On Monday, “No Time for Silence,” a healing circle in response to the Atlanta shooting, brought together Sacramento’s Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth and allies to address the shared hurt and grief.
Put on by the Student Advisory Council (SAC) of the Sacramento City Unified School District, the virtual event advertised itself as a “healing, organizing, and mobilizing space for high school youth.”
Mark Carnero, the SAC adult advisor and the lead organizer of the healing circle, set his goals prior to the meeting.
“I want to create a safe space where Asian American students, firstly, can go to let go of and address some of that trauma that has been happening over the course of the year.”
“Second, I want to give them a space where they feel like they see community on a physical level [and be] able to know that their narratives aren’t isolated.”
The title, “No Time for Silence,” reflects the mindset of many in the API community who are refusing to accept the ongoing violence and harassment.
“I’m hoping that folks can break this generational cultural norm of feeling like we need to stay silent when this kind of stuff happens. I think that’s a large part of our culture too — to not make noise, not call attention to ourselves, and not take up too much of the spotlight. I’m hoping that we can break that, that norm and call attention to injustices that are affecting our community,” Carnero said.
Addressing anti-API sentiments for youth is especially important as Sacramento was recently made aware of the prejudices that exist in its school system.
Nicole Burkett, a teacher at Grant Union High School, was caught on video pulling her eyes back in an obvious racial taunt.
“[It is] disappointing to know that we have trusted adults in spaces with our young people and [they are] using their platforms to really advance centuries old stereotypes and racist rhetoric from their seats of power,” Carnero said.
“In a district that has nearly one-fifth Asian enrollment, it’s imperative that we stand strong against this wave of hate and crime,” Student Board Member Isa Sheikh wrote in SAC’s March newsletter to students.
Over the past month, the nation has seen an egregious increase in attacks and hate crimes towards API.
The March 16 shooting left eight people dead: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng.
Six of the eight were Asian women. While there is still controversy over whether this attack was racially-motivated, the API community had a visceral reaction with many mobilizing across the nation.
Whether or not the attack was about targeting API, there is no denying that the recent surge in physical assaults on Asian Americans, specifically elders, is unveiling racial prejudice that must be addressed.
After the attack, Councilmember Mai Vang tweeted “this is America. My heart is broken. We have so much work ahead to dismantle a system that is harmful and unjust to humanity, to our AAPI community.”
Earlier this month, Vang successfully championed a citywide resolution condemning “racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
“I think declaring it, making a stand, calling it out is a great start. I want to give [Councilmember Vang] respect where respect is due because there have been champions before and she’s pushing cause again further as we move into 2021,” Carnero said.
While Sacramento hosts a large API community, many here have still been on the receiving end of racial harassment.
“Violent acts, hate crimes, microaggressions. It’s present and it’s palpable enough to make people feel threatened — make people feel alarmed and worried for their safety,” Carnero reflected.
The numerous attacks have instilled fear and worry for one’s own safety as well as their family’s.
“When I first heard about [the Atlanta shooting,] I thought of my mom because she does work in a nail place. I just couldn’t imagine that happening to my mom. Seeing that image in my head is really scary,” said one of the students at the healing circle.
It has been over a year since Donald Trump first tweeted the phrase “Chinese virus” and we are still feeling the repercussions.
“Rhetoric used about like the coronavirus just completely changed the way that Asian Americans are viewed in this country. A target has been placed on their backs,” another student explained.
A study by the American Journal of Public Health has found that tweets with racist anti-API hashtags spiked after Trump’s.
“[It is] feeling like you’re part of some kind of unknown list of people who might be next. That’s an unsettling feeling for obvious reasons. It is feeling like you can be a victim of violence at any point,” Carnero said.
The healing circle is one of many steps that Sacramento needs to take to reconcile illnesses in its community.
“We just need to sort of continue to emphasize that we as a generation think that every aspect of this is unacceptable, whether that’s singling out somebody for their race, whether that’s attacking an elder, whether it’s engaging in violence for no reason whatsoever. As long as we can sort of have these conversations with each other, we can shape a future where we don’t see this happening.”