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On Atlanta, On Anger, On Anti-Asian Racism

This could almost become an age-old adage, “It took something so horrible for people to pay attention to…”. We could fill in the blanks with a plethora of choices from the social issue buffet that plagues Canadian societies. Today’s selection is ‘anti-asian racism’ and three East Asian women, Trixie Ling, Celine Chuang and Maria Mulder living in Vancouver, Canada (unceded Coast Salish territory) lead us in reflection as founders of the podcast, “Resetting the Table” which explores the intersection of race, place, and faith in the pursuit of collective liberation. Their episode, “On Anger” gives space to raw emotions and unfiltered thoughts about the shootings in Atlanta. The women acknowledge their inspiration for the podcast episode stemmed from a sermon by Sunia Gibbs

We know what happened in Atlanta. What we don’t know is what to do after lamenting it. In the podcast episode these women show us. Word from Audre Lorde, a black civil rights activist, anchored them in their truth-telling session, 

“We cannot allow our fear of anger to deflect us or seduce us for settling for anything less than excavating honesty. We must be quite serious about the choice of this topic and the anger that’s entwined in it. Rest assured, our opponents are quite serious about their hatred of us and what we are trying to do here.”         

In a personal interview with Trixie who lives in Vancouver, she shared her feelings on the root of her anger: “It’s not new...there has always been aggression towards’s just hypervisible now and that’s exhausting.” She continued about how the Vancouver police department reported last year that there was a 700% increase in anti-Asian hate crime and incidents. Trixie is included in this statistic. At the height of Covid last year, she was attacked during a leisurely walk by a white man who intimidated her with sexist and racist comments in public and then spat on her face. 

Anger teaches us about injustice and lament prepares us for action against it. 

I’m dizzied by these unfolding narratives and violence towards BIPOC and Asian people. There’s almost no space and time to lament, we need to take action and accept that we are all intrinsically interdependent on each other as a human race at a basic level. The work of anti-oppression comes with daily decisions to identify and combat fear and hate while feeling out our anger. Anger teaches us about injustice and lament prepares us for action against it. 

Trixie, Maria and Celine continue a deep dive into their personal and collective grief sparked by the murder of, Delaina Yuan, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue.  They remind us of the ‘model minority myth’¹ that seduces some Asians into thinking they have privilege and that that keeps them silent until they realize the racism they experience and arguably the truth of just how much privilege they actually have. These women boldly grapple with their anger and try to situate it in their faith.    

I asked Trixie how the church was complicit in the perpetuation of racism and where, in her opinion, do we go from here. She began with the church’s deafening silence on actively centering and supporting BIPOC voices as leaders in anti-oppression. She challenges the ‘performative action’ of lament and demands actionable accountability towards racism.

That’s discipleship. That’s the fear that needs to be confronted

In my reflection, I went back to Audre Lorde’s quote from the podcast about excavating honesty and wondered if this could be a practice that the church accepts as the dirty, messy work that needs to be done individually and collectively. I know Audre Lorde was encouraging people who are suffering to bravely embrace their anger and seek the truthful messages in that process but I wondered if we who are privileged enough to not experience racism can choose to excavate honesty nonetheless. 

How do we do better? That’s the work we need to figure out. That’s discipleship. That’s the fear that needs to be confronted; the fear of making mistakes when talking about racism, the fear of immense discomfort and no identifiable path and the fear of having no answers. It’s comforting to rest in the answer of Jesus. Trixie reminded me that there is the concept of ‘White Jesus’ who comforts and then the Jesus of liberation who urges us to the margins; the margins of our discomfort and the oppressed.

Now that we have another visible item on the social issues buffet of society, which Jesus do you want to follow?                

Photo taken by the author.  

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