A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
Tonight on Apex Express Speak Up! Speak Out! Stop AAPI HATE, hosts Miko Lee and Preeti Mangala Shakar as we discuss the horrific racist shooting in Georgia that specifically targeted Asian women. We talk with Sammie Ablaza Wills from APIENC, Vincent Pan from Chinese for Affirmative Action, Christine Ahn from Women Cross DMZ and Sung Yeon Choimorrow from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
Our guests included Sammie Ablaza Willis find out more about their work at APIENC. We also spoke with Vincent Pan, find out about his work at Chinese for Affirmative Action and AACRE. Here is the report that Vin talked about, ironically released on the same day as the Georgia shooting.
Here is the article Sung Yeon Choimorrow references in her discussion:
Our Guests also named these AA grassroots organizations to support, check them out:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta
Bay Area Transformative Justice
Chinese Progressive Association
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
SHOW TRANSCRIPT: Speak Up! Speak Out! Stop AAPI Hate!
Miko Lee: [00:00:00] Tonight on apex express, speak up, speak out. Stop. AAPI hate join hosts, Miko Lee, and Preeti Mangala Shekar. As we discuss the horrific racist shooting in Georgia that targeted Asian women
On Tuesday night, a 21 year old white man went on a shooting spree and targeted Asian American women working at three different massage parlors in Georgia. Eight people were killed. Six of them were AAPI women. The white man was arrested and is now in jail. And there have been a plethora of media stories all over with headlines. Like the Washington post suspect in Atlanta shootings that left eight dead might have frequented spa authority say, or the daily beast massage parlor massacre, suspects that he loved guns. And God. Or NPRs Atlanta shooting suspect is believed to have visited spas. He targeted. Only Al Jazeera had a headline that read Atlanta shootings, Asian women among eight killed at three us spas.
Tonight, we will not be sharing this white supremacist name. Instead. We are speaking out loud, the names of the people he murdered. Delaina ashley Yuan. Paul Andre Michaels, Xiaojie Tan. Daoyou Feng, Julie Park Hyeon, Jeong Park And two additional Asian women that have not yet been named as of this recording. So tonight we honor these women and their families, and we explore more about this story. We talk with API activists and the direct actions you can take and how you can also take care of yourself and your community. Welcome Sammy ablaze Willis director of APIENC to apex express.
Sammie Ablaza Willis: [00:02:50] Thanks so much Miko for having me.
Miko Lee: [00:02:51] I’m thankful that you came in and such short notice and also around a really horrific incident, which is these murders that happened in Georgia on Tuesday night. I am just wondering your thoughts when you first heard about it.
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:03:08] In all honesty, Miko, I was heartbroken. I reflected on all of the ways that Asian American folks and Asian-American folks who are gender oppressed are hurt and impacted by systems of white supremacy and patriarchy. The most pressing thing I felt was a deep embodied sense of sorrow and heartbreak to know that more of my people in my community have been targeted and killed.
Miko Lee: [00:03:35] Yeah it’s very painful to see this going on, especially as these numbers just keep rising every day. I think we all recognize that those numbers don’t represent how many more people are being targeted. Could talk about how the media has not called it a hate crime yet. But according to a local Korean media interview with a surviving witness, the Atlanta shooter actually said, “I’m going to kill all Asians.” And that story is being reported in the Chosun ilbo one of South Korea’s top newspapers, it’s also reported that the police went to nearby Asian businesses and told the owners to close the doors because there’s a hate crime targeting Asians. What’s your take on the media bias and the portrayal of it not being named as a hate crime?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:04:23] It is not surprising that the mainstream media is more actively ready to humanize a white supremacist mass murderer than they are to condemn and name racism and patriarchy for what it is. It is very telling in addition, that media led by communities of color, like asian led media, black led media are very clear and have been clear very quickly that this is racially motivated.
I’m not one that advocates for the distinction of something as a hate crime, because I think it ends up ensuring that there are more police led responses to violence like this, but it is very clear from what the assailant said himself that this is a racially motivated and agender attack on Asian, low wage women workers in particular, and any hesitation to say that it is anything other than that is upholding white supremacy and coddling a white male agenda. That is the root of why this violence happened in the first place.
Miko Lee: [00:05:43] Can you speak a little bit more about the gendered attack? Because the media keeps saying, “Oh, it’s a porn addiction.”
