Last week was extraordinarily difficult for many Asian Americans. The trauma of the violence perpetrated against Asian women in Atlanta was the culmination of a yearlong spike in violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. An already fearful and silenced community was re-traumatized as police and media discounted the identity of the victims and centered the narrative on the challenges of the shooter.
For the larger American Christian community, I ask that you do not ignore or brush aside the events of last week, particularly the hate crime perpetrated against Asian women. Please do not ignore the eight dead bodies and please do not ignore the pain that is acutely felt by the AAPI community. Instead, please join us in our grief.
1. Lament. Lament is the appropriate liturgical, ecclesial, spiritual response to the reality of pain, suffering, and crisis in the world. There are two parts to this definition of lament. The second part is the appropriate response. But before the response, there is the acknowledgement of the reality of suffering and pain. Take the time to listen and hear the pain of the Asian American community. Review the data on the disturbing spike in hate crimes and violent acts perpetrated on the AAPI community. And lament — not how it impacts you as a non-Asian person, but on how it has actually brought great harm and pain on the AAPI community.
2. Center the victims, not the perpetrator. The focus of this tragedy should not be on sex addiction or on clearing the neighborhood of massage parlors. This is about the eight dead bodies, with a particular focus on six Asian female bodies, whose lives were brutally taken away. They were each made in the image of God — and they each reflected the image of God as only an Asian woman can reflect the image of God. That is now gone and we need to lament.
3. As exemplified by the prophet Jeremiah, offer a corporate confession, even if you can deny individual culpability. Of course you didn’t pull the trigger. Of course you’re not the one with the sex addiction. Of course you’re not the racist. Of course you’re a good and upright person. But you are part of a system that is not good and upright, and part of a system that is racist. And you may have been a part of a system that perpetuated the dysfunctional narratives behind the racist misogyny. If you were silent when a friend or family member (or even the president and other political leader) said “Kung Flu” or “Chinese Virus,” confess and repent. If you laughed at a joke about “Me love you long time” or about “oriental” girls, confess and repent. If you participated in a Vacation Bible School that portrayed Asian women as geishas, participated in a skit that mocked Chinese food delivery workers, or supported a Christian leadership book that showed pictures of “oriental” girls with bare midriffs, confess and repent. You contributed to the larger narrative in white American Christian culture that dehumanized and devalued Asian Americans, particularly Asian women.
Don’t let this moment pass. Shouldn’t the church do better than a racist local sheriff, a racist congressman, and a racist society?
Please take the time to listen to our voices of lament: