A Statement from the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Moderators & Vice Moderators of General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
March 27, 2021
Dear Siblings and Friends of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
Grace and peace to you in the name of the One who was born in, crucified at, and risen from the westernmost land of the Asian continent, Jesus the Christ!
It has taken us time to put our sentiments to an official statement because we, like so many in our AAPI communities, are lamenting. We are angry. We are frankly tired, fatigued, and exhausted. We are devastated. We are grieving. We are consoling and comforting one another in whatever way we can. We are shaken in our hearts and souls and in every part of our being. Our collective and individual predicaments as AAPI communities are made all the more difficult because we are a people accustomed to being with one another, hugging each other, eating and feasting over plentiful food, sharing stories of our struggles and of our joys. We, like you, can’t do that these days, especially in a time when we need and long for face-to-face, eye-to-eye, body-to-body encounters. What hasn’t changed is our heart-to-heart unity in condemning violence and its roots, in mourning the loss of lives, and in our shared commitment and renewed resolve to speak up, to fervently pray, and to take meaningful action to see that God’s justice for us as AAPI communities, and, indeed all marginalized communities are brought to fruition.
We are deeply grieving in the aftermath of the March 16, 2021 massacre at Atlanta, Georgia where eight children of God were extinguished by a cold-blooded white shooter. Six of the victims were Asian/Asian American women — grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, friends, neighbors, caregivers, family providers. We name these siblings in the faith who bear the divine image: Soon Chung Park 박순정, age 74; Hyun Jung Grant [김]현정, age 51; Sun Cha Kim 김순자 , age 69; Yong Ae Yue 유영애, age 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33; Paul Andre Michels, age 54; Xiaojie Tan 谭小洁, age 49; Daoyou Feng 冯道友, age 44
We cry. We weep. We mourn.
With ancient wisdom we bellow from the bowels of our souls:
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are Before me;
Strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
And justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous –
Therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
(Habbakuk 1:2–4, NRSV)
The deep pain that reverberated in us and in AAPI communities following the Atlanta massacre are not new to us. We are saddened, we are enraged, and we are tired. We personally know of many AAPI women who are deeply shaken, living in fear and constantly on guard for their personal safety, having to second-guess their every movement and words lest they be on the receiving end of violence, retaliation, and dehumanizing micro-agressions. We call for an end.
We have observed that many non-AAPI members in our communities, social media users, in the media, and of the wider body politic fail to recognize the misogyny and anti-Asian racism underlying the massacre that occurred in Atlanta. The Atlanta massacre and the reprehensible description of it as a sex-addict seeking liberation while having a “bad day” are stark symptoms
of the deeper poison that has sickened our nation since its founding, namely white supremacy. The Atlanta massacre is a tip of an iceberg of discrimination that AAPI communities — whether immigrants, naturalized, or descendants of immigrants — have endured for generations. When added to this the mistreatment, degradation, belittling, dismissing, and denigration of the personhood and gifts of AAPI women and LGBTQIA+ siblings, we cannot remain silent.
The Atlanta massacre follows a long line of hate against our AAPI communities. The group Stop AAPI Hate has catalogued more than 3800 actual incidents of hate during 2020 alone, the first year of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Research from California State University found
that while 2019–2020 saw a decline in overall hate crimes, hate crimes against our AAPI communities increased 149%. The Trump administration’s descriptive of the COVID-19 coronavirus as the “China virus” or “Kung flu” exacerbated the anti-AAPI sentiments and stereotypes that are and have been endemic to the United States. We shall not forget, nor can we allow present and future generations to forget, the arduous journey for justice for which
our AAPI forbearers struggled and which continue to haunt us even to this day as evidenced from recent events. We have not forgotten such examples as The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and its subsequent versions that remained in place for more than six decades, the objectification of Filipinos at the 1904 World Fair as “living exhibits,” the internment of thousands of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans during World War II, post- September 11 inspired hate against any South Asians who looked Muslim. We could mention the 1923 the U.S. v. Thind case that denied South Asians a voice, the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, the destruction of and looting of businesses owned by Korean Americans in the 1990s.
The list goes on and on. It is too traumatic for us to recount, a burden of stories too heavy to bear alone. Our AAPI forbearers have endured, have suffered, and have been made to bear countless incidents of micro- and macro- aggressions every single day, the caricaturing and stereotyping of being “model minorities,” of “exotic Orientalism,” of derogatory names, of
being silenced, or assuming that our silent reflections and thoughtful meditations are somehow indications of acceptance or complacency. We ask you to listen to the stories of our AAPI siblings. Don’t speak, don’t explain, don’t theologize. Just listen. Receive our voices, hear us, hear our stories, hear our struggles, hear us. We ask you to give us the space and freedom to grieve, to mourn as a community, to shout, to cry, to huddle together as AAPI communities who are hurting.
Like the forbearers of our faith — the diversity of ancestors who have finished the course and whose labors we continue with so many others — we join in solidarity in our lamentation, in our prayer, and in our renewed commitment to condemn, protest, and dismantle all forms of hate, violence, obfuscation, fear, subjugation, oppression, revisionist history-telling, of misogyny, commodification, fetishization, discrimination, and inhumane treatment against AAPI persons and communities and the theologies and systems that support it.
Join us in taking some of these steps. We are grateful for our AAPI sister and colleague, The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, for her wisdom on prescribing these meaningful acts that we all can do.
For white siblings:
- Trust people of color to know their own experiences. Hear their stories and pain.
- Sit with the discomfort: embrace openness to what you hear and experience, remaining uncomfortable if you don’t know what to do.
- Do an internet search before you ask people of color to explain concepts, approaches, or tools.
- Acknowledge that your siblings of color, especially Asians and Asian Americans right now, are in pain.
- Take risks and speak up, whether people of color are in the room or not. Don’t require people of color to do the “heavy lifting.”
For siblings of color:
- Know that you are a beloved child of God.
- Remember that your story is valued, no explanations or justifications required.
- Be gentle with yourself. Focus on self-care.
- Reach out to your community of support. You are not alone.
With the forbearers of our faith we long to say: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9)
With the forbearers of our faith we can affirm: “In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.” (A Brief Statement of Faith, lines 65–71)
With the forbearers of our faith we pray, we grieve, and we will act. Let us all be joined in our strength, in our wills, in our might, in our love, and by God’s grace, towards God’s transformative justice for our AAPI communities, and, indeed, for every peoples long silenced.
With the love and justice of our Asian brother, Jesus the Christ, we are:
The Reverend Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014)
The Reverend Dr. Neal D. Presa, Moderator, 220th General Assembly (2012)
The Reverend Dr. Tom Trinidad, Vice Moderator, 220th General Assembly (2012)
The Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator, 218th General Assembly (2008)