Sharing my stories on anti-Asian racism

This post is written by Naoe Suzuki who works for the Fine Arts Library. She is the person who develops our social media posts. She is also a visual artist. The Fine Arts Library stands with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities (AAPI). We condemn hate crimes against Asian communities and stand in solidarity with our staff members, colleagues, students, researchers, and the artists in AAPI communities.

Installation view, image based on a group photo of female students in rows, printed in red and assembled together. Size is 10 feet by 15 feet.

My History not my memory

“In the early nineties when I was a college student in a suburb outside Boston, my car was vandalized on the campus parking lot at night. All the windows were smashed, every single wire and tube in the front was cut and dismantled, and there was a message scratched on the side of the car, “KKK was here.” My registration card, which I kept in the glove compartment, was left on the passenger seat, as if to warn me that whoever did this knew who I was and where I lived. The campus police officer to whom I reported the incident, who was in the dominant group, refused to file it as a hate crime. Despite my pleading and the obvious evidence, the incident was only filed as vandalism. I was not offered any kind of emotional support from the college, and I lived in fear for my safety for many months.

The rising violence against AAPI communities and especially the Atlanta spa shootings reminded me about this incident that happened thirty years ago. I felt great pain and grief for the victims, but I also remembered the fear.

The question over whether Atlanta spa shooting was motivated by racism or sexism is absurd to me because racism and sexism are always entwined for women of color, and especially for Asian women. I hear too many times that Asian Americans are too quiet, shy, or not loud enough to report or talk about these crimes. Perhaps, this may be partially true, but, when I did raise my voice, it was dismissed, erased, and disregarded. I keep seeing this happening over and over again, not only with our voices, but with our bodies too.

According to the data released from Stop AAPI Hate, out of nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021, 68% targeted women.[1] To this day, the Atlanta spa shootings are not classified as a hate crime.

During graduate school, my artwork was vandalized when I showed a piece as a work-in-progress before my thesis show. I thought it was racially motivated, but I was told that there was no evidence. I displayed larger-than-life-size prints of figures. The figures were not specifically Asian, but the perception of some viewers was that they were Asians. The prints were ripped, but I was able to repair them and still include them in my thesis show. At that time, my work focused on Asian identity and I often incorporated my experiences as a Japanese woman. Invisibility/visibility of Asian bodies and voices was also important to me. Today, we are still grappling with the invisibility of Asian people. The piece for my thesis (the last image) was called “Perpetual Self Discipline,” which also spoke to the model minority myth, self-discipline as something that many people of Asian descent may be familiar with.”

Detail showing prints of three female students as they sat with their hands clasped.

My History not my memory, detail

Image 1 & 2:
My History not my memory
Naoe Suzuki [artist]
Xerox transfer on Japanese paper
10 ‘x 15’
1999

Installation view. Larger than life size figures are printed on paper with red ink. There are two rows of them hanging. Figures are wearing exercise bloomers often worn by Japanese students. In front of the are cast glass of dumbbells.

Perpetual Self Discipline

Image 3:
Perpetual Self Discipline
Naoe Suzuki [artist]
Xerox transfer on Japanese paper, cast glass of dumbbells and video, Size variable
1996 – 1997

 

[1] https://secureservercdn.net/104.238.69.231/a1w.90d.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/210312-Stop-AAPI-Hate-National-Report-.pdf

 

2 Comments

  1. Martin Schreiner

    April 26, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Dear Naoe,
    Thank you for sharing your stories. They really bring home how systemic bias and hate have continued to be perpetuated. Hearing you and so many others recount horrible incidents like these bring home the extent of how unbelievably horrendous things really are in our country.

    This seems like a moment where change can really come to our society. Let’s keep demanding that it does.

    Wishing you all the best.

  2. Naoe

    April 27, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments, Marty.
    I really appreciate it.
    Naoe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*