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:05:49] Within the US and because of US-based and Western imperialism, there is a long legacy of fetishization and exotification of Asian women that have deemed their bodies and the bodies of other Asian gender oppressed people as disposable and only used for white pleasure or white dominance bodies only used to be dominated. That is a common, that’s a common theme. We can look at the instances of harm perpetuated by the us military, all across the Asia Pacific. We can look at the impacts of colonialism and imperialism. The Homeland of my people in the Philippines and see the ways that those don’t just exist overseas during instances of active war, but that those things, those mindsets have ramifications many years into the future and across diaspora, for the ways that people see Asian women as exotic see Asian bodies as things to be dominated. That plays into this. The person who the person who committed this horrible act himself has gone to these massage parlors as a person to receive services. It’s not an addiction. It is a mindset that says someone is more deserving to own someone else’s body than that person themselves. It’s a Relic of the war, the colonialism and the imperialist mindset. That says that white men have the right to every other body and that white men have the right to Asian women’s bodies in particular.
Miko Lee: [00:07:45] Yeah, when they talk about this, they’re talking about the massage parlors in this derogatory way as if these women are not worth as much. It says so much about how Asian women are perceived in American culture in Western culture.
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:08:04] That’s right. So much
Miko Lee: [00:08:06] going back to the guy who did this, and we’re trying not to say his name and this whole episode cause I don’t want to bring him that kind of a claim, but there’s this huge effort like often happens with white assailants too. Quote, unquote, humanize them, make them, somebody that you can relate to and talk about his wholesome Southern Baptist upbringing. they talk to his youth ministry leader at crab Apple first Baptist church and his high school friend who said he was innocent. And even the sheriff of the County where he was arrested said he was having a “bad day.” Buzzfeed actually just reported that, that same officer posted Facebook photos of himself wearing racist t-shirts blaming China for the coronavirus. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between how a white assailant is portrayed in the media versus any person of color?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:09:04] There is a complete double standard rooted in the history of policing in this country. Policing started. As slave patrols to track and hunt down enslaved black Americans that have been forced to be in this land policing directly tied to the militarism that has killed countless people across the Asia Pacific and in the middle East and across the entire world.
The mindset behind policing is that. There are certain people, black, Brown, indigenous, and migrant people that deserve to be hunted, not protected. And I think that shows up a lot in the ways that white assailants are treated. And are upheld and are humanized by police and by other associated forces. When other folks can’t do anything, we have just passed the one year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s tragic death. She was sleeping. She did nothing yet she did not live that day. And someone who murdered eight people gets called a good guy. That is an incredibly ripe, double standard that is only perpetuating a narrative that white people deserve grace and comfort. They deserve to feel good. They deserve to be babies when all the rest of us. Have an uneven amount of weight put on us to be perfect and more than humanly possible. Perfect. At all times.
Miko Lee: [00:10:51] Along with the policing concept. There have been all these calls by different folks like Andrew Yang and other people saying we need more funding for Asian hate crimes task force, or the New York police department counter-terrorism forces said, they’re going to send more people into Asian communities. So there’s this call for some folks to just provide more funding to the police, to be able to, ” protect the community”, given our conversation about police being rooted in slave patrol, how does that play out with more funding for police departments?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:11:33] More funding for police departments will never be the answer to safety for communities of color, oppressed communities, disabled folks, sex workers, trans and queer people. More policing will only bring more surveillance, more violence, and more fear to our communities. Unequivocally that is just the truth because we have seen what happens when police enter spaces of Asian communities, whether it is to raid massage parlors and to hold undocumented, low wage, Asian workers, without support, without care, without connection to their community members. We’ve seen what happens when.
The U S government decides to fund anti-terrorism programs that directly target and impact South Asian and Muslim communities. Those types of quote unquote solutions are only solutions to white fear. They are not actual substantive solutions to the problems that low income communities of color are actually facing.
They bring in more heartache. More shame, more murder or violence to our people. We need actual community safety and security. That’s rooted in our interconnectedness and what people need to survive like housing, food, access to healthcare. The fact that these massage parlors were even open in the middle of a global pandemic that necessitates us not touching should be cause for concern.
