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"Our Souls Cry Out" by Tiffanie Chan

It is difficult to speak for the Asian American community. Our experience is so vast and varied—some of us have been here for generations, with grandparents forcibly removed to internment camps during World War II, some of us are those whose ancestors came to build the Transcontinental Railroad. The timeline of when we came directly correlates with racist immigration policies that allowed or denied us entry. For others, our families came because of war and conflict (often involving American military intervention). Some came as transracial adoptees, which makes our stories all the more complex. Others came for higher education and a chance at opportunity. We’ve grown up behind the counters at restaurants, markets, and dry cleaners, in suburbia as token minorities, in dense city centers of immigrant communities, and everywhere in between.

But what we do share in America is the sense that we are unseen and we don’t belong. If we were born here, we don’t belong in our countries of origin, but our experiences at school, at church, at the grocery store, in the workplace, or simply on the street in front of our homes, tell us we clearly don’t fit here either. We are not Black, and we are not white, but white supremacy uses us as a wedge to further divide and separate the racial hierarchy.

In the year leading up to last Tuesday, the AAPI community has experienced a steady and alarming rise in violence. The playground slurs we hoped had been left behind? We heard those from the highest office in the land, and we felt their reverberation in our communities. The racist graffiti on our businesses, the slurs shouted in the street, the narrowed eyes and muttering when we walked past in the store, the physical assaults that bruised our faces and amplified the fear in our hearts. And heaped on top of that, the targeting of our beloved elders. (The world may see them as weak and vulnerable. But we know them as the strength of our families, the givers of blessing and wisdom, the ones who have struggled a lifetime to carve out a space for us to take root and flourish.)

But the groaning of our hearts and lips were met with the silence we have grown so accustomed to.

Last week’s horrific violence brought the AAPI community to our knees. The lives of six Asian women and two others taken at the hands of yet another young white man who proclaimed a love for God and guns, but not his fellow image bearers. We have wept, wailed, and groaned. We have been unable to ignore the individual ways we have been marginalized, silenced, exotified, objectified, dismissed, and gaslit as these same lenses are magnified at the scale of national news and viral social media. Our souls cry out.

To my Asian American sisters and brothers, the stale, moldy crumbs that white supremacy offers us are not worth our consideration. The King of Kings, who is also our loving older brother, invites us to the abundant Feast he has laid for us. It is set with chopsticks and bowls, and the fragrant smells of our grandmothers’ kitchens. Whole fish, heaping platters of noodles, steamed treasures in banana leaves, dumplings of every size and flavor. And so much abundant fruit, cut and arranged so beautifully, served with the words of love our hearts long to hear.

We are greeted in our fullness and with tenderness, by one who knows deeply of marginalization and oppression. Who was beaten and spat upon. Who ensured the care of his elderly mother in his last breaths. Who, following his resurrection, appeared first to women set to the side by patriarchy, misogyny, and sexual violence. Women who would not be believed when they told their story to the men who were meant to care for them.

My dear siblings, let us sit in our grief, anger, and fear, but let us not hold it in. While all our lives we have been taught not to take up space, to hide the hurt, and to make no demands, there is room at the cross for our weeping and wailing, for our anger and rage, for our hurt and our tears. The Lord Jesus weeps with us and for us, for He sees and knows us.

And when we rise up in our seen-ness and known-ness, may we join with all our sisters and brothers in boldness and love to defy and defeat the lies and division sown by white supremacy.

To my African American sisters and brothers, thank you for the way you have borne us up. For the deep knowing you carry with you that allows you to speak words of comfort and freedom into our grief. For the ways you have shown us how to walk in this grief and this rage. For the ways you walk alongside us in protest. For how you have shown us how to look into our children’s eyes and speak hard and necessary truths, but also words of love, joy, and power into their hearts. We stand with you.

To those who long to show love and solidarity with your Asian sisters and brothers, make space for us. Make space for our grief and our anger. Do not ask us to justify the legitimacy of our pain by requiring historical context or painful personal accounts. Do not ask us to diminish our grief in the name of unity. Make space for us to be who God made us to be in our fullness, not just the parts that you see reflected in yourself.

Listen to our stories. Learn about our history—it is America’s history too. Learn to differentiate between the wide array of ethnicities and cultures that are gathered under the umbrella of Asian America.

Pray protection over us. Pray that we would see ourselves the way that God sees us, and not the way the world sees (or doesn’t see) us. Pray for our healing and our restoration. Pray for the dismantling of white supremacy that seeks to divide and devour us all, regardless of our ethnicity. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what true solidarity and unity will cost you.

Until the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven.


Tiffanie S. Chan
March 21, 2021

Comments

  1. Thank you, sister, for these courageous and compelling words from your heart. I am sorry for not seeing you and others more clearly and fully. May our church be a place where you can "rise up in [your] seen-ness and known-ness."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amen and amen. I am listening and learning.

    ReplyDelete

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