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Remember your hand placement. Remember to smile. Remember to ask permission to reach over. No sudden movements Mike, no sudden movements.
My mind raced. My heart was beating twice as fast. The thought of “will I be another hashtag” floated in my mind.
Last night, on St. Patrick’s day, I got pulled over. I was doing 35 in a 30 MPH according to the officer. Was I speeding? Yes. And fair enough. I shouldn’t have. Just like I shouldn’t have to worry if a routine traffic stop will end up as the moment and place where I’ll breathe my last breath.
Since my first encounter with the police back when I was 12, to my encounter at 15 where I “fit the profile,” to almost 15 years later, it’s been pretty hard to not be cognizant of my identity as a Black male all the time. And as those blue flashing lights swirled behind me, last night, I thought about the situation of me as a Black male, driving in Kirkland, an affluent suburb of Seattle, WA, at 11pm at night, and how society will almost unequivocally view me as a threat just because of that.
Last night, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. And as I fumbled through the lines, I’ve rehearsed multiple times as a child with my mother on my way to school when she gave me the talk – the talk of how not to get killed when you’re talking to a police officer – I started praying. Praying that today, these two officers weren’t having a “bad day.”
As a Black male and as a Latinx female speaking on behalf of our organization, Darline and I are sick. We are disgusted. And we are stricken by fear of what a system that supports White Supremacy can do. Make no mistake about it friends. White Supremacy and the manifestation of it which resulted in 8 people dead, 6 of whom are of Asian descent, is not what the United States have become, but what we have always been. A country that physically, mentally, and emotionally harms our Black, Indigenous, and Brown brothers, sisters, and two-spirits.
Anti-Asian rhetoric, discrimination, harassment and xenophobia has been and is a troubling and growing issue that our society has yet to truly confront. The increase in physical and emotional violence against Asian Americans is alarming and compounds the issues of inequity felt among Asian American communities during the pandemic and at other times in our country’s history.
This is not a statement for change. This is a plead for help. Help to rid us, all of us, of the ways we have internalized racism and the ways we play them out. From the overt ways such as the insurrection on the US capitol, to the missing Native and Indigenous womxn, to racial jokes and slurs, to the overrepresentation and referrals of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) children in special education classes, to the stripping of voting rights etc. all the way to the subtle ways such as white silence, higher infant and maternal mortality rates for communities of color, to the Bootstrap Theory, claiming reverse racism, prioritizing white voices as experts, spiritual bypassing, English only initiatives, and more.
As leaders of an organization who has Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islanders, and Asian American staff, friends, families, and community members. We understand that while prayers may help you emotionally heal, action and accountability must be followed to ensure we all live long enough to see real change materialize. As an organization, we’re calling upon all of our staff and families to acknowledge what has happened and how that may be affecting how we are showing up today, tomorrow, and moving forward. As an organization, we are supporting one of our staff, Jireh, who wrote a blog about how she’s using her talents of Art and Jewelry in order to support organizations such as STOP AAPI HATE, and we will be donating on behalf of our organization to help end this vicious cycle of Anti-Asian and Xenophobia. While financial donations are a good start. We must also look internally as well. How have we internalized anti-Asian sentiments? What are the racist attitudes about Asians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and South Asians that we have normalized? We must take to the street and make our voices be heard. We encourage everyone to reach out to their elected officials both nationally and locally to push them to enforcing laws and rules that works towards liberation for all. We encourage everyone to find ways you can attend rallies and center the Asian experience during this time at safe distances if you are able to. We encourage everyone to examine where in your life do you support racist policies, ideas, thoughts, and culture? Where do you create divisions across race and class lines. And finally, we encourage everyone to read. To learn. To hear. To celebrate their brilliance! Here are some readings to get you started:
We hope to never have to write another letter like this again. But wishful thinking will not cut it. We hope we can band together as a community to eradicate racism from our lives. We hope you’ll join us in embracing and celebrating the full identity and ethnicity of Asian, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, South Asians, and all communities of color.
Darline Guerrero (she/her), Executive Director at Hilltop Children’s Center and Educator Institute
Mike Browne (he/him), Sr. Community Engagement Manager at Hilltop Children’s Center and Educator Institute