When Michelle’s grandmother passed away in November, your newsletter provided an opportunity for people to share in your mourning while reflecting on their own experience of loss. I had hoped after what occurred in Atlanta that you would offer a similar opportunity for the Asian American community to process the trauma and grief of this tragedy. I had expected a pause of your usual content, that you would pay more respect to Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng instead of merely listing their names. I had expected you to hold a place for collective grief instead of moving quickly to tell the community what solutions not to pursue in response to this tragedy. As a queer person who remembers the significance of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and who celebrated the passing of marriage equality, I think you should avoid sweeping claims about why we should avoid the politics of recognition by the state. This week in particular your academic banter and references to your friend’s “impeccable taste” was like salt on a wound. Your talk of long-term, transformative, restorative change rings particularly hollow in the absence of any concrete proposals to address the loss of basic physical safety the community faces right now. No one wants to live in a police state, but as Andrew Yang has pointed out when his speech against these hate incidents was interrupted by calls to defund the police: “when people are getting stabbed, you need the police.” If you don’t share in the material conditions of the most vulnerable members of the community and cannot even hold space for their grief, please have some humility and do not tell them what they should or should not want.

I think the dissonance I feel reading your newsletter is ultimately rooted in class difference. While you share the experience of your friend, Scott Lee, who is a physician, as he ponders the “shape-giving lexical structures such as “Asian” and “American” and “citizen”, I just really want to know how Asian Americans who have to take the subway deal with the possibility of being gravely injured in a racial attack. Acts of creation and solidarity so that we all become free sound nice, but what I’ve gleaned from your newsletter has mostly been a demonstration of how much social and cultural capital one can accumulate in association with academic institutions and how much freedom and autonomy that the very privileged few have.

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