Miko Lee: [00:13:25] Let’s talk about some of the ways that we can protect the community on our own. I know in Oakland they have the ambassador program . What are other ways that we in the community can work together so that we can protect one, another?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:13:38] Community safety and building community safety, necessitates, all of us being honest in our relationships and building connections that allow us to address harm on multiple levels. I look to great examples like the Bay area transformative justice collective that is building concrete ways for people to address harm and violence in their communities. Sometimes it just means forming a pod of people that you are close to and having Frank conversations to say.
When harm has happened to me, or when I have done harm, I need you to be around. It also looks like addressing the systemic. It looks like showing up to city council meetings to say, divert the funding for police into mental health, into housing and to education resources. So that instances of violence don’t even need to happen in the first place. It looks like holding the Biden administration accountable. To deporting 33 Vietnamese refugees to Vietnam in the first 100 days during a time in which there is supposed to be a deportation moratorium, it looks like addressing the small interpersonal in our relationships, in our communities, our families, and our homes, while simultaneously acknowledging that community safety happens systemically as much as it does on our streets and in our communities
Miko Lee: [00:15:15] holding the Biden administration accountable, they just announced that they’re going to conduct a listening tour about AAPI violence. What are your thoughts on this and how do you recommend that people respond?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:15:27] In this moment, there are many different Asian American and API voices that are calling for solutions. To community safety calling for solutions that uphold justice that do not leave anyone behind. I would urge the Biden administration and community members that are concerned about these things to turn to organizations on the ground that have been working on these things far longer than the immediate crisis moment.
I look to great organizations like Viet lead in Philly to SEARAC that fight Southeast Asian deportations to even local organizations in the Bay area, like the Chinese progressive association or the Asian Pacific environmental Alliance to say things that are rooted in the experiences of low wage, low income, Asian communities. And to propel solutions forward, like fighting for affordable housing, fighting for healthcare for all, ensuring that there is equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, that folks who are low wage workers and all sectors have access to ensuring that they can continue to live and to thrive amongst their families and communities.
There is no need to make up talking points to tell the Biden administration for this listening tour, because communities have been saying what they’ve needed for a long time. And in this moment, those things need to be uplifted throughout many different communities so that we can really root in safety justice and a connectedness that gets us all free and doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Miko Lee: [00:17:27] Thank you for that. Can you talk about the stop a P I hate data that’s being collected. Why is it important to collect that data? What is that about?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:17:39] Stop API hate has been collecting data since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in acknowledgement that because of federal level communications that have portrayed COVID-19 as a virus that came from Asia, something that is uniquely connected to being Asian, that there is a racist rhetoric that has been propelled at the federal level that impacts people on the day to day on the ground. And COVID-19 has brought an upsurge of anti-Asian violence across the United States. And stop API hate is a way to document those stories and to bring to light the very real experiences of folks who are experiencing these things on a daily basis. I think it’s really important for us to document these things. Not because we just need a database of the hard things that happen to us, but because when we have the power of our stories, collectivized, we can show how deeply this issue needs to be addressed.
I think also importantly, AAPI is a huge umbrella term. Oftentimes people say AAPI without realizing that is a vast group of people with many different cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and identities. And when we’re able to collect data on our own communities, we can also work to then dis-aggregate that data and say, This is how issues are affecting different groups with under, underneath this big umbrella term, to be more specific and targeted in what we say and in how we create solutions.
Miko Lee: [00:19:30] Thank you. So my very last question for you is because this is a time filled with so much stress for so many of us. And we are getting this barrage of incidents that have happened, and many of us are facing this on a daily basis. What do you recommend as a tool for just taking care of ourselves?
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:19:49] There is a way that crisis makes people feel like everything is urgent. Everything must happen right now that we must have the perfect solutions respond in the perfect way and get out of our feelings so we can have clarity on what to do next. And what I would encourage people to do. And what I have to encourage myself to do is feel the depth of my feelings, whether that is the grief, the sorrow, the rage, whatever the feeling may be, feel the depths of that, because that feeling is wisdom.
The reason why I feel these things is because what is happening in this moment? Is deeply just a pattern that my ancestors have experienced for years and years. And when I’m able to tap into the wisdom of my emotions and the wisdom that this collective feeling teaches me, I have more clarity on what I need to root in and what I need to do in the future.
