When these are the headlines flooding the world as a direct result of a pandemic ravaging the planet coupled with the aftermath of 4 years of racist policies and rhetoric, it is easy to fill your entire being with uncontrollable rage and then despair. Though we are not from the US (we reside here in Hong Kong), we are always deeply connected to our fellow Asian fam living anywhere on the planet. Whatever horror they go through, we feel it too. Many of us have literal family living on that side of the planet (or in other pockets around the world dealing with similar outbursts of racist violence). For those of us who do have family in regions with increased violent attacks on Asians, seeing all the horrible footage on our computer screens, phones, TV, and not being able to do anything to protect our loved ones, makes all of this even harder to stomach.
Mina Lee is an Asian American who most recently ran a profound event in response to the tragic events. She used the Twitch platform to host a talk where she shared deeply personal life experiences to help enlighten those who tuned in. The positive response she received was immense!
Through her words below, we hope we’re able to provide some more real-life context to the horrors of the past few weeks.
This is happening.
This has been happening.
Ignoring it will not make it go away.
Thank you Mina for the time you’ve spent providing such thoughtful answers during such a difficult time.
Photo Credit: @lookschill
What’s up Mina! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this! It’s so important for our readers (the majority of whom don’t reside in the US) to have some context to what our extended Asian fam is dealing with in the US. So it means a lot that you’re taking the time to help provide some more context of the horrifying images we’ve been seeing on TV. First of all, how are you and your family doing? Are there more precautions you’re all taking when you step outside of your homes?
My family is doing okay! My parents are unfortunately too used to this type of news as they’ve personally been a witness and/or victim to violent racism many times and mostly were concerned for my sister and I. Both of my parents don’t leave the house at all since Covid-19 hit unless it’s for work or essential needs (like groceries), so their risk is already lowered. My father is an auto mechanic and owns a garage in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and he has a close personal relationship with all in said neighborhood. He feels safe and I feel confident in his safety as the Black community looks out and always has for my family. My sister on the other hand is not doing well. She cried and grieved for days, feeling isolated and scared as an Asian woman in a predominantly white suburb of Portland, Oregon. She is still recovering her spirits but has found comfort in maintaining constant communication with me. The same goes for me. I have cried every single day this past week, trying to come to terms with my own grief, fear, and confusion. But overall, I am still standing and happy to be alive. My husband has placed a nightstick in my car as a precaution and tries to ensure I’m not leaving the house alone if possible, as we’re both confident I could not hold my own physically if the need should arise.
All of this is so tragic to read through…what to you was most shocking about the level of violence perpetrated? The age of some of the victims seemed especially perplexing – like the video of the older gentleman purposely getting knocked to the ground, or the grandmother who got punched in SF. For the elderly to be targeted in these hate crimes seemed especially heinous. Not to mention of course the women being gunned down in Atlanta.
None of this was shocking to me. I have known these violent racists existed next to us in America since I was a child and had my own lived experience with racism. The only “shocking” thing to me was the lack of media coverage and the overwhelming amount of times the news would shy away from calling these acts what they are – racially motivated hate crimes. I thought it was as clear to the rest of the country as it was to me— Trump’s proud statements associating COVID-19 as a “China Flu” would obviously lead to this increase in emboldening the racist Americans that were already here. I was shocked people couldn’t acknowledge this clear association and that the news continues to give minimal coverage or weight to all the aftermath. For example, media refused to call the Atlanta shooting a “hate crime” or “racially motivated” and instead blamed the victim’s self-proclaimed “sex addiction” despite a witness from the spas having heard the shooter say he wanted to kill specifically “all Asian women”—not to mention the fact that the killer drove past several strip clubs, only to target the Asian women working at the spas. It’s shocking how willful some people’s ignorance can be.
