Of course, Asian Lives Matter

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Asian lives matter, period!

But: From the growing number of news reports detailing nasty threats and vicious attacks against people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in this country, you could easily conclude that — no matter how long they have lived, worked and contributed to the well-being of their communities –somehow, their lives still don’t seem to matter much to the larger society around them. If they matter at all.

It is a depressing, agonizing thought. On March 16,  a young, white male,  who reportedly had bought a gun the day before, went on a killing spree in metro Atlanta. Before he was captured by police several miles south of the city — reportedly on his way to Florida — he had killed eight people at three spas. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

Days before that incident, an elderly woman in California was attacked by a man on the street, who began beating her — apparently for no reason except that she is Asian American. The woman, though beaten badly, managed to grab a stick and  fight back. She was able to do enough harm to her attacker that he was subdued and arrested.  The incident not only left her shocked and uneasy, she sustained serious injuries, including blows to the face that left her eyes so swollen she could barely see.

Less than two weeks after the deadly shootings in the Atlanta area, a 65-year-old Asian woman — on her way to church in New York City — was attacked by a man outside an apartment building near Times Square. The brutal attack was caught on surveillance video. The attacker, according to police, is a 38-year-old black man,who reportedly lived in a nearby hotel that serves homeless New Yorkers.

The video shows the man first, kicking the woman in the stomach, knocking her to the ground, then stomping her, repeatedly, on the face and head. According to news reports of the incident, witnesses just inside the building  nearby failed to intervene to help the victim. Some accounts say that at least a few people, who worked in the building, could be seen locking the doors and moving away, rather than helping the woman.

The man, who has been arrested for the attack, shouted anti-Asian slurs and told the woman, “You don’t belong here.”

It would be bad enough, if the brutal attacks described above were the only such incidents around the country in recent months. They are not. According to NBC News and several groups that monitor hate crimes, there have been thousands of similar attacks reported in the last year alone. And many who keep watch believe that scores — if not thousands  of others — have gone unreported. Why? Because, they said, so many of the people who are victims of these outrageous assaults, fear that speaking out could make them a target for even worse treatment.

 So much for land of the free and the home of the brave. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to call this country the land of many imprisoned by fear, and the home of those, who wonder why their fellow citizens continue to look at them as being “The Other,” rather than “My Neighbor.”

There appears to be little relief on the horizon. It is clear that such attacks have risen sharply since the Coronavirus pandemic began. More than 3,000 in 2020 alone, according to some sources. The steep increase in this pattern of barbaric behavior appears to have been spiked — at least in part — by the unwise rhetoric of politicians and talking heads over the internet, on social media and “news shows,” placing the blame for the pandemic on China.

Chief among these China-accusers were former President Donald Trump, and many of his followers and supporters, who often used racially charged terms, such as “The Chinese Virus,” and the “Kung Flu,” to describe COVID-19. 

It is beyond any reasonable logic I can come up with as to why so many people in this country would listen to these misleading claims and conspiracy pushers and conclude that the person (“The Other”) living just a few blocks over, who is obviously of Asian descent — or at least looks to be — is somehow, personally responsible for the virus and its spread throughout the world.

What I do understand, however, is that this country has a long history of blaming its problems/troubles — economic and otherwise — on those who are part of that easy-to-blame group of “small-a” american citizens/ residents,” who make up the mythical, but seemingly ever-growing population of the class of people here considered to be “The Other”: Black Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, recent immigrants, and — of course — the dreaded “illegal aliens,” especially people, who enter the country, uninvited, via the Mexican border.

All of the aforementioned threats and attacks — particularly those that have ended lives — break my heart, as well as infuriate me. But my mind keeps returning to the incident in New York City, in which a black man is accused of attacking an Asian American woman, who was on her way to church. The incident is disturbing on so many levels, it is difficult for my heart and mind to unpack it.

How could this man do such a thing? He, who — like his victim — is a member of that group considered by so many of their fellow countrymen to be “The Other,” meaning not really worthy of being considered fellow “Americans.”

According to news and police reports, the suspect in that case is a 38-year-old man, who served nearly two decades in prison for killing his own mother in 2002. He, allegedly, was 17 years old at the time of that crime. He had been released from prison in 2019 and was out on “lifetime parole.” I certainly can’t speculate about his state of mind, but it causes me a great deal of anguish just trying to figure out how we got to this point.

Although, I don’t hear it talked about much, Asian Americans and Black Americans have a lot in common. People of Asian descent and people of African descent — through their labor and strength, blood, sweat and tears — helped build this nation into one of the top economic, military and political powerhouses on the planet. That sacrifice and sweat-equity ought to be worth something. Real citizenship, with all of its rights and privileges, perhaps?

But, sadly, many of the contributions by the ones who preceded us, (we, who are the current “Others”) — are rarely honored, or even acknowledged. So often, the progeny of slave owners and hard-driving industrial “visionaries,” for whom they turned swampland and hard-dirt acres of fields into lavish plantations and budding conglomerates, and also leveled, then laid the tracks for thousands of miles of railroad lines, connecting scattered communities, and feeding growing cities and bulging bank accounts, are still profiting today.

It also puzzles me that we haven’t seen armies of Asian Americans waving banners and joining those peacefully marching to protest the far too ubiquitous — and often, unnecessary — shootings of black men and women in this country. Or — on the other hand — crowds of black and brown folks organizing, consulting with, then marching with Asian Americans, and together, demanding an end to these alarming attacks on our communities.

Our elected officials and community groups should be meeting together, to come up with strategies to help one another. As we, Black folks, have learned from history, no one of us is free until all of us are free. Free from fear, discrimination, harassment, enforced segregation, inadequate healthcare and attempts to dilute the power of our votes. 

The time is now! Let’s stop being wary of one another. Instead, let’s dial into a stronger sense of our humanity and worthiness. We have given a lot to this nation/society. Don’t let it continue to divide us, so we don’t see clearly, and realize what it is doing to us.  I’m not talking about resorting to violence. Far from it.

But what I am talking about is joining forces, and inviting any others, who sincerely are concerned about justice and fair play in this country. We are smart enough. Numerous enough.  Educated enough, and understand well enough, the man-made systems — fueled by prejudice and privilege — that hold us back.

This nation doesn’t have to love us. But it must acknowledge us, respect us and stop putting up barriers to keep us from being successful and leading prosperous, worthy lives, based on our abilities and our willingness to put our shoulders to the wheel and contribute to making it better. 

If we trust one another more, believe in one another more, then we will be able to nudge this nation closer to the state of  “E PLuribus Unum,” the motto, which was chosen by John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to adorn the first official seal of the United States. The Latin phrase means: “One from many.”

Wouldn’t that be something ….