On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, eight people were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were women of Asian descent. This tragedy is the latest and most horrific manifestation of the xenophobia that Asians around the world have faced since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It follows the trajectory of centuries old trauma created and upheld by the still ever present legacies of U.S. settler colonialism and imperialism. Racist violence towards Asian-Americans is not new. Racist violence inextricably linked to sexism towards Asian women is not new.
As a response to the current tide of anti-Asian hate crimes, Paul Chan, in collaboration with Printed Matter, has produced this sign in solidarity with the grassroots and legislative movements confronting white supremacy across the country. Sales of the sign will be donated to Heart of Dinner, a non-profit in New York dedicated to combating food insecurity and isolation within NYC’s elderly Asian American community. The signs will also be available at Printed Matter for use by protesters throughout the New York area.
The “New Proverbs” signs first appeared at the Million Women’s March in Washington D.C. and New York, and have since been part of the LGBTQ solidarity rally at the Stonewall Inn in New York, the General Strike rally in Washington Square Park, the ACT UP 30th Anniversary Rally, the National School Walkout against Gun Violence, and other public protests around America. These signs are inspired in part by the posters of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, arguably one of the pioneering Christian hate speech groups in America. The “New Proverbs” take visual cues from the color combinations and typographic treatments of the original church signs, but are directed at those who continue to demonize the LGBTQ community, Catholics and other Christians, Muslims, Jews, American soldiers and politicians—the targets of the original Westboro Baptist Church signs.
If you can, please support and amplify the following groups who are doing the work to address the ongoing and historical racist violence and xenophobia against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community:
Heart of Dinner exists to combat food insecurity and isolation within NYC’s elderly Asian American community.
Red Canary Song is a grassroots collective of Asian & migrant sex workers, organizing transnationally.
Stop AAPI Hate is a reporting center which started exactly one year ago, on March 19, 2020. The center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) provides direct support to Asian and Pacific Islander (API) prisoners and to raise awareness about the growing number of APIs being imprisoned, detained, and deported.
Asian Law Caucus promotes, advances, and represents the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities.
Systemic racism endangers us all. The murders in Atlanta put into stark relief what Asian Americans have known long before the beginning of the global pandemic. History shows us the centuries-long legislation against Asians in America. This past year, Asians were being targeted by white supremacists and xenophobes across the world. In this country, the hate was exacerbated because we posed a threat to regressive attempts to “make America great again.” Asians became scapegoats for an utterly inept and racist governmental and social charge that directly led to the deaths of over 500,000 people in this country.
Nationalism, like racism and misogyny, is the real danger to the body politic. It infuses the mind and spreads fastest among those most vulnerable to ideas that fetishize the power of self-regard above all else. But a concept of a self worth becomes valuable only when it prizes a common experience that underwrites that concept in the first place: that no one becomes genuinely someone on their own.
Artists, activists, and forward-minded lawmakers have understood this dynamic and have pushed for a broad set of political and social protections for Asian-Americans long before the 2016 election. Asians are a part of the evolving American experience who cannot be erased or assaulted without gravely distorting that experience.
Engagement with art and the act of reading are two common endeavors where the fate of concepts and the power of experiences are most intertwined. Art and books are opportunities where the concept of the self can be enlarged and enlivened by experiencing all that it is not, or not yet.
These are just some of the thoughts Emmy Catedral and I shared, as we tried to grapple with what happened on Tuesday. What little solace we found came from acts of solidarity against the tide of anti-Asian hate. From the streets. Online. Even from legislators on the state and federal level. And from thinking about these works. - Paul Chan