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  • Writer's pictureasj

Where are the Asian American Silence Breakers? #TimesUp

Updated 1/10/2018

Whose stories get told depends on a lot of things, not the least of which is who decides to speak up and tell their stories (but also, who amplifies the story, and who listens).

I'm raising this in the context of the TIME magazine Person of the Year cover story, featuring the Silence Breakers. There is so much to appreciate about the Silence Breakers story. The silence breakers themselves, for sure. The many women who contributed to writing, editing, filming. But the invisibility (or silence) of Asian/American representation here troubles me a lot.

I'm worried for all the people who are burying their stories because of a culture of "saving face." Saving face, not embarrassing your parents, not shaming your family-- all deeply held values, and I've never seen it end well. It's always silence in exchange for truth. Survivors, like many Asians and Asian Americans, are taught to value an absurd notion of 'honor' instead of to value the facts. Perpetrators often hold fast to lies in order to save face instead of taking responsibility and dealing with the guilt of having done wrong.

One thing about American culture outside Asian American, it's pretty loud. People speak up a lot. I'm not saying there aren't any individual Asian Americans speaking up and about and analyzing sexual assault and harassment (and there are powerful national and state-based conversations in India).

I'm saying I think it's (way past) time for the overall culture of silence and shame in Asian-American and South Asian-American communities to change. It's not healthy. Silence does not make a problem go away. And no matter how much people may want to pretend otherwise, a person cannot live a fully happy, prosperous life when they're always trying to push down feelings of shame and secrecy.

What can we do to make that happen? We can be more visibly in support of each other and all those who refuse to be ashamed. We can celebrate the courage of everyone who tells their #MeToo story, everyone steps outside the norms to say ENOUGH.

Like this one brave actress in India, who, instead of doing what was expected and shutting down in shame, spoke out.

When we change this aspect of Asian and Asian American culture, we'll be making significant progress toward true strength, true courage. Not the mere appearance of strength and courage, but the kind that's real, that's dependable, that can weave true community bonds into lives we don't just endure but enjoy and celebrate.


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