Condemning Complicity in Anti-Asian America: Their Fight is Our Fight

I find it almost impossible not to acknowledge the recent attacks on the Asian American community. The same way I desire every conscious soul to affirm that Black lives matter- I must also affirm that the life of each Sister and Brother in every beautiful culture within the Asian American community matters.

Vulnerable conversations are powerful because it forces us to acknowledge our deficits and choose our mode of liability. That is, we can choose to ignore our own complicity in a system that breeds hatred and systemically condones discrimination, or we can actively work to dismantle this evil. I’m afraid that far too many people in our society, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps even myself, have fallen into the former.

Dr. King forcefully condemned this passivity in a Letter from Birmingham Jail when he blamed the stagnated progress of civil rights on White moderates, who were more devoted to a “negative peace in the absence of tension” than a “positive peace in the presence of justice.” Although his purpose, at the time, was to rally around the agitating methods of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s rhetoric echoes today as a condemnation of complicit silence.

Where are you, CNN? 
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy  
I am traumatized by your apathy

(Excerpt from Not Your Model Minority)

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What’s Done In the Dark: The Inside Story Of Law School Admissions

In February of 2019 I was a senior in college in my final semester. I was also an intern at NBC Sports Boston—an awesome opportunity that I really enjoyed. I’ll admit it—I’m a huge sports fan. Not just in the sense that I watch a lot of games, but in the sense that I have a framed, autographed photo of Patriots running back James White scoring the game winning touchdown in the greatest comeback in NFL history (Super Bowl LI, which I attended) mounted in my living room. This photo is next to David Ortiz’ #34 jersey, which is next to an autographed Tim Thomas hat, next to an autographed team photo of the world champion 2007-08 Boston Celtics.

Are you getting the picture?

So it goes without saying that I was beyond thrilled when I actually got to help cover Super Bowl LIII—the final championship of the Brady-Belichick era, a run of success so long it stretched back from when I was in preschool, to when I was getting ready to graduate from college. It was a fitting ending on a number of fronts.

But in the back of my mind, I knew trouble was on the horizon. 

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Why Are Women Still Left Behind?

In September 1995, 30,000 activists and 17,000 participants streamed into Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. For the next two weeks, representatives of 189 countries discussed and developed historic commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment around the globe. The final product of the conference was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was a blueprint for advancing women’s rights and it set forth thorough commitments under twelve key areas of concern, including women’s health, education, violence against women, and women in the economy. 

Unfortunately, over 25 years later, no nation has achieved gender equality in all dimensions of life, as originally envisioned by the Beijing Declaration. Nearly one third of all women suffer from physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Without adequate healthcare, nearly 800 women die giving childbirth every day. Over 80 million women globally have no legal protection against discrimination in the workplace. Not a single country is on track to achieve gender equality by the year 2030. But it seems we hear statistics like these all the time. Why, then, does gender equality remain an unattainable target?

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Cancel Culture: A Conversation

What is cancel culture? Is it a side effect of the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle? Is it the gap-filling mechanism for the space where the American justice system has failed and yet society demands a reckoning? Is it a manifestation of the United States punitive justice methodology? Is it merely the newest iteration of an otherwise ancient human custom? 

These questions and more were posed and pondered in a recent conversation held by the Criminal Law Society and BC Law Professor Steven Koh. Students shared their views on how to define cancel culture, who is subject or not subject to it, its efficacy, and its justness. The discussion stirred many of my own thoughts on this phenomenon.

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Not Your Model Minority

Dear Readers: As I was writing this blog post, it started to sound more like a poem than an article – so I turned it into one. The above audio contains an introductory note to the piece as well as a voice reading of the poem so that you can listen along as you read.

“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but no one is thinking about you.”

