By Ruben Simpliciano
When I’m running errands with my 7-month-old daughter, I no longer take the most convenient parking space. Instead, I look for one that affords us the most security – a space with the greatest visibility in all directions so I can more readily see an approaching attacker.
Dealing with a baby in a car seat requires being in an extremely vulnerable position – hunched over, back exposed, head and eyes down, with hands fumbling with straps and buckles. And probably most critical of all: your attention is distracted, compromising your ability to see or hear someone approaching.
Sadly, this is my family’s new reality amid the recent spate of vicious, hate-filled attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Many others of Asian descent have had to make similar adjustments to their lives. Some have changed where they shop and at what time of day. Others refuse to venture out unless accompanied by another person. Some have stopped doing certain activities altogether. I am saddened when our Asian American parishioners tell me they’ve stopped taking the daily walks they once enjoyed because they no longer feel safe.
Let that sink in: Your friends and neighbors are afraid to go outside. They’ve been robbed of feeling safe. Think about if you have ever been afraid to step outside your house.
As a child and as an adult, I have felt the sting of racial discrimination and the pain of marginalization, but never in my life have I felt that my physical safety was in jeopardy because of my race. Until now.
Nowadays, I am far more aware of people around me – those who are standing near me and those who are walking toward me. I make sure my body is turned so I’m facing others. All of this is even more acute when I’m with my baby daughter. I am most fearful of an attack when she is with me.
In response to the wave of violence, some people will march, some will donate money, some will volunteer their time. Others will take bystander intervention training, and yet others will share resources on social media. Some will sign collective statements of support, while others will write to their elected officials. Some people will do nothing.
Whichever response you feel most comfortable doing, I ask for only one thing from you: Don’t become numb to the violence. Because the physical attacks, threatening assaults and racial slurs occur frequently, it is easy to become desensitized.
Don’t become numb to the appalling images of Asian Americans being stabbed, being struck on the face with a cinder block, being bashed in the head with a hammer, being kicked in the stomach then stomped on, being slapped in the face and then set on fire, being slashed in the face with a box cutter, being fatally shoved to the ground, being shot and killed. (Yes, all these attacks have happened to our Asian sisters and brothers. There have been many more incidents, and they continue to happen.)
Don’t allow these vile acts of hate to become ordinary. Don’t just feel shocked, disgusted and outraged, stay shocked, disgusted and outraged and do something about it.
As a society and as a congregation, we are most effective in bringing about change when we feel – and remain – uncomfortable.
There is no single solution. We can all make a contribution toward change in many different ways. Do what your heart tells you but don’t allow these heinous acts to become the new normal.
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