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Being American, Being Asian

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After a long day of working from home, I turned to the news Tuesday evening to catch up with the world. I watched in horror as the news reported shootings at spas in Atlanta and Acworth, where eight people died. At this point, neither the identity nor the motivation of the shooter mattered to me. All I heard were the words, “Hate”, “Asian,” and “Death”. I grabbed my phone and texted my son, who lives in LA, to ask if he was safe. No sooner than I hit send, I got a text from him checking to see if I was safe.I came to the U.S almost three decades ago as a student. My husband and I made our home here. Our son was born here. I worked for almost 40 years and built companies here. I am an American. I was born in India. I grew up there. I am brown. I am Asian. Have some people treated me as “different” because I’m Asian? Sure. Was I ever underestimated because of my race and gender? Probably. Then there’s the, “I bet your kid is good at math and spelling” or the “You must love yoga, right?,” and always my favorite, “You speak really good English.” I used to shrug and laugh these off. As harmless as these comments and questions may sound, they are indicative of something deeper — judging people from one’s own assumptions of what a Black or Brown person should be rather than seeing who they really are. But sometimes these misconceptions can blow up into… hate.

We need solidarity

I can’t stand aside and shrug off hatred. Not anymore. Hatred turns all our lives upside down, no matter where we live or who we are. You don’t have to be Asian to feel pain at the hate-driven violence. I am speaking up in solidarity with the Asian community in America and anyone who has to deal with targeted hatred and violence.Asian Americans from all 50 states reported incidents of hate last year, and these reports have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Stop Hate against Asian American Pacific Islander (Stop AAPI Hate) reporting center has received 3,795 incident reports in the last year. Only a fraction of these crimes are ever reported, but the report gives us a glimpse of the hate that Asian Americans endure every day. Verbal harassment made up 68% of the total incidents reported. Just as painful is the act of shunning, or the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans — this makes up 20% of reported cases. The rest of the list included more frightening statistics: physical assault (11% of the total incidents), civil rights violations (8.5% of the total incidents), and online harassment (6.8% of the total incidents).

We can help

I feel compelled to take action even in a small way, to stop hatred from festering in our country. I founded the book club app Fable because I know stories promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. As part of our mission to share stories for everyone and improve mental wellbeing, we’ve created a special list of books in the Fable Store by writers from the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community. You can shop books online, check out AAPI book recommendationsand add your support to combat AAPI hate at the same time. We’ll donate Fable’s proceeds from these books to Stop AAPI Hate.There are other ways you can help the Asian Americans in your community during this difficult time. Most importantly, you can report hate incidents at this link, helping to prevent future attacks. You can also share these safety tips with your community.Every week, we share book recommendations to support new voices and encourage diversity in publishing. You can also visit Fable's blog on books to discover more titles by AAPI authors. Keep an eye on our book club events to meet more AAPI authors as well! Finally, the Stop AAPI Hate website recommends a few ways we can advocate for justice and raise awareness about this epidemic of hate crimes against the Asian American community:
  • Ask your elected officials what they are doing to increase resources for survivors and their families, and for intervention- and prevention-based programs such as anti-racism education in schools and in communities.  
  • Demand ordinances or resolutions to condemn hate. Endorse strong civil rights laws at the local and state levels.
  • Advocate for expanded civil rights protections that would safeguard Asian Americas and other people from harassment in private businesses. 
I hope you’ll join me in taking a stance against hatred in all its forms. In solidarity,Padma

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