-Steven Yeun

Let’s talk about this past week and the hate crimes perpetrated
against Asian Americans the last few days in Oakland
Let’s talk about this past year and our past period in American history 
This neglected narrative
This invisible experience

While the country does its annual round of capitalizing 
off of Lunar New Year this weekend, I think about the Asian Americans who will spend 
what is supposed to be one of the most festive and important holidays in their culture 
cowering instead of celebrating
Let me tell you about the attacks that have been happening
because you won’t find them headlining on national news
A conversation that is long overdue

An 84 year old Thai man was attacked in bright daylight and died from his injuries 
Vicha Ratanapakdee
Say his name
and pronounce all. of. it. 

Numerous robberies and assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown 
A 91 year old man was pushed down
It was like watching my own grandfather get slammed into the pavement
Look up the video on your own if you want to see it
but I refuse to circulate Trauma Porn – my trauma, your porn
Non-POC: You cannot fathom how personally traumatizing it is to watch these videos

Faces slashed, grandmothers set on fire 
The sheer volume of violence is staggering 
I’m having a hard time grappling with this inhumanity against our elderly
Our elders 
Who are revered and respected in our culture in a way unlike the culture of this country
Who rose from the ruins of a broken nation seeking solace 
Searching for a better life in the Land of Opportunity that only knew them by the word 
Foreigner 

In the wake of these assaults there is one word that comes to mind 
A word that has been grinded and conditioned into the Asian American experience:
Invisible 
Anti-Asian sentiment since the beginning of this pandemic 
Targeted hate crimes have surged by almost two thousand percent

Where are you, CNN? 
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy  
I am traumatized by your apathy

You cannot be anti-racist without acknowledging the Asian American experience. 

Enough with the narrative of the Model Minority
What is the Model Minority Myth? 
I guess I’ll save you the self-education
And tell you about a nation that only respects you when
you keep your head down and talk nice 
Get good grades and that’s the price 
of being tolerated in White America 
But despite staying out of trouble and being quiet 
equality never comes with being compliant 

Because you see, 
the Model Minority Myth was weaponized 
by our government back during the Civil Rights movement 
to say that there is a “correct” way to be a minority  
The audacity of White Supremacy 
To give us a pat on the head for being silent
To take a diverse race of people and reduce them to a monolith 
The audacity of White Supremacy
To use us as their tools to undermine the Black fight for civil rights 
To pit minority groups against each other and further the divide

A nation built on the backs of
Black people and immigrants 
Born with this burden that we were doomed to carry 
as soon as our lungs drew in the first breath
The breath that got heavier and heavier with each year of life 
A life of N*****, Ch*nk, Oriental, “blacks” as a noun with a lower-case B,
Dred Scott, Korematsu, Plessy
Yellow Peril, Chinese Excluded, For Colored Only
A life of imperialism and colonization and cultural appropriation 
A life of “I think you may have confused me with the other [insert indistinguishable face of color] in this room” and 
“I’ve never dated a [insert fetishizable object of color] person before” and 
“But what’s your real name” and
“Can I touch your braids” and
“Your English is good” and 
“You don’t sound Black” and
“Your lunch smells funny” and 
“Go back to your country” 

No amount of the Model Minority Myth embedded in deep interracial conflict
will change the fact that we have always been seen and treated as secondary citizens
If citizens at all

From a young age I didn’t know how to take up space
It’s having to laugh off microaggressions because 
we are made to feel that the racism against us isn’t real – is miniscule, is just a joke 
Gaslit over and over 
We are told to embrace our “good stereotypes”
I mean what exactly is our plight when 
we’re all just so good at math
Right? 
But this Myth invalidates the reality of the Asian American experience
Our internalized racism, our intergenerational traumas
Our women the subject of hyper-sexualization
Our men the epitome of emasculation
It paints us as submissive and void of personality 
Strips us of our individuality 
It erases the millions of low income Asian Americans that exist in poverty
It ignores the historic underfunding of Chinatowns as people huddle
around what little reminders they have of their homeland 
It silences our struggles and shoves them to the sidelines 
This repulsive notion of white proximity 

I’m tired of being told that we are not Oppressed Enough. 
Enough.

