asian market in your area, go get your produce from there—it’s cheaper, fresher, and loaded with more variety than your regular grocery store. And if you’ve always wanted to try out some Asian recipes at home, you simply must go to the source.
Speak out. Don’t stand for stupid jokes and stereotypical remarks from anyone in our circles—family included. Literally tell people to stop being idiots. And walk away.
If you see something, say something (and do something). I know this can be a risky one. Because obviously the folks being cruel to people of other races aren’t right in the head. But you can quickly come to the aid of persons being harmed and help them move quickly to safety, draw attention from others around you, or flat out walk up with your phone in hand and 911 dialed, letting the dummy know you’re not playing. Whatever you can do, do it. Don’t just walk away feeling bad, or worse, indifferent.
Collectively, we can stand together to be a voice for people who need us. There are more good people in this country that aren’t wackadoo crazy (even with the events of January 6 and Ted Cruz in Cancun) than you might believe. Sometimes we all need a push to have the courage to do what’s right. But by being that person who steps out, your example just might be giving someone else the strength to join you. And in the end, it will make a difference.