A Plea From A Community Under Siege
We are the members of Dragon Combat Club (DCC), a volunteer initiative that trains individuals from marginalized groups (primarily Asian American & Pacific Islanders (AAPI) women from the NYC and Bay Area) in self-defense based on our collective study of various combat sports (including Thai Boxing and Wrestling), various bladed arts and survival tactics for urban areas.
We have existed since April 2020 during the spike of violent anti-Asian racism in absence of any solutions or advocacy. We do not claim to speak for every individual in “the AAPI community,” or every AAPI community. However, we know these words will resonate with the ones who are fighting to live against a torrent of both physical and psychological violence that has been waged against us while we suffered in silence.
We are the people that have been betrayed, silenced, misunderstood, scapegoated, erased and left for dead. Our perpetrators are not from any particular group, but rather from every group in this country. In fact, some of the most heinous acts of psychological violence come from fellow AAPI who do not live in our world, yet continue to dictate the narrative of our people while labeling themselves as anti-racist.
Contrary to popular belief, due to the spike of anti-Asian violence we have encountered the last two weeks that nobody else has heard of, we are not okay.
In the last two weeks alone, there have been multiple hate crimes that have been hospitalized, including Joshua Dowd of Atlanta, crippled and murdered AAPI including Than Htwe and Alan Tran. These are only two of the many AAPI who have been murdered during the COVID-era including but not limited to Ee Lee, Pak Ho, Shane Nguyen, John Huynh, Yong Zheng, Nancy Toh, Juanito Falcon, Angelo Quinto, Christian Hall, Soobleej Kaub Hawj, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Amarjeet Johal, Jasvinder Kaur, Jaswinder Singh, Amarjit Sekhon and Vicha Rapatanakdee.
In the last two weeks alone, our community was told that the terrorist attacks in Atlanta and Indianapolis that claimed eleven of the lives on this list were not racially motivated.
Contrary to popular belief, the current wave of violence did not begin in March 2021, or even February 2021. This current wave of violence that began in Spring 2020 was erased by the media for an entire year. In 2021, we need three hands to count the number of lives that our combatives training have saved from being in the morgue, hospital, or another casualty that society either ignores or tries to weaponize for its own agenda.
We have been told that our methods are extreme and unnecessary by a society that has no interest in protecting us. Yet our methods have allowed us to not only escape physical harm in situations that were potentially lethal, but also avoid social exploitation by a society that will only use our bodies to perpetuate anti-Black racism or promoting institutions that are literally responsible for three of the deaths on this list if the attacker is Black or as a talking point against the system of white supremacy by the people who are a part of it if the attacker is White. A handful of these encounters have been in the last two weeks.
Consequently, watching footage of these attacks and witnessing its grotesque aftermath do not only horrify us, but make us realize what could have happened to us if we were unprepared. We are exhausted, not only from the attacks, but from the deafening silence from those who were supposed to advocate for us and those outside of our community. This week, many of us lacked energy to attend the same training that has kept many of us alive.
Some of us have had to inform our employers that we wish to work remotely even as others return in person to avoid such close encounters. We are the ones who are forced to adapt and survive, while those up there have the luxury of debating whether we have a hate crime problem and the privilege of choosing how to process things in a way that makes them comfortable and choosing when to look away. Those who were supposed to speak for us callously tone police the diction of those who struggle to find the words to convey their suffering.
Contrary to the words of Dr. Janelle S. Wong, who claims that physically brutal assaults on AAPI women and elders have been sensationalized by the media, these attacks have been silenced and erased by many, including those who share our ethnicity, but do not walk in our shoes nor walk in our streets wondering if today is the day they will need to use their hands to survive. They do not leave their house with the need for a watchful eye to safeguard against surprise attacks, the same eyes that helped our members detect and evade surprise attacks that could have claimed our lives if we did not detect them in time. Their kind, ones who live in the ivory towers, were silent for an entire year until the Atlanta shooting. They would blame the year of erasure on white supremacy and tell us that they were coping in their own way even as they were the ones who actively silenced us.
Contrary to the words of Dr. Jennifer Ho, who claims that AAPI are experiencing racial violence in visceral ways for our first time, we have faced it for centuries, from the abuse of working in transcontinental railroads, the lynchings and massacres in California such as Antioch, California in the 19th century to the internment camps in the 1940s. Furthermore, many of our more experienced members have trained in martial arts because they were called racial epithets and beaten for being AAPI during their childhood. We have long told others of the racism we have faced since then. However, our society chose not to listen.