We are not your model minority.

I’ve said this a hundred times and I’ll say it again:
The burden should not fall on people of color to be educators 
I’m going to be honest and I hope you will be modest enough to listen
Because writing this piece was so exhausting 
So emotionally draining
I wanted to swallow my words, swallow my pain
To shut off my brain and just mourn in bed
I wished I was privileged enough to write about Snow Day instead
But instead I opened a Google Doc and my curtains and my wounds

This toxic rhetoric of 
“Your oppression isn’t as bad as mine” and 
“Now is not the time”
Sorry but 
I didn’t know that racism had a sign-up sheet 
A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities
We all suffer under the puppetting hand of this systemic oppression 
The problem is not us and each other and this underlying tension 
The problem is White Supremacy so pay attention 

If your anti-racism isn’t intersectional, are you really anti-racist?
Don’t ask us to shrink our space when we have already gone 
our whole lives feeling small
I promise that there is enough space to go around this arena of 
Oppression Olympics that was designed to be the modern day Hunger Games
Designed to point fingers and call names but we are all pawns of the same system
So shouldn’t we be asking instead: who designed it? 
And how do we get out?
Unity is not possible with White Supremacy 
But unity against it is necessary to defeat it 
The only way out is together 
Diversify your narratives so we can do and be better 
So that we can uplift all of our communities and stand in solidarity 
This struggle for safety
This struggle for scraps 
of space at each other’s expense 

But now that I’m here, let me make this clear:
Asian Americans cannot find safety in the same institutions 
that terrorize Black Americans
Although we are wounded, the police must still be defunded
Increased policing is not the answer 
Black Lives Matter
So we must make good on our promise from last summer 
To use our privilege and protect the Black community 
So instead of calling for increased policing that will harm Black bodies
Let’s get to the root and provide adequate services and resources 
for all of our communities 
Let’s rid this false notion that there is mutual exclusivity in this fight for equality
The solution lies in addressing this violence that is rooted in White Supremacy
A violence that is not the violence that we see but the violence that is
Unemployment, Homelessness, Wealth Hoarding, Redlining, and Poverty 

So let’s turn this mentality into a new story 
One where Asian Americans can take up space unapologetically
and speak their truths and shed their invisibility 
One where our white and POC allies support us openly 
by condemning anti-Asian violence in their own communities
I challenge you to check your own biases 
and follow through on your commitment to diversity 
See us, show up for us, and take on responsibility 
Hold accountability

Marginalized freedoms have always been and will always be intertwined 
My pain is your pain is our collective pain 
It is our collective grief and our collective loss
And so your fight is my fight and my fight
Should be yours, too


Rosa Kim is a second-year student at BC Law. You can reach her at kimeot@bc.edu.

Featured image: Vicha Ratanapakdee

From “A City on a Hill” to “The Hill We Climb”

the hill we climb.
If only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it.

–Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”

 

“We are where we are, with the huge bloody problem delicately referred to as ‘race relations,’ because of a history.”

–Charles R Lawrence III and Mari J. Matsuda, “We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action”

If you need some light in these dark and unsheltered times, go watch or re-watch Amanda Gorman’s performance of “The Hill We Climb” at the recent Presidential Inauguration. If the poem itself does not inspire, maybe the poet will. Watching that virtuosity and vision in a 22-year old gives me hope that we may be able to find a path forward.

But as we begin Black History Month, I am reflecting on how we understand the path forward in light of the past. That was a central theme of Gorman’s verse. It is also a perpetual site of conflict in our politics and culture. This tension is apparent even in Gorman’s words. Her poem is yet another entry in a long rhetorical tradition of American jeremiads.

The jeremiad is named for the Prophet Jeremiah, who warned the people of Israel of the consequences of failure to fulfill their covenant with God. From that scriptural origin, “jeremiad” has come to refer to a rhetorical denunciation of sin and the related call to reform.

