As many of you may know, there has been an increase in violence and discrimination against Asian people in the U.S. While a part of me feels deep solidarity with marginalized folx around the world for whom violence has been and continues to be a daily reality, another part of me is terrified. I’ve been feeling too scared to go outside alone and experienced some surprising firsts, like praying on the train that I make it through my commute unharmed, avoiding important doctor's appointments for months (I have an update on that below), and feeling my heart race as I drop off letters at the blue USPS mailbox two blocks away from our house. To not have had to worry about being a target until the increase in hate crimes against Asians since 2020 is a privilege, and to have to worry about possibly being a target is frightening.
Although I have plans to leave the U.S. next year, that doesn’t mean I won’t stop experiencing racism and violence. When you walk down the leafy, cobblestone paths of Lisbon, it can be a surreal feeling, knowing that it was only fifty years ago that people seeking freedom and democracy fought for their lives here, on these very streets. There are people in Portugal alive today who can tell stories of the brutal interrogations and torture they endured at the hands of fellow citizens who sided with fascism. As I see the rise in popularity of the far-right Chega party in Portugal, I wonder… How can the Portuguese people forget?
And if we go further back in time, how can we forget that from the 15th to 19th century, Portuguese slave traders stole and enslaved 6 million African people, each one with families, homes, and dreams? It is only recently that accountability for their crimes has come up in the media, through the commission of the first (yes, first) memorial remembering the victims of slavery by Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda, as well as a statement last week by the Council of Europe in its annual report on Portugal: “Further efforts are necessary for Portugal to come to terms with past human rights violations to tackle racist biases against people of African descent inherited from a colonial past and historical slave trade.”
I am afraid. For myself, for my parents when they visit, for my friends, colleagues, and fellow siblings who are Black, Brown, Indigenous… but it was something I experienced yesterday that woke me up from fear: a deep, soul-expanding love. After reaching out to friends, asking if they knew of any safewalk groups that could accompany me to my doctor’s appointments in Manhattan, I received so many messages of support, and I felt that wave of love. When I met up with my volunteer safewalkers from Safe Walks, when they offered to wait for me through both of my doctor’s appointments, when they bought me an umbrella because it was starting to rain, I felt that wave of love. When my husband texted me words of comfort and reassurance during my appointments, I felt that wave of love. Perhaps this is what the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu meant when he said, “Through love, one has no fear.”
While my heart rages every time I hear of yet another hate crime, my desire for love and community is far greater than the feelings of bitterness. Personally, I hope to dismantle the stereotypes that society assigns me by speaking up honestly, showing my art proudly, and keeping my heart soft (like a little tofu).
Thank you, friends, for all your support. I hear you and feel your love deeply.
✨Soul spark✨ For those days when you want to feel cosy indoors, listening to rain, but the clouds have other plans. Here are some rain sounds for relaxing, studying, tea time, you name it. 🌧️