When the Atlanta Spa Killings were reported, the news came in the wake of increased hate crimes against the Asian Community not only in the US, but globally, too.
I had a moment where I thought, ‘this can’t be real.’ Humanity can’t still be in this place.
But people of colour have always been targeted, and I shouldn’t have been shocked to see this happen.
But I was.
I was shocked because Asian and Pacific culture, of so many different types, has filled my life with colour and joy.
I studied the flash mobs of Filipino prisons in college. I did my masters thesis on theories of metaphysics by a Kyoto born philosopher. I read the myth of Kali when I was at my lowest. Anime, and k-drama’s, trite as they may seem, brought me out of a dark place when I was young, and sick and felt so alone. I spent weeks pleading with my parents to go to Hawaii for their wedding, it made no sense, because I didn’t like the heat (but I did love magical islands…) In 2019, I fell in a deep obsession with Vedic lore.
I wanted to travel because I wanted to see Asian and Pacific culture. Mulan, westernized and problematic though the Disney version may be, was my favourite cartoon movie (next to Hercules, admittedly) when I was young.
The story of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, Quan Yin, reminds me to be kinder to myself and others. Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, reminded me to be strong and unyielding in my love.
Rabindranath Tagore, and Rumi, a Bengali and Urdu poet from vastly different era’s, bring so much light to my life when I read their words.
I was entranced by photos of the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Hawaii, Japan and China – and the biodiversity of these countries. So much so, that regardless of student debt and a whole heap of financial worry, I cast caution aside and made it my business to visit Japan in 2020 – just before the lockdowns began, and before the panic and fear had really spread.
The polite, quiet kindness of the people did not surprise me. The peace of a landscape utterly new to me, did.
I still remember the Japanese office worker who smiled knowingly at me as I wandered around a 7eleven outside of Kyoto Tower. And the knowing glances I, in some bizarre return, gave the westerners at the Starbucks underneath the tower itself. It was a funny blend of, ‘I’m glad to see you, but I didn’t need you here.’
My heart skipped a beat when I locked eyes with an incredibly handsome Japanese guy right outside the temple at the end of a busy main street. Yes, I was in Starbucks again – mainly because I was on a limited budget, and didn’t want to tempt myself too much with traditional café’s…but I promise I did go to some traditional restaurants, ate at markets and food stalls – and spent far too long looking for the perfect fridge magnet for my family.
Don’t laugh, it’s a tradition when someone goes someplace new…
There was the American photographer who noticed that I was waiting for him to finish a photo outside a Kyoto hotel before crossing, and who snapped a picture of me as I scurried by. I was half in love with his smile in that single moment.
I don’t know what blessing allowed me to immerse myself in Japanese culture, in Chinese Myth, or to read about Filipino artists, or to consume every inch of a NatGeo article about Thailand and Vietnam – I truly don’t. I don’t know why the universe conspired to let me jump on a plane to Japan in 2020, but my heart fills with joy that it did.
I just thank whatever Gods there are that I had access to the gifts of these people’s. And, of course, I hope I haven’t acted too much the embarrassing white Asian-culture-phile; but hey, I’ll take that hit as necessary.
I am so sorry to all AAPI communities that you and your people have faced this much anger. This much rascism should never have gone unnoticed. I’m sorry I inoculised myself to it by only looking at what I wanted to see. I’m sorry I didn’t check in sooner, when, even indirectly, you’ve given so much to me.
I’ll be re-educating myself, and supporting you in every way I can. Your various cultures gave me a glimpse of a life I could get excited about – and to a kid in pain, that meant the world.
To readers of this blog, you can donate (if you’re able to currently, I know it’s tough financially for many) to these organizations that are working to increase knowledge of hate crimes against Asian people’s, and to decrease their happenings:
If you can’t donate right now, increase your awareness of AAPI cultures. Give them some love in your meditations, or as you set intentions for the day. Listen to your AAPI communities, listen to what they need, don’t be a saviour when you can’t even see how deep the wound goes.
As always, thank you for reading…and much love,
**Remember, if anything in this post is activating for you, reach out to a health professional for help – no-one should be in pain alone. Love always**