The first American jeremiads originated in the Puritan sermons of early New England colonies. John Winthrop—in language that echoes in the title of Gorman’s poem—exhorted his Puritan congregants to consider, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Within a generation, the Puritans were confronting the failure of their divine experiment. The jeremiad became a ritual means of purification, a coping mechanism for a religious community faced with its own moral failure and depravity. It consisted of three parts: 1) a scriptural precedent that established communal norms; 2) a condemnation of the current state of the community; and 3) a prophetic vision of salvation from moral failure that reconciles the discrepancy between ideal and reality. The jeremiad instantiated the American capacity for delusion and self-deception. It became an exhortation of low expectations:

“Even as the preacher exhorted, they knew enough about their listeners not to expect much from them…Theirs was a peculiar mission, they explained, for they were a ‘peculiar people,’ a company of Christianity not only called but chosen, and chosen not only for heaven but as instruments of a sacred historical design…In their case, they believed, God’s punishments were corrective, not destructive…In short, their punishments confirmed their promise.”[i]

The mutuality of sin and salvation purged the community of its guilt and implicitly encouraged its misconduct. The American jeremiad became a kind of rhetorical group therapy.  It required nothing more from its audience than faith in its narrative. Belief, not action, was the prerequisite for salvation.

An example? Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Consider this passage in which he absolves Americans of their moral responsibility by abdicating their agency to God:

The Almighty has His own purposes. If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

Lincoln’s address satisfied a deep national yearning for a conciliatory moral narrative. His formulation followed the classic jeremiadic tradition by sublimating the country’s vice into virtue. God’s very engagement with American history was proof of its unique status. The horrors of both slavery and war proved the national march towards salvation. 

But this is just one kind of American jeremiad. Another, the African-American or Black jeremiad, grew out of enslaved Black peoples’ fiery denunciations of white oppression. This jeremiad was not blind to American injustice and depravity. It bore prophetic witness to it.

For Black people in America, obvious parallels with the biblical story of Exodus countered white supremacist arguments that Black suffering proved their inferiority before God. Slavery was instead proof that the African-American community was God’s chosen people. Their suffering and hardship heralded God’s greater plan for the future.[ii] Reformulating the Exodus narrative, the African-American jeremiad provided assurance of the Lord’s salvation and nurtured a communal identity as a divinely favored people.

The early form of this African-American tradition was similar to that of its Anglo-American counterpart. But the tone and content were entirely different. The White Protestant jeremiad was a ritual of purification, an unfailingly optimistic prophecy of redemption. The (white) orator always addressed a “we,” his partners in a failing community. By contrast, the African-American jeremiad was a warning to the white, oppressive other. It served ritual purposes for the Black community, but its intended effect on white audiences was to persuade and admonish, not to comfort. An example? Think of Dr. King’s adaptation of the negro spiritual, “Go Down Moses,” in which he exhorted President Kennedy to “Go down Kennedy, way down to Georgia land. Tell old [Sheriff] Pritchett to let my people go!”[iii]

For much of our country’s history, these two rhetorical traditions existed in opposition to each other. They offered mutually exclusive views of America. But if you watch or read Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” you will see elements of both. It is not wrong to find comfort and hope in the midst of suffering and failure. But we cannot ignore history or evade its call to action. Belief in a brighter day to come is no substitute for acting to bring it about. As Gorman said,

the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

–Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”


[i] See Sacvan Bercovitch. The American Jeremiad. Madison: University of Wisconsin (1978).

[ii] See Albert J. Raboteau. A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History. Boston: Beacon Press (1995).

[iii] See Keith D. Miller “Alabama as Egypt: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Religion of Slaves” in Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Sermonic Power of Public Discourse.

To Save the Country, Eliminate Section 230

When I was in college I ran a media business that I started in high school. Sponsorships, 8 figure view counts, verified checkmarks, even a Play Button award and a congratulatory letter from the CEO of YouTube—I had all of it.