I don’t need to rely on. On defense mechanisms or on false solutions like policing, I can access what our communities need and what they have truly needed for centuries. So just as I encourage myself to do, I encourage people to take the moment that they need to access the depths of their feelings to grieve.
To name the names of people that have been lost and to send care and grace, to yourself, and to other Asian American, low income, gender oppressed people who are hurting right now, and to feel that in the full body way that it deserves to be.
Miko Lee: [00:21:42] Thank you so much for joining us Sammy.
Sammie Ablaza Wills: [00:21:45] thanks so much, Miko.
Miko Lee: [00:21:46] You are listening to apex express on 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFB in Berkeley and [email protected], where we have posted a link to all of the activist groups that sammy named in their conversation with us. Next up listen to history of violence by dumbfounded.
Song: [00:22:06] Song History of Violence. by Dumbfoundead
Miko Lee: [00:23:18] that was dumb founded song “history of violence” welcome Vincent Pan Co-ED of Chinese for affirmative action to apex express.
Thank you, Miko.
So CAA was one of the founding organizers of the STOPAAPIHateonline organizing. Can you talk about why that began and how it’s been going?
Vincent Pan: [00:23:41] Almost a year ago, CAA and our partners in Southern California began receiving calls for help from community members who were experiencing a range of hate incidents. In order to get a sense of the scale and type of problems, we began documenting these through stop AAPIHATE.org . At first we were focused on California, but then began receiving reports of hate incidents from across the country. All we wanted to do was to understand the type of discrimination and harassment and physical assault that was happening so that we could make strong recommendations on what needed to happen in order to prevent and intervene. The escalation of hate. Since that time, a year ago, it’s very disturbing, due to the rhetoric around the coronavirus that was in particular champion by the former president we’ve received over 3,700 incidents of hate from community members and these are firsthand accounts and witness accounts they show important patterns that need to be addressed and relate to the awful incident that happened this week on Tuesday as well.
Miko Lee: [00:25:04] how many numbers do you think are not being counted?
Vincent Pan: [00:25:08] These numbers are clearly under reporting what’s occurring. These experiences that are being reported, validate what many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have known and have shared for many years. Less important than the exact number is the types of discrimination that we’re seeing because they do require, different responses. The numbers have been very helpful for us to be able to demonstrate this problem to the broader public where oftentimes without. Some type of quantitative assessment. It’s too easy for systemic racism to be written off as just, Oh, that’s a one off occurrence. And this really isn’t a systemic or structural problem
Miko Lee: [00:25:53] What actions are being taken in response to the shootings in Georgia?
Vincent Pan: [00:25:59] I think the main call is to support the groups in Georgia and that we know that in order to be effective it’s important to center the experiences of survivors to really organize around folks who are closest to the work itself. A lot of what we’re trying to do is to direct people, to groups like asian Americans advancing justice in Atlanta and to be responsive to their calls for help. They do have a system in place where people can offer up what resources they can share. What we know is that, although this a toxic environment that’s been created is very national and actually international as well. That the responses have to be localized and they have to be community-based.
Miko Lee: [00:26:50] What can folks do to have a sense of agency and get involved?
Vincent Pan: [00:26:53] Our community is stronger when people come together. Not just within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, but across other communities of color across other marginalized communities. Being able to support API led organizations organizations led by communities of color that have been doing this work for a long time to address both systemic racism and systemic misogyny. Our communities are safe when we are taking care of one, another than one, another, a lot of that means demanding more attention and resources for all of our communities. That also includes demanding for systemic changes in public policy from from private industry from from media. To ensure that our experiences are validated and that they are addressed.
Miko Lee: [00:27:47] So president Biden is now calling to have community listening tours for folks around these hate crimes. How should our community respond to that?
Vincent Pan: [00:27:57] We need to recognize that there is a broad range. Incidents and not all of them are crimes and not all of them are hate motivated. And so although the most horrific incidents certainly are around physical assault, violence, murder, racism manifest itself in many different ways. We have to fight that whether it’s workplace discrimination, Or refusal of service by businesses, whether that’s bullying on schools or campus climate at colleges and universities, or even online harassment. I think Asian Americans have to speak out against this type of racism, not just when it’s directed towards our community, but when it’s directed towards any community. Racism is structural. How it affects Asian Americans is also connected with how it affects other communities as well.