Absolutely. Not to mention how the murderer was not called a murderer or killer and the police had the gall to say “he was having a bad day” where we all know if the murderer was brown they would’ve associated him with some sort of terrorist act. Sorry to go back to your parents for a second, but when you spoke to them most recently, what is their view on all of this? Do they feel the country has a whole has regressed? I think to people like you and me there is no doubt that there’s a connection to the past four years of idiocy under Trump, but what are their thoughts?
Their view was that it’s sad. It was quite simple. Like I said prior, this isn’t new to them. They hated Trump, they hated how the country shifted under his rule, but I don’t think they’d dare to say the country has “regressed,” because at the end of the day, there is still some progress since just a decade ago. The racism under Trump was not new, it was always here before he came along—he just made the racists feel braver and proud. My parents absolutely feel relieved to have a Dem back in office, but again, I don’t think they’d say the country has regressed. It’s the same old shit, just people are prouder of it now. And I think part of that ability to just feel sad for the news and then resume their week stems from survival tactics instilled by all they endured as immigrants.
It may be of note that the Asian American immigrant experience is a lot of gratitude. A lot of feeling thankful and lucky for the opportunity to live here and to have a family here. My parents have endured so much pain and racism, but at the end of the day, they will always focus on gratitude for what they have, including living here.
Oh for sure – I think that’s the case for immigrants most anywhere. My parents immigrated to Hong Kong from Pakistan and during the recent political upheaval in Hong Kong, they kept singing the praises of our government, based on their own experiences of where they came from and that chaotic life they left behind. To them they consider Hong Kong a comparatively safe and efficient place so why rock the boat?
My band was in the States the summer before Trump got elected and I remember saying something about it on stage only to hear the typical dumbshit like “don’t come to our country and talk shit about it” or “If you don’t like it, leave” response. I assume it’s people with this type of thinking that felt emboldened during Trump’s reign. Now that this human filth is gone, what’s going to happen to all the trash who are now out from the gutter? The people he brought out?
Wow, I’m surprised and sorry that happened. All of the shows in hardcore that I attended around the time of Trump would always have at least one band shoutout a “Fuck Trump”.
In regards to the human filth? They’re not gone. They remain. Period. Some are out of sight, but many are still existing publicly and proudly. But slowly we are putting in the work for small victories—to educate racists in their ignorance, to ask for accountability from them and the people associated, to give solidarity to fellow BIPOC and help them fight their injustices. There is no overnight solution, but together and slowly, we make progress as we educate those around us, and as they educate others, and so on as a domino effect.
Thanks for your honesty in these answers so far Mina! Since we both come from our respective hardcore scenes, I’m eager to know your thoughts on whether the US hardcore scene embraces or excludes POC in general? It might not even be consciously – but there is some sort of impact on POC.
I would say that while the US hardcore scene does embrace BIPOC and support these communities when they’re speaking up, there is a HUGE issue with accountability and consistency in the scene. There are a lot of white people in the scene that get a pass or have their “mistakes” get swept under the rug based upon who they’re friends with. I have openly butted heads with many white people in the community when I ask for accountability for displayed racism. Yes, they hear us. Yes, they support us online. But the comprehension needs to go a step further because true support means holding people accountable—even when they’re your friend. In this sense, the US hardcore scene can make it feel very unwelcoming and isolating to POC.
I hear you 100%. From my interactions with white members of the US hardcore scene – if there is any type of “joke” being shared about another race – it tends to always come from them. I’ve never heard a Chinese American, Korean American, or African American involved in hardcore or punk ever poke fun at another race. Of course, I’m generalizing and the US is huge – I’m certainly NOT saying that white people involved in hardcore are all like this, of course that’s not the case. But it goes to what you’re saying – sometimes this type of low-brow humor is considered okay amongst “friends”. When it’s really fucking not. For a while, I think addressing this amongst friends seemed a little harder to do especially in the US because we POC tend to not want to make things weird. But with the recent tragic events and circumstances, do you think these conversations will now become the norm? At least for a while?
