I am Isabella Rossi (although most people call me Izzie), and I am a member of the El Cerrito High School Speech and Debate Team, which is a branch of The Practice Space. I wrote this speech as a Filipino American in response to the Atlanta shootings, which shook the Asian and Pacific Islander community and made many of us feel afraid for our lives. I performed the speech at a protest put on by the Youth Solidarity Project on April 3rd.
When faced with oppression, I believe it is important to find our voices and share our thoughts, feelings, and solidarity. In light of the rise in hate crimes against individuals in the AAPI community and in observance of AAPI Heritage month, I hope this speech will give you some understanding of our history in America. I would like for us to be able to rise against stereotypes and hatred to create a safer country for everyone.
On Tuesday, March 16th, eight people were killed in a shooting at a spa in Atlanta. Six of those people were Asian women.
We should not be surprised that this happened. We saw an increase in hate crimes against Asians at the beginning of the pandemic and everyone ignored it. We saw an increase in hate crimes against Asians at the beginning of this year and everyone made a few posts on Instagram about it before ultimately ignoring it.
Why did six of our Asian sisters have to die before people finally started realizing that hate against Asian Americans has always been present here?
Remember that this is the country that thought it was okay to pass something as disgusting as the Chinese Exclusion Act. This country is the same country that set up immigration internment camps for Chinese people on Angel Island. This country is the same country that set up internment camps for Japanese people during World War II. This country is the same country that colonized the Philippines after promising to help liberate it’s people from Spain, and hung up signs saying “positively no Filipinos” after encouraging Filipinos to come here. This country is the same country that got involved in civil wars in Vietnam and Korea, not because it cared about their people, but because it thought it could leach off of their resources. This country turned minorities against each other by creating the false idea that Asians don’t face any problems, and labeled that narrative “the model minority”. This country has, and will continue to, refuse to explore Asian American history in it’s textbooks to uphold the model minority myth. This country had a president who thought it was acceptable to call COVID-19 the “Kung Flu” and the “Chinavirus”.
This shooting was never a matter of if, but when. That fact alone is terrifying.
I want to say that I recognize how privileged I am because I am mixed, and because of that I am white-passing. That said, since elementary school, I have been exposed to the kind of racism that has made me scared and ashamed to be Asian. I’ve been called “too dark”, “exotic”, and “lucky because the Asian gene makes me skinny”. I’ve been ignorantly asked if I eat dogs, have been referred to as a “banana” (yellow on the outside and white on the inside), and have been accused of having COVID-19. My mother and I have been followed around a parking lot for being people of color and I’ve had store clerks watch me like a hawk when I walk into a store but they paid no mind to my white friends. I didn’t have the luxury of growing up with fictional Asian characters who weren’t sexualized or martial arts masters. To deny that Asians face racism is disgustingly ignorant. I’m not looking for sympathy or attention. I shared my stories with you all so you know that Asians, even white-passing, mixed Asians, face racism.
The monster who did this claims that it was not a racially-motivated shooting, but it was a shooting driven out of sexism, as if that’s somehow better. He claimed he saw those women as “temptations”. It is no coincidence that he saw Asian women as temptations. We have been sexualized and considered “desirable” in this country for years. In fact, there is an entire website dedicated towards teaching white men what kind of Asian girlfriend they should have that mentions every disgusting stereotype in the book. We have been labeled “quiet”, “submissive”, “exotic”, “easy”, “poor”, and “desperate”. This was a hate crime against women, but make no mistake, it was a hate crime against Asians, too.
The rise in Asian attacks has made me afraid for my family, my Asian friends, and my Asian siblings across the United States. Sadly, I can say that I know for a fact this will not be the last attack against Asians. But I hope that people will no longer remain silent about this. I hope America will finally see this as a very real threat and will finally address it with the urgency it requires. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.
It is time to show the United States that we won’t take this abuse anymore. Don’t make today the only day that we stand united against hate towards the Asian-American community. Make today the beginning of the end of these attacks.