I’ve always found the phrase power dynamic to be redundant because the Greek root for “dynamic” means power. Still, I must acknowledge the power dynamics at play.
I’m not the voice that’s needed in the wake of the Atlanta Massage Parlor Shooting.
My engagement in this conversation is not fearless. This is a safe discussion for me because I can opt-in today and opt-out tomorrow. This is not to congratulate my contribution, but rather admit how easy it is to disengage as an ally.
I currently write these words as a Black woman thousands of miles away from where a 21-year-old white man decided to take the lives of 8 people—including 6 Asian women. I’m not Asian. I’m not an Asian woman. My anti-gun activism experience is minimal. I’ve never done sex work in any shape or form. I’m fortunate to have a platform that elevates my voice, but it’s these perspectives that need to be prioritized. They must be heard and felt and believed and honored. You can find some of these voices here, here, here, and here. I encourage you to find more.
The systematic issues at play in the Atlanta Massacre are complex and need unpacking. For this reason, I refuse to name the perpetrator of this heinous act. I’d rather direct my words and energy towards self-education and reflection than waste them empathizing the creator of such reckless harm.
When I first heard news coverage of the hate crime, it felt equally familiar and foreign. The police justifying the white murder’s actions as the culmination of a “really bad day”… calling him a kid “at the end of his rope”… blaming his killing spree on a sex addiction. The victims’ families grieving on camera for millions to see… asking for answers and justice, only to receive neither. I knew the pain of seeing a stranger slain because of the color of their skin. I know that vertigo of anger, fear, and community loss. But this time, the victims and their families didn’t look like me.
As much as I hate to admit it, I wanted to believe the color of my skin would give me a pass. I wanted to believe my silence would keep the boogeymen at bay, even if they were just around the corner or at my neighbor’s doorstep. I wanted to believe my physical distance from this atrocity would keep me safe.
While my people aren’t currently bleeding, we aren’t immune to the hate and ignorance that engendered this violence. No one is. The oppression hasn’t shifted. It’s revealed another head. Oppression is a multi headed beast. It’s our modern day Cerberus— attempting to prevent progress by confining us to the maladaptive patterns of our past… sinking its teeth into many groups of prey… each day biting harder on a different community.
In search of guidance, I recently reread some of Audre Lorde’s essays. I’ve been reflecting on her call for proactive intersectionality. This particular quote has been on my mind:
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”Audre Lorde
Despite my fear… despite my instinct to separate myself from this tragedy… I know my silence won’t protect me, just as it won’t protect the families and communities of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue
Our silence will only fuel fear and those responsible for it.
And so I speak.
In Greek mythology, the many heads of Cerberus (like the many heads Typhon and many eyes of Argus) do not have individual names. We’re lucky to have names for the different ways oppression rears its many nasty heads
Atlanta Massage Parlor Shooting was an Anti-Asian hate crime.
It was a classicist and misogynistic declaration that sex workers and their lives are disposable.
It was the manifestation of the white evangelical church’s toxicity.
It was a blatant reminder of the necessity of proper gun control and regulation.
It was white exoneration practiced by our incarnation system and media.
Each of these issues are nuanced and deserve to be acknowledged separately. But like Cerberus, all of these forms of oppression belong to the same body. We can’t stop oppression by cutting off one head. Not only will it come back, but more novel forms of abuse will come with it. We must do what Hercules did. We must grab it by the throat and silence the inner voices and screams of fear and doubt and hate. We must defeat it and complete the labor that must be done.
Ways you can help
Educate yourself on how the United States abused Chinese workers during the California Gold Rush and were banned from entering the US with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (even though they were engineers and builders behind the first transcontinental railroad). Also look up the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American auto worker and (unfortunately) many other acts of Anti-Asian violence throughout American history.
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