But as time went by, I started to realize that something was very wrong. When I would scroll through analytics, trying to catch on to the latest trend or find what factors were making certain online content do well, I started noticing a different type of trend—a disturbing one.

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BC Law Student Groups Call for Impeachment of President Trump

Many BC Law students were outraged by the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol. A number of student groups joined together to issue the following call to action to our elected representatives. It is presented here as a guest post.


On behalf of the Boston College Law Democrats, we respectfully ask Congress to bring articles of impeachment against President Trump at the next meeting of the House of Representatives. President Trump’s continuous undermining of the democratic process culminated today in acts of violence and a seditious occupation of the United States Capitol. The President’s inaction and implicit encouragement amount to high crimes against the Constitution. The evidence is clear that the President is not capable of upholding his oath of office, and thus should be impeached and removed from office.

Over the past four years, President Trump has repeatedly and clearly demonstrated that he is incapable of leading our nation. He has threatened our national security, the stability of our democracy and the fundamental principles of our Constitution. Instead of uniting this country, he has fanned the flames of discord. The violent insurrection on the sixth of January, 2021 was a direct result of his actions and he must be held accountable. While protesters stormed the steps of the Capitol building to prevent the peaceful transition of power, the President did not act. Instead, he incited chaos and relished in an attempt to undermine the institutions of our democratic process. As a direct result of President Trump’s incitement, the lives of duly elected members of Congress and hundreds of civilians were unnecessarily put at risk. The United States of America should no longer be forced to endure this existential threat to our democracy.

The President must not be allowed to subvert democracy with impunity. Congress must act to protect our institutions of government and ensure that President Trump will not be able to undermine them again. The President has violated his oath of office and continues to pose a threat to our democracy.

For the reasons above, we respectfully urge Congress to act.

– Boston College Law School Democrats

Cosigned by:

The Boston College Law School American Constitution Society

The Boston College Law School Latin American Law Students Association

The Boston College Undergraduate Democrats

The Boston College Law National Lawyers Guild

The Boston College Law School If/When/How Chapter

The Boston College Lambda Chapter

The Boston College Public Interest Law Foundation

Related content: BC Law professor and American Constitution Society chapter advisor Kent Greenfield drafts a letter calling for Trump’s removal from office. The letter was signed by more than 1,000 legal and constitutional scholars.

No, This Is Exactly Our America

Yesterday was nothing short of horrifying, but unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised. This act of domestic terrorism was not unexpected. It was the result of one of the most divisive American presidencies of all time; it was but a likely consequence after months of repeated baseless allegations of election fraud. 

That is why I am sick of the “this is not our America” rhetoric. Because this is exactly our America right now, and we best believe it. The “this isn’t our America” rhetoric lets us think that what happened yesterday was unpredictable. It allows us to neglect that the riots stemmed from a system historically built upon and contemporarily sustained by white supremacy. If we begin to believe what happened yesterday was an anomaly, it lets us shirk away from accepting that the root of the problem is deeper than the current presidency: it is an entire system that is in dire need of reform.

Screenshot of performer, author, and storyteller, Joel Leon’s Tweet/Instagram post.

 

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A Night on 10 NW: Why I’m a Volunteer and How It Changed My Outlook on the Law

Note: Identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.

There come few more humbling experiences in life than getting destroyed at a video game by an 8 year old. In my heyday, I knew my way around a PlayStation controller. But times have changed.

I was sitting in a room on 10 NW, the ward of Boston Children’s Hospital reserved for surgery and orthopedic patients. 

It was my first night as a volunteer at the hospital.

There are many reasons one gets involved in community service. For many, school and work requirements, as well as retreats and other social events will often prescribe the rolling up of one’s sleeves and getting out there. Many people also enjoy the intrinsic reward and benefit of making a positive difference in the world around them. 

But my reason was different. 

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