Monday, January 18, 2016

Listen to the Silence 2016

Meant to write this up on Saturday night, but got busy.

On Saturday I attended Listen to the Silence, an annual conference on Asian American issues held on campus. A lot of attendees were high school students, or students at other local universities such as UC Davis and Santa Clara.

I attended all three rounds of workshops but had to leave right after the last one, so did not go to the performances that closed out the day.


Workshop One: Asians for Black Lives

In a movement that is not about you, let your involvement be informed and requested by the group that is at the center of it. Be supportive, say your piece, but do not speak over the people in whose name you organize. Do this, however, without treating the central group as a monolith.

Reaching networks of people who can help out: balance scope with trustworthiness. People's safety and liberty are at stake in movements such as this. Be careful whom you trust, but also know that sometimes, you have to move fast.


Workshop Two: Chinese American Coming-of-Age

Chinese gender roles are a fun (read: not fun) addition on top of the misogyny we are already steeped in. Family relations in particular. As the second female-bodied person in my family in my generation (or: as the younger of two sisters), I may not have existed if my parents had stayed in China.

The model minority myth is damaging in a whole lot of ways, from creating a false "racial hierarchy" that places minorities in opposition to one another to adding extra stigma to "unsuccessful" East Asians to glossing over the problems in Southeast Asian communities.

Meta-comment: there were several workshops on South and Southeast Asian issues, but the imagery around the conference was strongly East Asian, which is also a problem.


Workshop Three: Environmental Justice in API Communities

Could have focused more on the local connection. But environmental justice as an idea and as a movement is important for someone who considers sustainable development a key theme of their future. The EJ movement really began at the People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991, where they adopted 17 Principles of Environmental Justice. Previously, the POC-led SouthWest Organizing Project had sent a letter to ten mainstream environmental groups calling them out on their exclusivity.

Nature is not just wilderness. It is the systems that underlie human life, and it includes humans.


Turning over some of these thoughts still. But it was good to spend most of a day gathering material, gathering new perspectives, being reminded of the wider world and how I may have to navigate through it. Talking to high school students also was a valuable experience because I can see myself in a lot of them--quiet Chinese girls who are trying not to take up too much space. I still am not bold, and my voice carries about two feet, but I am more comfortable talking, giving my opinion, and not worrying about seeming dumb. If I seem dumb, so what? I am dumb. But I'm dumb and I'm learning, which is the important part.

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