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Teen speaks at Spokane Stop the Hate Vigil

On March 20, several hundred people gathered at the Sister City Gardens in Spokane’s Riverfront Park for a Spokane We Stand United Vigil to express solidarity with Asian Americans’ call to Stop Again Hate. 

The location was chosen because three of Spokane’s sister cities are in Nishinomiya, Japan; Jecheon, South Korea and Jilin City, China.

Rosie Zhou is with Jasmine Meredith after both spoke at vigil. Photo courtesy of Jasmine Meredith

One speaker was Jasmine Meredith, a senior at Ferris High School and member of Westminster UCC in Spokane. She has been involved in other activist actions, including with Students Demand Action for gun safety, Sunrise for climate change action and Youth4Change for targeting informational social media for youth to include world events and history.

Of Chinese heritage, she works with the Asian American Pacific Islander community to urge anti-racism legislation and public statements.

I started writing this after the Cherokee Country Sheriff’s Captain said the murder in the Atlanta shootings had “a bad day.”

My bad day starts with the sun shining directly in my eyes before my alarm clock rings because I didn’t shut the blinds tightly enough the night before my bad day continues when I accidentally bite my tongue as I consume a late lunch.

I stub my toe on my bed frame, give myself a paper cut, my hair wont corporate, I broke one of my dishes, and so on.

Resuming my bad day, I forget about an assignment I had to do for class and miss my 11:59 deadline. Disappointed, my unproductive, underwhelming day ends with my insomnia lying in bed with me until sunrise.

My “bad week” consists of awkward encounters, discouraging news, exhausting work, an irritable attitude, and underwhelming events.

My “bad month” is a stressful one. Filled with dismay, regret, sorrow, fatigue, weariness, distress and so on.

My “bad year” begins with a judgmental stare, an unsafe feeling and a fearful mentality. It is one of repetition.

A ritual of scanning my surroundings as I walk into a grocery store, because I can’t make anyone too uncomfortable.

Consistently watching my back as I spot a man glaring at me from down the aisle.

Repeatedly questioning my judgement when I avoid certain people. I’ve tried to not make snap judgements about those I pass on the sidewalk, but caution is valued etiquette for people who look like me.

My bad year continues with trepidation. I got my license last week, but I was hesitant, because I knew if I were able to drive, I would have to go places alone. I was planning on going on a summer road trip with my best friend after graduation, but now I’m not so sure. We look like each other and I’m afraid of what could happen.

Going out at night has been a no go because I am a woman. Now I take a risk going out in the day.

Restaurants say we can take off our mask as soon as we get to our table, but I keep mine on to make others feel at ease.

I was worried about going back to school in person. I was supposed to be at “the top” of my school because I’m a senior this year, but when I see someone wearing that red hat, I feel trampled on. I’ve even been afraid of being fearful.

Some have even made me feel as if I deserve to be treated this way.

“Well, it did come from China,” they say, then they put me at the end of a punch line and invalidate my concern. Laughing at “kung flu” or “china virus,” they put me at the beginning of a pun and in the middle of a difficult situation.

My bad year is comprised of a myriad of “too manys”:

• Too many times has my mother felt the need to wait for me in the store as I walked out.

• Too many times have I been followed home from school. I don’t know if it is because I am a girl or because I’m Asian. I simply walk faster.

• Too many times have I heard language enabling racism come out of mouths of those passing by.

• Too many bystanders, too many accomplices.

• Too many times a politician, who was to serve the people, divided them instead.

• Too many times racist rhetoric has been defended by those who are supposed to represent the people.  Often a radio host has called Asian singers “some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well.” Too often, an attack on an Asian not been deemed to be a hate crime, an Asian elder has been a victim of assault, someone has had to defend their fear or substantiate their rage.

• Too many, “I’m so sorrys” or “That’s so tragic” or “That’s horrible.”

Once is one time too many.

My bad year is composed of statistics: Asian hate crimes increased by 150 percent with 3,800 incidents reported in a year. Of them, 68 percent were reported by females. There were 503 incidents in 2021 alone. Asian women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men

Headlines read, “death of 75-year-old Asian man after he was attacked on his daily walk.”

Captain Jay Baker described the murderer as someone who was “at the end of their rope” and I could not identify with that description more. I’m at the end of my rope as well.  I’m fed up with feeling unsafe in a country that I’ve lived in almost my entire life,

I’m sick of only feeling comfortable going out when I am with my white parents or white boyfriend, I’m tired of donating to funeral “go fund Me’s.” I’m over feeling unsafe because others feel unsafe around me.

When this pandemic is over, everything goes “back to normal,” we return to school and work full-time, we eat out, have dances and throw parties, I will be beyond grateful, but I know this past year will leave a scar on the face of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for the rest of time.

We have become hyper visible in the span of a year. The red spotlight has been shined on us and made us out to be a villains while we are simply huddled under it with the ones we love. As history repeats itself, we will become invisible. Our community will be poured into a glass like water, morphing into the shape they want us to be, the model minority, the intelligent, the incompetent, the disgusting, the odd.

As I finish this up, I ask a few questions.

• When will ignorance and stupidity not be a viable pass for racism?

• When will we start acknowledging these attacks for what they are?

• When will we denormalize racist Asian rhetoric?

• When will we put Asian history and culture into our high school history books?

• When can we ensure we won’t be alienated in our own country?

• When is the time when those who immigrate from Asia are not told “America is not all that it seems”?

• When do I not have to worry about my friends who are Asian American and Pacific Islanders going to work or school?

• When do I not have to worry?

I know no one can give me an estimate of time, but I know everyone can reassure me, and Asian American and Pacific Islanders everywhere, that they will advocate and act on what is right. There is hope.

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Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ News © April-May 2021


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