Like many others, I’m grieving for the eight people in Atlanta who lost their lives on March 16, 2021. I am hopeless and fatigued reading about the murder. I feel deeply uncomfortable by the police and the media amplifying the narrative of “trying to eliminate the temptation” by murdering innocent women. Wheater or not the massage parlors provided sexual service is beside the point*. There was a murder of innocent people by a white man, and his behavior is justified as having a “bad day”. This narrative reproduces racism and sexism against Asian people, especially women in the service industry.
I want to tell a different story about massage parlors and the people who work there. I used to go to massage parlors in NYC because I have chronic muscle pain. I also went to see doctors and chiropractors on a regular basis, but the massage therapists, elderly Asian aunties, and uncles, took care of me. We didn’t speak the same language, we didn’t know each other. That didn’t matter. I was comforted by the presence of another Asian person and they helped me heal. In the tiny room, I was free from the racism and bias I experienced every day, everywhere.
Asians are often rendered invisible in the United States. The racism we experience is considered unimportant, or “not so bad”. Some of us learn to follow the model minority myth, adapt to white supremacy, become complicit in the system of exclusion, and reproduce racism and classism. Some of us gain power or build generational wealth. At the end of the day, we are considered less than others, disposable.
We are not disposable.
My Asian friends, former students, and community members in the US and across the world, I hope you take care of yourself and each other. In this space of care and gratitude, we can create a different kind of world. Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American social activist who was based in Detroit, wrote about the power within each of us to create the world anew.
“Our challenge, as we enter the new millennium, is to deepen the commonalities and the bonds between these tens of millions, while at the same time continuing to address the issues within our local communities by two-sided struggles that not only say “No” to the existing power structure but also empower our constituencies to embrace the power within each of us to create the world anew.” Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
My non-Asian friends, former students, and community members, I hope you take care of your Asian friends, colleagues, students, and community members today. Ask them how they are doing. Send them a warm message. Show you care for them. Moving forward, please respect all Asian people, Southeast Asians, Half Asians, LGBTQ Asians, Deaf Asians, disabled Asians and especially working-class immigrants in the service industry, for their labor and personhood.
*I respect sex worker’s rights. I stand against any form of human trafficking and exploitation.