In general, for the US population, I think the acknowledgment of the racism in place is like a seesaw. It goes back and forth, either at the forefront or forgotten for a short time. But each time, there’s an inch of progress and slowly we get closer to dismantling White Supremacy. The conversations right now are centered on Asian Americans. I have heard personally from friends that my stream educated them more on the history of Asian Americans than all that they ever learned in school. So for the people I was able to reach, I think the new knowledge I was able to equip them with will help have these conversations more with those they can touch. So for those people, I’m optimistic this is their new norm. They are more confident in holding their ground during difficult conversations when holding others accountable.
That’s so cool to hear that the stream you did not only had a huge impact financially but in terms of pushing the conversation forward. What was the main inspiration for putting that together? And why that medium?
The main inspiration was just my grief. I was so overcome with grief and hopelessness when I heard the news. I felt alone, and many of my close Asian friends had reached out my saying that they felt alone, or silenced. Like the news didn’t care about our pain. So I wanted to use my own pain to educate others and show support to my fellow Asians that were feeling alone. There wasn’t a second thought at all. My first instinct was that I need to have this pain be heard to educate those who don’t know & give them the proper weapons to dismantle white supremacy. To make them hear our people, our pain, our fears, our grief, and our exhaustion from enduring such hate for centuries.
I’ve been streaming on twitch for a few months, and I always enjoy playing games and also having honest conversations with my chat/viewers. This was no different and I knew that my twitch would be a great way to openly discuss and share what I was feeling, what we need from our allies, raise donations in honor of the victims, and educate anyone who was kind enough to listen on one easy to use platform that I am already comfortable utilizing.
And sometimes – that honesty is what resonates with people – to hear marginalized people’s real-life experiences makes these issues finally real to them. Were you surprised by the amazing response you got?
I was surprised. I hadn’t seen much support on social media for the Asian community following the news, and it felt like the world just kept turning for so many people. It seemed they went about their days normal while I cried for hours on end and my husband had to beg me to take a shower and eat. But once we were live, the support came in immediately and in an insane amount. Within 10 minutes of going live, I exceeded my initial goal of $500. I had started the stream stating that if we couldn’t meet my goal of $500, I would supplement what was left to hit the goal with my own money. I was skeptical we could even hit $500. The donations quickly hit $2k within an hour and the number steadily rose, hitting $6.6K before 4 hours were up. I cried at least 6 times on stream, moved by the generosity and support. Moved by so many of my friends joining the stream to share messages of solidarity with me.
That’s so beautiful – does that provide at least some sort of hope for you that there are people out there willing to listen, willing to do something, willing to be part of this moving conversation forward?
Yep! I ended the stream actually thanking them for giving me hope, for helping me find a reason to smile amidst it all. Financial contributions aside, I received so many messages thanking me for the education, emotional labor, and the transparency regarding my own racism-related trauma. Those that watched had left the stream better educated than they were before, and therefore better equipped to have the difficult conversations that lead to accountability & therefore change. If there’s anything to feel hopeful about, it’s certainly that. We were heard, supported, validated, and the messages I shared live on to now be passed to others as well.
As we wrap this up – what are some organizations or sites that people can go to get more info or deepen their understanding of the Asian American experience?
I actually highly recommend following Asian Americans in hardcore on social media. A large majority of us are highly vocal on our lived experiences. I especially wanna shoutout my best friend HeeJin on Twitter, as she provides a great amount of education to all on a regular basis regarding the Korean & Asian American experience.
Red Canary Song
Otherwise, I want to stress the importance of understanding the criminalization of Asian SWers in the US. Red Canary Song is a grassroots collective focusing on this. Additionally, I recommend looking up the ‘Model Minority’ Myth in the US. I think it’s quite unique to the Asian American experience, as Asians have been weaponized by White Supremacy in order to put down other marginalized communities, especially the Black community.
Here are some people to follow on Twitter:
Besides people to follow on Twitter, here are some fellow BIPOC Twitch streamers to follow:
Huge thanks to Mina for her time, patience, and most importantly her passion for BIPOC. The world is a better place because people like Mina reside on this planet.