Opinion: Over 200,000 Asian People in Central Texas Feel the Heartache of Georgia. Do You?
Central Texas leaders and community members should stand against anti-Asian hate through specific actions
"Don't leave the house, not even to check the mail," said one husband. "Don't check the mail until I get home, I'll bring a gun to keep us safe," said another husband. "I am too afraid to go to my local [Korean] market," said one mother. "I canceled my mother/daughter date to the [Korean] spa," said another mother. "I'm too scared to leave my house," said one Asian gender-fluid person. "It hurts; it hurts because only my fellow Asians reached out to me," said a Korean woman.
These are six quotes from six Asian Americans in Central Texas in the aftermath of the Georgia murders of six Asian women and two other people.
The white man who killed six Asian women said he had a sex addiction. He purchased a gun, drove to three massage businesses, and mass murdered six Asian women and two other people.
I felt this deeply because I am Asian American and I lead a local nonprofit organization that provides assistance to Asian and other immigrant families dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. But that's not the only reason.
I was conceived in a massage business. That particular white sex-consumer who deposited half of my genes into my Asian mother's uterus did not kill her when their business relationship resulted in an extra human. The Asian women in Atlanta were not so fortunate.
My heart aches for these women, the context they died in, and the racialized and gendered reality that remains ours. Does yours?
Anti-Asian attacks are on the rise in the pandemic, but the issue is not new and neither is the resilience required to survive under dominant culture. We continue to survive exoticism, racialized and gendered discrimination, and violence. Our Black, Jewish, Latinx, Muslim, Indigenous, queer, and gay friends know something about this.
There are 202,000-plus Asian people in Central Texas; this number is likely understated because Middle Eastern people are counted as white in the Census. We are the fastest growing demographic group here. We work each day to create safe and stable lives here. We live here, we love here, we send our children to schools here, we celebrate birthdays and holidays here.
We experience the impact of anti-Asian hate – here in the Central Texas you call home.
People who do mass murders frequently have a history of domestic/sexual violence or gender violence. One hundred and eighty five Texans were killed by intimate partners in 2019. In Central Texas, there were 10 deaths. In 2018, 1,446 rapes, and 11,863 domestic violence incidents were reported. We do not know about the prevalence for Asian people specifically; the data is not available. (Texas' Uniform Crime Report combines Asian and Native American statistics together; a topic for another op-ed.)
Is this the Central Texas we want to raise our children in? Can we continue to attract talent, industry, economic vibrancy in this climate? Can we live joyous lives, free from oppressive fear and full of opportunity? Yes – if we reject anti-Asian hate and lean into protective factors that prevent violence.
Our state and local leaders must openly confront anti-Asian crimes and ensure that legislation does not unintentionally advance hate and discrimination. Passing House Concurrent Resolution 66 is a good start. Language access in public-serving institutions, and fully funding domestic and sexual violence centers will help. Protections for sex workers and funding for adult survivors of trafficking will help. Investment in protective factors that eliminate the risk of violence would be a meaningful step forward.
At Asian Family Support Services of Austin (AFSSA), we provide free, culturally responsive, language-accessible services to survivors of abuse in 10 counties. The pandemic created a 93% increase in crisis services and put Asian and immigrant survivors at increased risk.
All Central Texans can and should take anti-Asian crimes seriously. Confront the realities of racialized people by listening to racialized people. Speak out against anti-Asian attacks. Support culturally specific human services like AFSSA and Austin Asian Community Health Initiative.
Darlene Lanham has served as the executive director of Asian Family Support Services of Austin since November 2018 and also sits on the board of the Texas Council on Family Violence. For more info, visit www.afssaustin.org, or call the 24/7 hotline at 877/281-8371.