We were told that it was not racism, despite hearing racial slurs that came as they spat on us.
We were told that we did not have it that bad, even when we did not ask to be compared.
We were told about the sins of those who share our ethnicity, as if that excuses what we face.
We were told that we needed to be better, even if that will not stop what we face.
We were told that perhaps the person had a bad day, a temper tantrum, a sex addiction, a crime of opportunity, or that there was a tragic accident.
We were told that then, and we are still being told that now, not only by the overt racists, but by the people who claim to be anti-racist that have proven time and time again that they care more about what sounds right to those in power, than to stop what is blatantly wrong.
In the rare moments that we are seen or heard, it is typically only in ways that keep those in power comfortable, and in ways that turn a diverse group of individuals with unique cultures and histories into a monolithic caricature. We live in a world where society only wants to hear from those that reinforce their preconceived notions of us, so that they can comfortably believe they know everything there is about the rest of us.
In its apparently innocent and harmless forms, it results in a government official posing in a room with Chinese furniture for Lunar New Year even Americans who hail from other places such as the Philippines celebrate it.
It means a Korean American author not receiving an offer because a publishing company already had an Asian author, even though the author was Japanese and there are plenty of authors from the ethnic majority. It means a famous filmmaker treating an Asian American icon as a stepping stone to prop up its lead white character.
In its more brutal form, it creates a society that rewards those who are complicit in our dehumanization.
There are those that the late Malcolm X once described as wolves, who openly snarl at any minority and overtly label us as the “China Virus” and perpetual foreigner.
There are also those that Malcolm X described as foxes. These foxes verbally preach about the sins of white supremacy and the model minority myth as they embody it themselves. They preach solidarity while making it impossible from their blatant erasure and dehumanization of us as selfish white-adjacent oppressors who do not experience “significant” racism whenever they discuss us. They are the foxes who preach about privilege but use their well-developed language to normalize the bloodshed of our vulnerable, including many who do not speak the language, under the guise of fighting white supremacy.
Our more vocal members do not consider themselves activists, but were forced to be outspoken after they realized that the very people who labeled themselves as “activists” and “educators” stabbed us in the back and left us to burn under the guise of helping other marginalized groups, even when a 89-year-old was literally set on fire during the summer of 2020. That triggered the first marches against anti-Asian racism of the current era called “They Can’t Burn Us All” that our media continues to erase. We are the people who just wanted to live but realized that if nothing was done, that not only would those around us be ruthlessly beaten and murdered as society sat by, but that our bloodshed would be weaponized to erase the struggles of other marginalized groups.
With the new wave of COVID-19 spiking up, new rhetoric that continues to blame “China” for the virus from government representatives, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, that has largely gone unchecked, even by the people who are quick to call out white supremacy, we are quite aware that despite what we have already faced, that the worst is still yet to come. As with previous strains, it will not matter where the new strains come from, because we will be the ones who face the brunt of the blame.
Just like before, we will hear excuses from the wolves that the rhetoric is about the CCP even though our attackers will make no distinction before their next heinous assault. We will plead for these attacks to be condemned, only to be silenced by the foxes who call themselves anti-racist.
As we are beaten and murdered left and right, we will be lectured by the foxes on how we must work on our anti-Blackness, check our privilege or that other marginalized groups have it worse. Just like before, those lectures were not for the purposes of us becoming better people for our fellow marginalized brethren, but merely for the purpose of silencing our pain, just like the foxes did during the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee and subsequent wave of hate crimes back in February 2021. These attacks happen regardless of whether we meet their criteria. Racism is when you do as you are told for society to qualify you as human, only for them to still murder you for your race and use the same excuses to treat it as if it was just another bad Tuesday.
As we plead for help, we will hear others who are oblivious to our history, with their own struggles, asking us what AAPI have done to advocate for other marginalized groups even though our history of activism extends far beyond the work of great Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs. They will ask us even though this type of aid was never supposed to be transactional to begin with.
As we are stomped under the yells of “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” that parrot somebody who previously sat in the oval office, the wolves will only care to remind us that the virus is from China rather than to understand how those words have led to violence they enabled.
