Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been an increased amount of anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes worldwide. With that, there has also been an increased amount of awareness and a global push for justice.
Understanding and learning how racism and racial hierarchy affect the lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is an ongoing journey. It is important to know, however, that pain, bigotry and dehumanization are not the only pieces of the Asian American Pacific Islander community’s collective story. Our lives and stories are filled with beauty, meaning, connection and joy. While we work to #StopAsianHate, we must also work to celebrate Asian joy.
The AAPI community is not monolithic, but instead, it is highly diverse. Our cultural traditions and histories are incredibly rich, multidimensional and beautifully specific.
The AAPI community is not monolithic…Our cultural traditions and histories are incredibly rich, multidimensional and beautifully specific.
In the past few months, common phrases in the call for justice on social media have exclaimed, “You love our food, but dehumanize us,” or “You love our embodied practices, but do not protect Asian American people.” These ideas are vitally important. Celebrating Asian joy means honoring not just the culture in superficial or surface-level ways. Instead, it means honoring the people, lineages and histories behind the cultural traditions and practices (that you love) on their terms.
Here are five ways that you can celebrate Asian joy in an authentic way:
Read Asian American literature.
Reading the works of Asian American novelists, memoirists and poets can help us challenge the narrow, stereotypical stories about Asian cultures propagated by mainstream American media. Read stories that are written by Asian Americans, not stories written by white authors about Asian cultures.
Reading the works of Asian American novelists, memoirists and poets can help us challenge the narrow, stereotypical stories about Asian cultures.
Read works from Asian American poets like Li-Young Lee and Sawako Nakayasu; read novels and memoirs from writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Celeste Ng and Ocean Vuong. Also, read more complex and expansive histories from scholars like Erika Lee.
Appreciate Asian American art.
Much like the American literary canon, prominent visual arts in the United States paints a narrative that displays bodies, cultures and history through Eurocentric lenses. Appreciating a wide variety of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander artwork from ancient artifacts to contemporary art diversifies one’s perspective on historical events, cultural values, spiritual practices and art’s place in culture.
Attend a virtual or in-person lecture given by an Asian American artist or critic. Visit an art museum that focuses on Asian artwork, such as The Rubin Museum of Art in New York or a contemporary gallery like the Francis Gallery in Bath, England.
Diversify the media you consume.
In addition to diversifying the music you listen to and the films you watch, listening to podcasts created and hosted by members of the AAPI community is another great way to celebrate Asian joy. Hosted by Jen Yamato and Frank Shyong, “Asian Enough” explores the fullness of being Asian American with prominent guests, including Vice President Kamala Harris. “Long Distance”, hosted by Paola Mardo, tells stories from the Filipino diaspora. “Southern Fried Asian”, hosted by Keith Chow, examines the Asian American experience in the American South.
Learn about Asian cuisines.
Cuisine from Asia is also multi-dimensional, not monolithic. Take time to learn about the authentic cultures behind the rich foods of specific regional areas.
Take time to learn about the authentic cultures behind the rich foods of specific regional areas.
Take a cooking class from an Asian American or Asian chef through an organization like League of Kitchens. Support a variety of restaurants owned by Asian American families in your community and be open and curious to try traditional dishes.
Visit your local Asian American grocery stores. I promise you’ll find a plethora of delicious treats. Cook your way through a cookbook written by an AAPI chef.
Follow and support Asian creators.
Lastly, celebrate Asian joy with your attention. Support Asian American creators with your likes on Instagram and with your wallet. Follow Asian American filmmakers like Lee Isaac Chung, Alice Wu and Ang Lee. Listen to comedians like Margaret Cho and Ali Wong. Watch dancers like Hee Seo. Asian men and women are creators of all kinds. Honor, share and support their work with your purchases.
Fear leads to hate, a hate that dehumanizes human beings as other, stranger, foreigner and alien. Hate and bigotry dehumanize, laying the groundwork for violence. Joy rehumanizes.
As we learn, listen, discuss and become anti-racist together, celebrating Asian joy creates a world in which the dignity, safety and love of AAPI people are protected, seen and heard.
How can you uplift and celebrate Asian culture in an authentic way? How can we be catalysts for celebrating cultural differences?
Image via Rachel Chung