“To certain outside viewers, Vietnamese in America may have become synonymous with flag-waving conservatism, embodying a reactionary and censorious nationalism couched in the rallying cries of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom.’ That’s definitely not me nor quite a few other Vietnamese Americans both young and old. But neither are we the conical-hatted, machine gun-slinging peasant warriors glorified in the lore of America’s left movement. [However] there is a Vietnamese history in America — and a leftist history at that — going as far back as the 1940s national liberation struggles among émigrés in New York against French colonialism, to the 1960s anti-war activism of Vietnamese students and early immigrants. On July 2, 1972 in Los Angeles, the Union of Vietnamese in the United States was formed — the only group of Vietnamese in America to organize against the war. Reclaiming our Vietnamese American history and identity has come to have a lot more meaning for me these days. It will mean, I think, careful and strategic organizing work within our communities. It will mean nurturing the youth and not antagonizing the elders. It will mean growing and struggling in the U.S. without forgetting to fight the imperialism that brought us here.”
When I stopped speaking Vietnamese, It took me years to be comfortable With calling any elder “you.” How a language could be so simple Was beyond my comprehension; There was no understanding Of respect.
In Vietnamese, honorifics are law. You are to address someone In relationship with their age to yours— An older man of the same generation: Anh, older brother. An older womxn of the same generation: Chị, older sister. Cậu or dì, Mother’s brother or sister, For someone as old as Mother. And for someone as old as Father, Chú or cô, Father’s brother or sister. And a person older than both parents Is bác, a parent’s older sibling. And even older, an elderly person, Like Grandpa or Grandma, Is ông or bà, grandpa or grandma.
To separate the non-kinship From the familial is then impossible For we, Vietnamese, are family. To pay homage in any other way Is unacceptable, Because “you” is impersonal—“You” Can be any stranger on the street.
Juliet Shen and Vanessa Teck are two of the OCA interns who were terminatedin 2013 for openly criticizing a major sponsor. Both identifying as activists and feminists in their early 20’s, they have shared experiences of isolation, pain, and fear. Since then, Juliet and Vanessa have…
"I chose a year of self-care and self-love because activism was tainted with reluctance and pain. I was never radical enough, but always too radical for someone. I wasn’t angry enough, but my anger intimidated and alienated others. I didn’t feel good enough for anyone and struggled to find motivation to do anything at all."-Juliet Shen
Sometimes how I feel in Asian American non-profits and circles..not good enough. This has been my year of self-care and self-love. In the next two years, graduate school to help me do what I love, more effectively.
A late post but I looked back at my drafts today and found this quote I had saved to publish. There’s still so much I have to read and learn about Nelson Mandela, but at one moment in my life, this quote meant so much to me as I was struggling to make peace with all the frustrations I had regarding race, hate, discrimination and violence. rest in peace Nelson Mandela.
It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, black and white. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressors must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away a man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind bars of prejudice…both are robbed of their humanity.
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela; Nelson Mandela. Back Bay Book
“Online activism changed me from a woman who actively put down other women to one who actively uplifts them. Online activism changed me from a white woman with unchecked privilege who actively oppressed people of color to a woman who has lost friends because she tells them to shut their racist mouths. Online activism has changed me from a woman who hated her body, to a woman who realizes just how beautiful she is. No one EVER tell me online activism isn’t good for anything.”—
The above quote though. My gut reaction is to cringe at the phrase “online activism” but when you really think about it everything these online communities provide — free information/literature sharing, community building, consciousness raising, and the free exchange of ideas and critiques are all (more within the self, more passive) forms of activism.
One of my favorite rebuttals of some asshat saying the usual “SJ blogs don’t even do anything because it’s not in real life” was when someone said "If it wasn’t for online activism, I’d still be calling women sluts and whores."
Early on in high school, I would slut shame, make racist jokes, etc. And now I’m a sociology major and I go to a women’s college and constantly read/think/write about intersectional feminism. So fuck anyone who thinks online social justice conversations and blogs don’t “do anything.”
“We all want to be good allies. We all want, so desperately, to do the right thing—above all, to be useful. I just want to put forth that being an effective community worker and a good ally is most effective when we work from within our own communities—with nuance, with intention, and with love. If we instead give in to our ego, if we instead insist on being the ‘exceptional’ Asian activist and participate in divide-and-conquer, where we point fingers at our own communities from outside of it and say we wish Asians were more radical, why can’t Asians be more down for the cause like us—if we indulge our self-righteousness rather than work from a place of love and nuance – we are not effective, to our own people or anyone else. Community activism isn’t a competition—it is above all an act of love. Peace.”—Bao Phi on Solidarity from Within (via buzzlightyearsu)
“Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your wellbeing a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful — you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.”—Daniell Koepke (via spitswap)
Ever since the day I was born, I grew up with a temperamental father. I never knew when he would raise his voice, or strike up an argument. He was never physically abusive but he was definitely verbally abusive. My mother, she always got the end of it. “you are stupid!” “how can you be so crazy!” So like my mother, we both sat in silence absorbing those toxic phrases into our minds, and our bodies. I would lock myself in the restroom inside my room because I knew that was the safest place that I could escape.
I realize now that I can cry so easily; I cry listening to stories, I cry when I can’t get my point across, I cry because I can’t argue back, I cry when I get triggered. So I wonder how much of that is because I’m simply an emotional person or because it’s due to years and years of internalizing that silence.
Because I’ve kept it quiet for so long, sometimes when I see men in positions of power or people who raise their voice, my heart clenches, I can’t breathe and I become vulnerable again.
So much of my own understanding of resistance, social justice and decolonization has emerged at personal and interpersonal levels, yet the work that happens at this scale often goes unseen. Since we’re talking about allyship, I think it’s important to talk about the various scales of activism. I have seen a lot of people claiming to be ‘Indigenous allies’, highlighting their involvement in public actions such as going to rallies, writing articles, or participating in protests. I don’t want to minimize the importance of these, but equating this type of activism with allyship can render invisible the quiet interpersonal work that is also needed in order to be a good ally. And, importantly, it can reproduce the idea that activism only happens at the highly visible, public scale of protests, rallies and actions, where many of us engage in activist work in our daily lives but it goes unseen, unacknowledged and untheorized as ‘activism’.
great commentary on allyship and intersections of oppression.
I’ve been using pronouns including ya’ll and folks to address more than one person not because it’s some hip vernacular but because I want to become a better ally and respect gender pronouns.
I urge my friends who consider themselves “allies” to stop slut shaming: bitch, slut, whore outside of safe spaces; thrown around without being considerate of the gender violence that others have internalized.