My Introverted Outside Voice in the Key of Asian Minor

macbook pro beside white cup and saucer on table
Photo by on

When I was approached with the possibility for writing for this site, I already had a specific topic in mind: Asian women in the workplace and the presumed privilege, invisibility, stereotyping, lack of network currency, and oh-my-god I have so much to say on this topic.

I even did research on the topic because I know there is always someone(s) who will pipe up and say

“I’m sorry to hear that you (singular) are facing this, but
1) it’s just you because my one Asian co-worker does not face ANY discrimination

2) I have never witnessed it myself

3) you are being overly sensitive because I am also Asian and I believe in the very important cause of showing that Asian folks have a sense of humor so I just laugh/brush it off

4) Asian countries are also very racist and homogenous (there is truth in that statement but, hey, non sequitur, like when Billy slaps Priscilla and you say, I knew a Priscilla who slapped a boy named Bob).”

When, eons ago, I used to write extensively about daily microaggressions that Asians and Asian Americans face, I heard them all.

I started a draft. Then a whole lot of shit went down.

There were pipe bombs being mailed out to those who speak out against Trump.

A black man and a black woman were killed in a shooting at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, but the shooter was not charged with hate crime because “Kentucky’s hate crime statute does not include homicides.” As you mull on that statement and how one might interpret its sentiment, here is another fact: “Police say [the shooter] went into [the grocery store] after he tried and failed to enter First Baptist Church, a predominantly black church nearby.” Still not convinced? A white bystander who drew his own weapon did not have to fire because the shooter allegedly said, “Whites don’t shoot whites.” You need more than that? Another man, Dominiic Rozier, did exchange fire with the shooter. Mr. Rozier is black.

There was an anti-semitic terrorist attack in a Pittsburgh synagogue. If you want to challenge the word “terrorist” or have any misgivings about labeling it as such, please consult p. 114 of AAP-06 Edition 2017 NATO’s Glossary of Terms and Definition: “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence, instilling fear and terror, against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, or to gain control over a population, to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives.” While there are other versions and definitions out there, I am going to go with NATO – just because it seems to frequently piss off a certain public official with a toddler’s temperaments in the Oval Office, and you know what they say about the enemy of your enemy… The shooter killed 11 people and injured 7. It is believed to be the deadliest, but certainly not the first, attack on the Jewish community in the United States history.

I was appropriately enraged, saddened, and appalled about all of it. And while a crazy busy week at work hindered my progress on the post I was writing about Asian women in the workplace, I continued to think about what I wanted to say and found myself facing a writer’s block. That is, until the following four events happened.

A department leader in my community, during one of many community meetings, made a speech about the Pittsburgh shooting. In her usual storytelling style, she crafted a narrative around her childhood relationship with one Jewish friend before asking the community members to join her in thoughts and prayers specifically for the Jewish American communities. She did not make a single mention of the Kentucky shooting or what could have happened if that shooter had been successful in gaining access into the church. And the black folks in our community felt that exclusion.

The same person then sent out an invitation for the community to stand with our local synagogue during their Shabbat. That was quite appropriate. Later, she sent out an addendum to that invitation to add that after the Shabbat, she and others will be going out for a night of fun to celebrate her birthday that happened earlier that week and would like to invite others to join them. Now, it is her prerogative to make an announcement about wanting people to celebrate her. However, it came across tone-deaf in two interpretations. One, her main plan for that evening was to celebrate herself, and the Shabbat is just a checkbox on her performance allyship. Two, she is commercializing the Shabbat invitation to tack on her birthday celebration in the guise of “fellowship” and to garner more guests. Sure, the intent may have been quite innocent, but the effect of her messaging ended up tacky and thoughtless. At best, it made her call for solidarity with our Jewish neighbors sound incredibly disingenuous.

Meanwhile, I was also paying attention to that infamous lawsuit against Harvard’s admissions practice that is supposedly disadvantageous to Asian applicants. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Not only do we look like a bunch of Abigail Fishers, we are being played by Edward Blum who has the biggest white nationalist hard-on for affirmative action. To be honest, if you think this man is actually championing to color the Ivy Leagues with us Asians, you don’t deserve to get into Harvard.  Hasan Minhaj talks about it on his new Netflix show, Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj, and I recommend watching it.

Then, there was Donny.

Trump bemoaned last Thursday that the pipe bombs and synagogue shooting halted the GOP’s election momentum. To his credit, he did add, “More importantly, we have to take care of our people, and we don’t care about momentum when it comes to a disgrace like just happened to our country.” And then, lest he seem too presidential, he quickly re-emphasized, “But it did nevertheless stop a certain momentum.”

It occurred to me that, as I focused on my original post which still is an incredibly important topic, these four separate occurrences were all… reflections of me. Yes, I was enraged, and I spoke up. But I was going to use my time and an opportunity for an audience to write about not all the current and urgent injustices but about the one injustice that mattered to me. I was going to glibly offer brief allyship so that I can move on to focus on my own cause. Like Trump, I was interrupted in my momentum to write about my cause and wanted to push it all aside so that I can regain that momentum. Like the pissed off Asian kids who didn’t get into Harvard, I was losing sight of what is at stake and why it is important to show up and stay for ALL of us.

I am a functioning introvert. I can fake it just barely enough for my co-workers to think my awkwardness most likely comes from eastern inscrutability, not socially debilitating introversion.  So I don’t have any illusions about how significant my “outside voice” might be. I know that the world will keep doing what it will, with or without my voice.

macbook pro beside white cup and saucer on table
Photo by on

Nevertheless, I will show up, speak up, write up, and resist on behalf of all of us being targeted by the current administration’s rhetoric. I believe in our united voice and refuse to rest my voice even if the injustice du jour is not directed at me.

Too often, we think that if there are others who add their voices to the choir we can sit back and nod along. Too often, we think our voices are mere drops in the ocean. Too often, we think our voices are powerless.

Malala Yousafzai wrote in her book I am Malala: How One Young Girl Changed the World about voices: “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” She also wrote, “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

I would like to add that we don’t realize how deafening our silence is when our friends are expecting to hear our voices. These are times when we all need to add our voices; there is no redundancy in denouncing hate, violence, bigotry, racism, and corruption.

This goes for voting as well. So please, go vote. Vote well. Vote like our lives depend on it. Because our lives, it appears, do literally depend on how we vote. Your vote is your outside voice. As you vote, think about the state of this country, what we have become in the last couple of years. You know how people keep saying, “This isn’t us, we are better than this”?

Prove it. Vote.