There is a certain indulgence in grappling with racism only to the extent that it has personally affected us: the times our accents were mocked, the way our surnames were mispronounced, the undignified memories of our parents being talked down to like infants. We feel better for having said something. But then what? If there is relief to be found in speaking about our pain, surely there is power in pressing for solutions.
At Antidote, Hong seems hesitant to indulge in talking about pop culture and the alluringly neat solutions it purports to offer. “I’m more interested in the kind of story or narrative that’s closer to life,” she muses, “where there is a lot of complexity and ambivalence and where you have to think about all the different issues and many different perspectives, not just right or wrong”.
There is an appealing tidiness to #StopAsianHate: a promise in the suggestion that ending racial violence toward Asians is simply a matter of convincing people to dislike us a little less. This is less daunting than the notion of sabotaging the system of racial oppression as a whole, and it’s a hopeful proposition—but it’s wrong. The purpose of any movement on behalf of people who have been oppressed is to take power that has previously been withheld, not merely to be seen.
Now, as cries to #StopAsianHate begin to fade, we can no longer be satisfied with catharsis. We can no longer settle for simply being seen. Instead, we can pry apart what Hong calls “[an] opening for being comfortable with ambiguity and irresolution”. We can push beyond seeking relief in simply sharing our truth, and probe deeper into those dark, ugly territories, the systems and stories that shaped the hate we see today and the actors who created them; the things that can’t be captured neatly in hashtags and infographics and slogans; the things that don’t make good rally speeches; the things unlikely to ever appear on screen.