Scenes From Saturday’s Stop Asian Hate Rally and Vigil
Asian American communities gather together and refuse to be silenced
One month after the Atlanta shooting that targeted Asian-owned businesses, up to a thousand Austinites gathered on the lawn of Huston-Tillotson University on Saturday, April 17, to speak out against this past year's surge in anti-Asian racism. Arranged by a team of grassroots organizers, the Stop Asian Hate rally and vigil not only sought to condemn the uptick in racist violence against Asian Americans but also to fortify bonds of unity and solidarity within the various Asian American communities and between other communities of color.
With his "Angry Asian Man" T-shirt and "Not Your Model Minority" sign, adorned with a few flags of Asian countries, Eddie Choi was unapologetically proud to celebrate being Asian and to stand against racism. "Asians have always been labeled as this model minority, and it's meant to construe this positive image, but it's just a tool to further divide different ethnic groups, different immigrant groups. It's important for Asian Americans to rally against that message, that we're not a model minority."
"Invisibility is something I have lived with and struggled with all my life," Jane Wu, 62, said, emotions welling up in her voice. Wu recounted a number of racist incidents she's experienced in Austin, including being called a racial slur in a Randalls parking lot. Standing in the crowd that day, though, Wu said she was moved by the sight of the community standing up. "The invisibility is something we've had to live with in order to get along in society, but it has worked greatly against us. Seeing Asian Americans rise up and not taking this anymore gives me much hope."
At the onslaught of the pandemic, Sam Lee (not pictured) didn't have a chance to warn his kids of the anti-Asian racism spreading. His son had already been called a Chinese virus at school. "That's just gut-wrenching for a parent to feel and know that this is still persisting." Lee brought his kids and some of their friends to the rally to show them that they had a community that supports them and to tell them that their voices matter. "I hope [this rally] gives them imagination that they can do something about it and that they're not alone."
"We have a shared goal, Asian Americans and Black Americans," said Colette Pierce Burnette, president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson. "That goal is to rally together, in solidarity." Pierce Burnette recognized their shared opponent as white supremacy, which sows division in its attempts to conquer. "The reality is Black Americans and Asian Americans have been bonded together in this movement and fight for civil rights for centuries. We are here together today to affirm and strengthen that solidarity. We live in a once-in-a-generation time of opportunity to promote unity, not division."
Rally organizer Muna Hussaini listed the barrage of anti-Asian attacks she experienced after 9/11, including being run off the road, spit on, and nearly stabbed. She cut the list off at five incidents. "There's more, but let me tell you, I never reported any of them. So you want to talk about a 200% increase [in anti-Asian attacks]? That's just what's reported. We all know the racism and incidents are more than that. This is our home. We cannot be silenced anymore."
Find more images of the Stop Asian Hate rally and vigil online at austinchronicle.com/photos.