Miko Lee: [00:28:54] What do you recommend for people to take care of themselves and their community?
Vincent Pan: [00:28:58] Reaching out to loved ones and just being there for one another. I think that the importance of mental health is critical, especially for those who have experienced or witnessed these hate incidents themselves. They can be traumatizing. Even when incidents to non-involved physical assault we know from our experiences that verbal harassment and bullying and shunning that these do have an impact on our wellbeing. One positive thing that may come out of this is is a community-wide de-stigmatization, de-stigmatize one of the positive things that can come out of this is if our community de-stigmatize, it is accessing mental health and valuing mental health because much of what’s happening is traumatic and it’s pervasive.
One thing that we’re very attentive to is to make sure that in the emotion of a reaction that we do not unintentionally contributed to other problems, especially around mass incarceration and especially around the criminalization of marginalized communities. From a public policy perspective, a lot of the work around hate crimes has been focused around punitive and enforcement measures as opposed to prevention and intervention. We trying to hold in this moment is space for Asian Americans to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged and also to be very assertive in the demand to hold the system accountable and holding the system accountable means real resources for our and other communities. It means addressing these problems before they happen and then means acknowledging that the overall atmosphere and environment that we are living in has been both racist and xenophobic and and misogynistic for a long time.
Miko Lee: [00:31:01] How do we go about making those changes?
Vincent Pan: [00:31:03] Obviously some things are more long-term than others, but, we know that there are so many strategies already being pursued by many of our community-based advocacy organizations. That includes organizing that includes cultural change work and it includes policy advocacy that includes being involved in the political process. What you see from my research, at STOPAAPIHATE that the language that often accompanies the harassment and the physical songs was borrowed straight from the former presidents now.
Miko Lee: [00:31:37] And even the current GOP, who’s still utilizing that language.
Vincent Pan: [00:31:41] That’s right. It’s important to note that a lot of this was occurring specifically in Georgia. The Georgia political leadership on the Republican party, an ongoing demonization of China, ongoing demonization and racialization of the Corona virus. It’s not an accident that begins to impact the way people see our communities. Regardless of the background perpetrators, when you have a non-stop repetition and perpetuation of language that serves to dehumanize and flatten us, it makes it all too likely for the types of hate incidents that we see to continue to escalate both the number and severity.
In the most recent national report that we released, women report hate incidents, 2.3 times more than men. We know that our vulnerable community members, young people and seniors are also bearing the brunt of this. It’s important also to acknowledge that what happened. And Atlanta was at the intersection of both racism and misogyny and calls for very specific solutions as well.
Miko Lee: [00:32:57] Thank you, Vincent Pan from Chinese for affirmative action. We’ll have a link to that study so people can find out more information about it on our website.
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:33:59] Good evening. And I am your host and producer for the second half of tonight’s show on the incidents that unfolded yesterday in Atlanta, we sit down and conversation with two fierce, Korean American women leaders, working on social justice with a critical feminist lens. Christina is the founder and executive director of women cross DMZ. A global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean war, reunite families and ensure women’s leadership. And peacebuilding Christine, welcome to our show and your response and thoughts on the attacks and the context in the United States against which these attacks have taken place.
Christine Ahn: [00:34:40] Thanks so much Priti and greetings to all my friends in the Bay area. It’s always nice to come home to apex express. Of course, I’m feeling immense, sorrow and sadness for the families of those, especially the women that were killed in that violent hate crime, but it’s I just I’m feeling rage. Actually, because in many ways we have seen the rise in anti-Asian violence in the last year, we’ve seen it because of Trump’s incendiary comments, the Wu Han virus.
The being said, such as the Kung flu virus the ways in which the coroner virus is being blamed on China and Asian Americans. But what makes me so enraged is somehow the invisibleness of the role of us empire in all of this, the anti Asian violence we see today is so much. Tied and has roots in us, militarism Wars and its empire and the last two centuries across Asia and throughout the Pacific.
And when we think about. How the United States has for decades. And I speak very specifically about the experience of Koreans in the Korean war, which is still the longest standing us military conflict that is not ended 70 years later. But, when we, as a nation can drop atomic weapons on hundreds of thousands of civilians, when we can drop and splatter, napalm, or agent orange across Asian bodies and the killing fields of Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos.
