Just over a year ago, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, myself and millions of other Asians living in North America watched, troubled, as rhetoric began to spread labelling COIVD-19 as the “Chinese virus”. I wrote a thread on Twitter in that first week of lockdown about the harm such rhetoric can cause.
Over the next several weeks and months, I watched as that rhetoric only grew, leading to an alarming rise in hate crimes against Asians across North America.
By the time New Year’s came and we began to stare down the one-year mark of the pandemic, anti-Asian racism and hate crimes were still on the rise. Throughout February and March, I wrote passionately and often to address anti-Asian racism.
Then came March 16, 2021. In Atlanta, a young man carried out a mass shooting and targeted primarily Asian women.
I sat in stunned silence for nearly 24 hours as the world’s collective awareness was heightened once again to the evil realities of racism. When some words finally came, they were raw, as I grappled with all the complexities and intersections at play.
Each time I raised my voice over the past year, I did so with a particular nervousness. Most of us aren’t used to raising our Asian voices. It’s part of what uniquely defines anti-Asian racism: erasure and minimization, in large part by the model minority myth. Bringing Asian experiences into conversations about racism adds complexity to an already complex topic. We don’t fit into the Black-and-white story.
But we do have a story. We have a voice. And they’ve been minimized for far too long—by others, but also by Asians ourselves. My hope is that this horrific and heartbreaking year is finally compelling many of us to step up and take our place in the history and legacy of anti-racist work done by Asian communities and other communities of colour.
Participating in the Our Asian Voice webinar was one way for me to do that. To link arms with my Asian siblings and raise our collective voice. I’m so thankful for these conversations. I pray it’s just the beginning of our willingness to lean in—even when it involves tension and complexity—for the sake of our collective flourishing, together.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9
Alyssa Esparaz is Chinese-Filipino-Canadian and the daughter of immigrants to Canada. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario and has spent much of her youth wrestling with, and more recently, embracing her Asian-Canadian identity. Currently, she brings her passions for youth, justice and Jesus to her role as Content and Communications Specialist at Compassion Canada. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, where she studied International Development. You can find her online at @_godsgal4ever or alyssaesparaz.ca.