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Asian American Women Share Testimonies At Dallas Town Hall Responding To Anti-Asian Hate

Two big signs that depict Asian women and say "I am not your scapegoat" appear in front of a crowd of protesters.
Steven Senne
/
Associated Press
Protesters display placards during a rally held to support Stop Asian Hate, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Newton, Mass. A gunman has been charged with killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors in an attack Tuesday, March 16. Seven of the eight people killed in the attacks were women, six were of Asian descent.

Across the country, communities are reeling from last week's mass shooting in Atlanta, where six of the eight people killed were Asian American women.

The shooting has sparked conversations about the hyper-sexualization of Asian women in the U.S. At a virtual town hall called “Responding to Anti-Asian Violence” hosted by Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, many Asian American women stepped forward to share their experiences.

“To be Asian in this country is to not be seen or heard — even when we yell, we cry, we scream,” said Aileen Fullchange, an Asian American woman living in Dallas and a member of the organization.

Fullchange shared two heartbreaking experiences where she’s felt objectified. One, when she was 12-years-old and accompanied her parents to city hall to ask for more information on how to gain U.S. citizenship.

“As I was going through the security protocol on the building, going through the metal detector, having my bag search, one of the security guards who was a 40 to 50-year-old white man started catcalling me,” Fullchange shared.

Aileen Fullchange speaks in this screenshot.
In this screenshot of the virtual hearing, Aileen Fullchange shares her experience being objectified and hypersexualized as an Asian American woman on March 23, 2021.

The other experience happened more recently at a dinner table.

“A white man who was a friend of a friend of mine, just abruptly, put his hands over around his eyes and pushed them back and literally started saying 'ching chong' and then asked if I understood,” she said.

Fullchange pointed to sexism against and fetishization around women who look like her.

Several nonprofits across the country participated at the event.

Inhe Choi with the HANA center, a Korean American human rights organization in Chicago, said it's important to address the root causes.

“Imperialism, militarism and corporate greed dehumanize, displace and target us,” Choi said.

“There needs to be accountability with a clear understanding that it's racism, white supremacy, gender-based violence and racialized misogyny that are the underlying cause of the violence committed.”

During the event, Choi blamed former president Donald Trump who she says “emboldened white supremacists to fully express themselves” and inflict violence.

According to Pew Research, about 4-in-10 U.S. adults say it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began.

Choi adds it’s also important to remember and learn about the long history of Anti-Asian hate in the U.S.

“This country has killed millions of Asians and destroyed our homelands,” said Dr E.J. Ramos David, psychology professor at University of Alaska Anchorage.

“This country objectified and hypersexualized Asian women and once you see people, stereotypically as less complex, as less whole, as less human, then you're more likely to become violent toward them.”

At the event Amy Tran-Calhoun, an Asian-American woman living in Dallas, talked about the mental health toll of discrimination and violence on Asian Americans and Asian American women.

“At this moment, I have chosen to create boundaries in order to preserve my well being,” she said. “We have a compulsion to jump to action to solve a problem rather than experience our feelings.”

Tran-Calhoun, who’s the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, said she’s long internalized many feelings and felt she didn’t “deserve the time to process and heal, that like many of our immigrants or refugees, parents and families as a survival response.”

She said she’s done internalizing her pain, and wants fellow Asian Americans to allow space for “our feelings, to live and to breathe, they often physically manifest in our bodies... That emotional pain then transforms into physical ailment.”

She says the time is now to check in and listen to the racial trauma Asian Americans — specifically women — are going through.

“My headline tonight is healing is an action,” said Tran-Calhoun.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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