And when we can drop thousands of bombs on the Korean peninsula, in the Korean war, how do you think that dehumanization of those people over there of those groups of those chinks will come home to roost? Not just carry through the trauma and the violence of us soldiers that witnessed and participated in that violence over there, but just then the people that get displaced.
By that us militarism and occupation and neo-liberalism and how they come to this country and they are forever cast as foreigners and mistrusted. And, it’s just, that’s what is just killing me is how much this hawkish rhetoric that whether it’s. The Trump administration or the Biden administration against China against North Korea is contributing to the racialization, the stigmatization and the dehumanization of Asians at home.
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:37:35] And we have to see the link between what you as foreign policy does to us here at home. Thank you, Christine, for the powerful analysis and connecting dots that we otherwise will not make, especially right away. I want to now invite our other guests tonight. Sung Yeon Cholmorror, the executive director of Nepal or the national Asian Pacific American women’s forum. So again, what is your response to the violence shootings?
Sung Yeon Choimorrow: [00:38:03] Yeah, thank you for having me Preeti. And I’m sorry that these are the circumstances under which we meet Christina as a organization that’s where our mission is to build collective power with. Asian-American Pacific Islander women and girls to gain full agency over our lives and families and communities here at the national Asian Pacific American women’s forum or Napa.
We’ve been tracking many of these stories anecdotally just through our members and our staff for, as long as we’ve existed. What we saw yesterday was, Horrifying, but it was not surprising. I am just so heartbroken. And how many of my colleagues have said that they’re not surprised at what happened, we’ve seen the statistics about the rise in hate. And violence against Asian Americans in this past year due to the pandemic and 68% of that being directed at women. And yet we’re seeing very little reporting about. Why women, why are women being more targeted? Why are Asian American women being more targeted in this, in this racist attacks and violence.
And, the first article I saw on this was published by Kimmy yam of NBC. Couple of days ago, literally the day that the shootings happened, actually that morning is when I saw it circulate. And then here we are, and I think what’s really angry us is this attempt to divorce.
The racial motivation and the sexual violence, motivation behind what took place. And I think by doing that, it’s really dehumanizing the victims and who they really were and why this happened to them. And we really need to understand the full arc of. Our experiences, everything from what Christina is talking about in militarism and, the transnational issues to how this is felt, how those issues are lived and experienced by Asian American women living every day in this country.
Absolutely Sung Yeon, Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:40:09] Christine a big part of your activism is building transnational, feminist solidarity. What is transnational? Feminist solidarity. And how does it look like at a time like this?
Christine Ahn: [00:40:19] I think first of all, to even have this transnational analysis, to see the root causes of some of this. so much of this anti-Asian violence, which stems from the us imperialist gaze over Asia I first want to just echo what sun S Sonia was saying about how, when we think about why so much of the S of the violence is targeted Asian and Asian-American women, it’s like when we draw that link to us, militarism across Asia and the Pacific it’s the 21 year olds the gunman, he was, what did he say? He said, he just he had a sexual addiction. And it’s like, what is the way in which Asian American women are? The kind of stereotypes that play into we are either passive or submissive, or we are hyper-sexualized And how much of that is linked to the ways in which the us has sought to dominate and control, right?
The ways in which white men. Have racialized sexualized fantasies about dominating Asian women. Like how is that linked to us imperialists gaze over Asia, whether it’s wanting to dominate the sea lanes or dominate the markets or in the case of South Korea, still dominate and control. Have wartime operational control over South Korea’s military, which is the 10th largest in the world.
And so if there was a military conflict, the U S would have control over South Korea. And so I think transnational, feminist solidarity looks at the kind of this long history. Of the, especially in the Asian Pacific region, the, this are Mulago of empire, the ring of military bases that encircled China from South Korea to Japan, Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii and how, the violence.
This is something that I think is so important. It’s we look at those bases, the USS 800. Basis in 80 countries around the world. And, we often think that those are just benign places or sites, but in fact, they are places of violence that take place before a war even takes place.
And that means not just violence against the coral reefs or against endangered species or the ecology, the forest, the farm lands, but it’s also against women’s bodies because with every military base. Is a sex economy that is established, together between the host nation and the us military.
And so it just creates this like feedback loop that, is. Bringing home back to roost what S what the U S military and foreign policy is doing everywhere around the world. And I think transnational, feminist solidary is to recognize that interconnectedness, that link between the domestic and the foreign and to show that actually there is no them and us and that actually we have.
