Towards safe and sustainable communities
Posted by Ollie T
December 31, 2022
content warning: mentions of racial and queer violence
Reproductive Justice has become a buzzword in politics due to the increased attention around Roe v. Wade and what that means for abortion rights for many communities that will be impacted by these access bans. However, it is easy to forget that Reproductive Justice is more than just cultural currency, and more than a concern around the choice to give birth and to raise children, but goes deeper to the roots of collective liberation for all peoples. SisterSong, a Reproductive Justice organization that centers Indigenous peoples, women of color, and trans and gender expansive peoples defines Reproductive Justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Reproductive Justice is joy and love and life. It is the lives that we are meant to lead, the choices we are meant to make, and the ones we are owed without question. But for the most marginalized among us in America, where are our safe and sustainable communities?
Like all countries, America has issues that call for our attention. Existing is a death sentence for Black communities. Spaces created for queer rest and queer love have become places of mourning. The ongoing climate crisis will continue to displace the most vulnerable among us. These are just a few of the many problems that have been plaguing the collective consciousness of our society. Given the state of our country, it is a continual challenge to stay informed when it feels like there is tragedy all around us. We are never granted time to grieve when there is seemingly an endless line of hatred and violence waiting to rob us of our peace, and to disrupt so many of our lives. We do not have safe and sustainable communities, and this fact has been illuminated in the ongoing pandemic with the increased concern for the safety and livelihood of Asian American communities.
What is safe?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 9,000 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported. Women and elders are disproportionately the targets of these attacks, with an 89-year-old Asian American woman being assaulted and set on fire in 2020, and just earlier this year, an Asian American woman was pushed in front of a train in New York City and killed. The rise in anti-Asian hate crimes sends a clear message: Asians are not welcome in this country. For Asian American communities, the racism-fueled senseless violence is not new, but a reminder of historically xenophobic attitudes towards our communities. These anti-Asian pandemic hate crimes will be noted alongside other atrocities in Asian American history, such as the murder of Vincent Chin and the internment of Japanese Americans.
The very first anti-immigration act that passed within our country specifically targeted Asian women and was rooted in the concern that Asian women were coming to America for sex work. The sexual objectification of Asian women’s bodies persists today; the recent horrific displays of xenophobia culminated in the Atlanta spa shootings. A white male shooter, using sex addiction as a motive for murder, targeted several Asian American-operated spa and massage parlors, killing eight people, six of which were Asian women. The unjustified upward trend in hate crime sprees have led many Asian American organizations to demand serious changes, and increased attention to the hardships that Asian American communities face.
What is sustainable?
Asian American communities deserve safe and sustainable futures. But how do we get there? What does sustainability look like for Asian American communities? A legislator would want to pass bills and policies to ensure the rights and protections of Asian Americans. A researcher may posit Asian American-centered research, as there is a severe lack of funding dedicated to understanding issues among Asian American communities. A healthcare provider may suggest cultural competency training and cultural competency resources, as offering services with language and cultural accessibility may address health disparities among Asian American communities. Architects may draft blueprints of buildings where Asian Americans can gather communally. We will need all of these experts and more where we’re going. Most importantly, all these steps towards sustainable communities start with education. Learning the truth, and unlearning ignorance.
Education will be essential in the ongoing fight towards the communities we want to grow in, as without knowing our roots and history, we are doomed to repeat the same cycles of harm. The anti-Asian hate crimes that rose during the pandemic echoes the atrocities that have come before. While a majority of the country has forgotten, or not even known to begin with, Asian American communities never forget. We remember Vincent Chin. We remember the internment camps. We remember the atrocities in America’s involvement in the Vietnam War – we remember agent orange and the My Lai Massacre. We, the perpetual foreigners, remember. Hate-fueled pandemic hate crimes were once blamed on an extremist alt-right president holding office, but under Biden’s administration, hate crimes against Asian Americans have only continued to rise. Our issue is deeper than a virus. While there have been ongoing debates around critical race theory education, advocates have been pushing against misinformed and conservative censorship. Organizations such as Make Us Visible have been moving in great strides to make AAPI history a required part of K-12 education. As of December of 2022, three northeastern states have passed bills making this a possibility.
While we are holding Asian American issues, and all the other issues that our country currently faces, it is important to hold in mind that all of these collective struggles are rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. We must liberate the most vulnerable among us to free all of our communities up for safe and sustainable futures. It starts with education but educating will not be enough. As long as we continue to exist within these systems of oppression, marginalized communities will continue to be erased and harmed. There must be transformative change that prioritizes reparations to Indigenous and Black communities, abolition of deeply corrupt carceral states, eradication of imaginary borders, and all of us protecting one another. Then, we may begin to actualize our dreams of safe and sustainable communities.