Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent surge of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, this has been a difficult time for our community. The violence targeting our elderly — and the relative lack of mainstream media coverage — has caused us grief, fear, and anger, and is especially hard to process as we approach the Lunar New Year, a holiday which has always been a time for celebration, unity, and renewal.
Discrimination against Asian Americans is nothing new; racism is inherent in the very foundation of this nation. Yellow Peril. Orientalism. The Chinese Exclusion Act. Japanese internment. Vincent Chin. MSG. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Model Minority. Kung Flu. Though we think first of our ah-gongs and ah-mas who may no longer feel safe taking their daily walks, our hearts also go out to our campers, many of whom have expressed experiences with racism in the past year. According to a report conducted by Stop AAPI Hate, over 80% of youth reported bullying or verbal harassment, and 8% reported being assaulted physically. Long have our communities been the target of hatred, and long have our people have felt stigmatized, our voices silenced, and our pain ignored.
Hate is a virus for which we have no vaccine; yet, isolation is not the answer. As we’ve learned this past year, there can be no progress without solidarity; we can fight anti-Asian racism while also fighting anti-Blackness and other types of discrimination. Our children know that we cannot rely on institutions that destroy other communities to save our own. But just as we’ve stood to protect others from hatred in the past, it is imperative that we as individual TAFers and as an organization stand now to confront the prejudice against our own people and work towards healing our collective trauma.
I know I speak for many of us when I think about the important role TAF has played in my life, helping me process the racism I personally faced growing up as a child in the Midwest and giving me the tools to fight hatred today — not only for myself, but on behalf of others. The theme for this year’s TAF will be Identity, one that has always been particularly impactful and foundational. Whether it was Steve Lin teaching us to feel pride in our Taiwanese heritage, or Bum Kim speaking about his experiences with racism in America, or all of us just sitting in a dark room with poker chips sharing our own unique stories, there is so much we can do to grow and come out stronger — check our anti-racism IG highlights for some ideas.
In the coming days, TAF President HoChie Tsai, will be writing a letter detailing our considerations and plans to hold the summer conference this year. In the meantime, I call upon TAF staff and everyone in our community to reach out to one another, check up on our families and friends, and have the healing conversations we so rarely have time for. At the same time, I also encourage everyone to do our best to continue celebrating Lunar New Year and perhaps indulging in the books and films of our people — being joyful and proud of who we are, how far we’ve come, and how much further we can go together.
Executive Director, Taiwanese American Foundation