A responsibility. And I take that seriously as a Korean American that knows the kind of brutal history of us roll on the Korean peninsula from the division to the war, to the occupation, to the backing of dictatorships in South Korea. Once you see that you have. To take action. And that’s why I help lead a letter of Korean Americans to Biden to say, you have to end the Korean war because we have to see that allowing the war to continue, whether it’s robbing us here at home of like vital taxpayer dollars that should go to investing in our security at home.
But it’s also perpetuating the violence. Against people in those countries. And, I think that’s true feminist solidarity, but I think at this moment, what we need is to lift up the organizations like Songhees, Sanjana not POV red, Canary, those groups that Asian Americans advancing justice that are working on the front lines to provide support to the families of the victims and to be doing the critical education.
At this incredible juncture to stop the Biden administration’s like hawkish rhetoric on China, on North Korea. And reverse the long history of us militarism and empire.
Sung Yeon Choimorrow: [00:44:50] Yeah. And just to piggyback on that, I think I want to speak to a little bit of the lived reality of the impact of what Christina talking about on the lives of Asian-American women. When I first I came to the United States when I was 18 years old as a college student. And unfortunately I’ve gotten used to it if that’s the right word now. But when I first came, I was just floored at how racialized the sexual harassment that was directed me at me were, and it was very specific men.
Would stop me on the street and asked me if I was Korean. And then they would, say some Korean phrase they learned while they were in the military in Korea, and then go on and on about how they love Korea and Korean food. And Korean women are so beautiful. Like how I remind them of this Korean girlfriend they had and, and then say something really inappropriate to me the first time it happened.
I was like, this man is out of his mind. And it happened again and again, and I, that’s, when I really started to make the connections that Christina’s talking about, I grew up in a very small town in South Korea where the, for a long time, the main economic engine of the city was a us military base.
And coming to the United States, I did not realize I would have to that that, that dynamic. Of wanting to quote unquote conquer Asian women would be something I would still have to experience here as an Asian American woman. But, and what I realize is that those men come back from their services, continue to carry on their fantasies and fetishes about.
About us and who they want us to be. And, impose that on us, on Asian Americans who live here. And so I think, this is a narrative that, It’s really important for us to hold in its totality. And I think one of the things that I really want, your listeners to walk away with is understanding that we cannot talk about what happened.
Two days ago in Atlanta, there’s awful tragic incident that happened as just a racialized, violent incident or just a sexual violence incident. It is. Both of those things happening at the same time and that’s uniquely experienced by Asian American women. And I think that’s why so many of us woke up yesterday feeling, feeling so feeling this so deeply, there was so much rage, so much sadness, so much anger. I think most of us on my team, like really barely made it through the day because. We were thinking about our female relatives who work in service industries. We were thinking about ourselves. We’re thinking about all the times when we were in these situations where we were racially sexually harassed, that we made it out alive, but maybe we wouldn’t have, and I think, what happened two days ago?
Resonates with so many of us, because it’s not just an isolated incident of some man who was at the end of his rope. It is a structural problem that we need to deal with in the United States.
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:47:56] How has mainstream media coverage of this incident been so far? Christine, could you also speak to community responses to this incident, including, especially the Korean American community?
Christine Ahn: [00:48:07] I think there has been some good journalism that has come out that has shown even like the police chief, how he’s. Called it a bad day for the gunman. That’s just nuts and I really appreciate so much Tanya on this point about they need to have an intersectional framework, but yeah.
As for the Korean American community I was talking to my stuff at women cross DMZ and, the. The way in which women who either were married to us GIS there were a big, generation of South Korean women that married us GIS that came and, were The strange, by the Korean-American community, by churches.
And so there’s a way in which there, there is an invisible visitation that takes place of women that are, working in these industries or and I just think that it is it is our job as feminists. To to say their names, to call out the systematic system, systematic misogyny and the racism, the intersection of it, but also the inner, the intersection between what us foreign and military and empire policy has done that is forced their migration.
To places like this to be forever foreigners in this place. And and yeah it’s that’s why it’s so critical that we, apex express exists and that we’re able to bring in a much more nuanced analysis that hopefully can get to the root cause of so much of this violence.
