(An early post for the week as I have some things to say. I will return to the regular schedule next Sunday.)
Tuesday night was going so well. I don’t know many other Asians in academia. I really only know a handful directly in my field. Asians and Asian Americans are growing within criminology/criminal justice, but we don’t always have a chance to meet. But, through Twitter, I had met another Asian American criminologist. Who is also a woman. Who is a badass. Who is also a critical criminologist. Sarah is exactly who I needed to meet. In a normal year, she and I would have planned to meet in person at ASC this November. But this isn’t a normal year. So we planned on a Zoom happy hour. Just two Asian woman hanging out on a Tuesday night.
And we did. And it was great! We laughed. We shared our frustrations with the field. We shared random stories of working in academia. And we both shared how nice it was to chat with a fellow Asian American—especially when we’re so isolated from people in general. And, because I’m me, I mentioned I had thought about reaching out to organize a panel about being Asian American in criminology, but I decided not to because I knew we were both busy and overwhelmed.
We’re now working on a few events.
Because Tuesday night was not the night we had planned.
Because Tuesday night was the epitome of “this is why we can’t have nice things.”
After doing the typical “let’s do this again!” that new friends often do at the end of the night, we hung up. And I turned to Twitter to see what was happening in the world before going to bed. The first tweet I saw was about the shootings. The news must have just broke because my feed very quickly filled with news stories and others tweeting outrage about what happened and Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian tweeters pointing out the inherent racism and misogyny of the attack. As an Asian woman who grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, my heart broke.
But the truth is, my heart has been breaking for years. Anti-Asian hate has been rising for years. And it has gotten so much worse over the past year. It’s difficult to walk through the world knowing my people are hurting and being hurt…and knowing that much of that pain is either not reported or not paid attention to.
And one place that very much does not pay attention to it is academia. As a South Asian in academia, I am constantly pushing back about racist assumptions about South Asian women and the model minority myth while also pushing back the other side of the racism coin of talking about race too much and not sliding by on my white adjacent privilege. And while I was glad to see so many of my fellow (white) criminologists post their outrage, I also became frustrated because I had rarely if ever seen those same individuals tweet about other anti-Asian hate acts.* (Perhaps they had, but not enough to break through the algorithms.) And so I tweeted this:
It received a dozen likes, one retweet, and one comment. Most of the responses were fellow academics. And, perhaps not surprisingly, most were from fellow academics of Color. And I can’t help wondering why. Did they not see the tweet? Possble. Even likely. Or, and I’m not sure I want to know the answer to this, did they see the tweet but refused to recognize themselves in it?
And if they did refuse to see themselves in the tweet, what have they done to prove that stance to be accurate? Have they checked in with their Asian colleagues? Have they pushed they department or college or university to make a statement supporting the Asian community on your campus? Have they thought about other ways they can support Asian employees and students on their campuses or how to ensure their’re covering anti-Asian violence in their classrooms or research?**
Or, did they go on with their day? Because if they had checked in your colleagues, like I and other Asian academics have, they’d find that we’re not okay. They’d find that we’re exhausted. And frustrated. And angry.
And, for Sarah and I at least, we have zero fucks left to give.
Which is why, on Wednesday morning, we started planning two panels. Because, as academics, this is what we do. We educate. And we raise the voices of our colleagues. But we’re also doing it because we know we can’t wait. For ourselves, in our own work, and in the field as a whole, we cannot continue to let Asian/Asian Americans stay under the radar in a field whose purpose is (supposedly) to understand and support harm done to others. And while we are saddened by what is happening around us, we also stand in solidarity with our fellow Asian/Asian American colleagues.
So be prepared. Because come April, we will be hosting a webinar on violence against Asian Americans. And come May, during AAPI Heritage Month, we will be hosting a webinar on being Asian American in Criminal Justice/Criminology.
Because no matter how much some of you may want us to be, we will not be meek. And we will not be silent.
*I have very conflicting feelings about the term “hate crime(s)” and this is my inarticulate attempt at getting away from that language.
** Admittedly, I have also not been great at focusing on Asians in my classrooms, but that has to do with a lot of my own issues and concerns about being an Asian American academic, past racism I’ve dealt with because of that identity in academia, and how I use that identity in the classroom. While I have embraced it more and more as the years go on, I’m not quite there. And that, in and of itself, is part of the problem of being Asian in academia.