As we do what little we can to help other marginalized groups despite already being knee deep in the blood of our elders, we will be lectured about the importance of solidarity by the foxes from the ivory towers who continue to erase our solidarity work through dehumanizing narratives that they tell about us to other communities every day. In the instances where it is Black or Brown Americans who attack us, the foxes will simply tell us that they can look the other way because those individuals have no systemic power as if such violence is not painful to us.
What they never tell you about white supremacy is that white supremacy is also when AAPI with huge platforms that lecture about white supremacy, put “activist” and “BLM” on their profiles, end up committing psychological violence on other AAPI who are fighting to live and to be heard, giving the impression that the Black Americans all want us silenced. That’s when the foxes subsequently vilify the entire AAPI community for the anti-blackness that they engendered for social credit. That’s what happened when Vilma Kari and Yao Pan Ma were repeatedly stomped on concrete. That was when they only cared to tell us that the carceral state was not the solution while never bothering to condemn the attack, help the victim or give any thought to what was the solution. Just like before, these foxes will blame us for the hatred they engendered from taking away the words to express our rage.
As we remain under siege, we will be lectured about how raising our voice will minimize the struggles of other marginalized groups who have it worse, even though it was Black Americans, who expressed horror upon discovering the existence and true purpose of this club, that gave us our voice and reminded us of our humanity, because they understood racism as a moral and ethical dilemma rather than a political debate.
We know too well that those of us who will still be alive after the dust settles will be asked by those oblivious to our struggle, why nobody said anything. They will be surprised that the attacks continued to happen even though the underlying beliefs we stated remain present. At this point, it is no longer a future we have any hopes of averting, but one we are only hopeful towards surviving.
As a community under siege, whose leaders only exist so that we die quietly rather than do what it takes to live and be heard, we are pleading for help. The onus is not on us to figure out how, but we have provided some guidelines for you.
- Do not remind us that we’ve “got it good” compared to other ethnicities. Many of us already know that other marginalized groups have it worse in many ways. We are sick of hearing the “good” stereotypes weaponized to erase our struggles.
- Know that whatever experience or connection that you have with AAPI means that you must listen and help, rather than to speak over us.
- Signal boost and support a diverse range of Asian American voices including other grass roots organizations who are forced to deal with these attacks even when it is no longer trending (e.g., Uplifting Our Elders, Brav3, Soar Over Hate, Asians in America, Real Asian Frontliners, Main Street Patrol, Asians Are Strong). Understand that there are many AAPI who speak for us and over us that do not understand our struggles or have our best interest in mind. Inform your fellow friends who engage in anti-racism work of our erasure. Recognize that ally is a verb, not just a noun.
- Listen to AAPI when we point out stereotypes, media, etc. are problematic, even if you are used to them, or if other AAPI enable them. Ensure you listen to a diverse group of Asian Americans, not just the ones that make you comfortable. We are thankful that the Illinois Governor made AAPI history mandatory in schools, but we need a lot more than one state and one moment. Take the time to learn about us as a collective.
- We live in a society that silences us or does not give us space. Please be mindful to offer and hold space for our struggles. Be proactive in considering if we are left out.
- As with any marginalized group, please prioritize how you can be helpful to them as fellow humans rather than how to use them to prop your political agenda.
- Recognize that our humanity is unconditional. Saying that we must collectively address certain flaws before we are deserving of activism is inherently transactional and defeats the entire purpose of antiracism. Further, it places the burden on Asians especially to be “deserving” of activism while we are watching those most vulnerable in our community being attacked and/or killed. We’ve watched non-Asians as well as Asians distant from the struggle treat advocacy for the AAPI community as a contract with terms and conditions that must be met before any work is done. More people need to be cognizant that delay in fighting anti-Asian racism for the sake of making the AAPI community show their receipts of working on bigotry, keeps us in harm’s way and costs us our lives.
- Being anti-racist also means being proactive amplifying and informing others about past and current solidarity work between different marginalized groups. This is critical since our institutions tend to erase it, creating a false perception that marginalized groups only advocate for themselves.
- Consider whether any efforts to help are performative in nature. For example, many of us (both women and men) see simply being told to use bystander intervention and “avoid violence” as a form of victim blaming since we already know that, that these do not deter about 2/3 of the attacks which are surprise attacks and because we have encountered situations where we would not have had a choice without our situational awareness training, or our assailants’ realization that we were willing to use violence ourselves. Once again, please know that we are in a situation where we do not have perfect solutions or ones that may make others comfortable.
& other members of Dragon Combat Club (DCC)