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:49:50] What are some of the ways listeners can support groups on the ground working on these issues?
Sung Yeon Choimorrow: [00:49:54] Yes. And so I know that one organization, red Canary has been raising funds to support their families and that all the donations that are sent to that organization are going directly to the families. And that just moves my heart and warms my heart, that there is so much collective support and an outrage as there should be. But we have to also like. Tie it to bite in, we have a democratic administration and we think, Oh, this is so much better, but it’s whether it’s bi-partisan Republican or Democrats, the anti Asian violence is tied to us imperialism in Asia, in the Pacific.
And so we have to like, Call out this hawkish narrative that the Biden administration is perpetuating. That Trump started, that Obama began with the us pivot to Asia and, we have to call it out. We have a responsibility as a progressive left community to, to call this out. Because we don’t want to get into world war three with China and all the peoples across Asia in the Pacific.
I live in Hawaii. Nobody wants to be on either side. The vision that China or the United States is putting forward is not the vision that the people, the world’s people want. And we have to resist this kind of hawkish narrative and the drive to push for more militarization in Asia. I just want to emphasize that, I think what we’re what we are experiencing collectively as a community I was talking to my staff earlier today and they were saying like, one of my staff members just couldn’t stop crying because it’s just thinking about all of her family members that work in nail salons and hair salons and all these places in Georgia.
And, talking to members yesterday, They are, they were afraid to go to work. And just want to, re iterate that, we can have these discussions and conversations about the structures and isms and poly geopolitics and all of that, which is all very necessary.
But, I really want us to hold the people that are living this day-to-day on the ground right now. And that includes many of us that are listening to this podcasts right now that, the experiences that we have completely been invisibilized and deprioritize, we’re still waiting for governor of Georgia to make a statement, how does a massacre take place in your state?
And you have not said anything. And so to me, the issue is really around standing up and speaking out about what is going on and using this opportunity to. Continue to raise awareness about the diversity of our community. And just want to speak a little bit to even within our own community, within the Asian American community, we don’t do a good job about talking about gender based violence.
We do not do a good job about century intersectionality in our work, even in the progressive space and, This morning, I was on a call where I really, called our community to get on the same page that this issue needs to be talked about as both race and gender based violence. It can’t be either whore.
And that, there’s a lot of effort to link this only to the rise in API. Violence based on the pandemic. And I’m like, yes, it is. And it is more right. And but really to understand that, to not speak of one or the other is really dehumanizing the people that the lives that have been lost.
And this is often the experience of Asian-American women. In, many of the progressive spaces is that either they expect us to show up as Asian-Americans or as women very rarely are. We allowed to show up as Asian American women in our totality. And so I really am not apologizing for the amount of space that we’re taking up as Asian-American women and Asian American feminists and Chaz national feminist on this issue.
Because I think it’s high time that we talk about how racism. Is played out for Asian American women in this country in its unique way. Any final
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:53:53] thoughts, Christina, as we close out?
Christine Ahn: [00:53:55] No, I think, Sung Yeon and it’s been a great honor to be with you on this show and, I think it’s really important to bring in these critical perspectives that are intersectional and that are internationalist. And feminist, so the anti militarist. So there is one initiative that women cross DMZ is a part of, and I’m stoked that Sanjana, that NAPAWF could potentially be a part of it, but women cross DMZ Madre and grassroots global justice Alliance launched a feminist peace initiative where we are trying to mobilize.
U S social movements that work on BLM, BiPAP issues, indigenous communities a, climate justice to draw the linkage to say that we have a responsibility in this country. To basically take on us militarism and empire. Not just for all of our families, especially us as diasphoric communities in our homelands.
But also for the things that we want to achieve here in the United States. And it’s feminist peace initiative.org and lots of amazing organizations. And feminist groups are a part of it. And so it’d be great to get more organizational assignment sign-ons and endorsements, and so that we could all collectively work together to build a much more Justin feminist country and world.
Preeti Mangala Shekar: [00:55:22] That was the discussion I had had with Christina, from women cross DMZ and Sung Yeon Cholmorrow., The director of national Asian Pacific American women’s forum on NEPA, please visit redcanarysong.netone of the only groups working on the ground self-organizing massage parlor workers in the U S there are over 9,000 such workplaces across the country with no political representation or access to labor rights or collective organizing.