In light of the recent attacks on the Asian-American community, Minna Lee is speaking out about these injustices — and calling for everyone to get to work on anti-racist efforts.

By Megan Falk
February 11, 2021
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Credit: Photo by Alycia Fung from Pexels

In recent weeks, members of the Asian-American community have suffered a surge in violent attacks, particularly among the elderly. On January 28, an 84-year-old Thai man was brutally pushed to the ground in San Francisco, and he died just days later. On January 31, a 91-year-old Asian man in Oakland’s Chinatown was violently shoved to the ground. And on February 3, a 64-year-old Vietnamese woman was robbed after leaving a bank in San Jose.

In the days following these attacks, actors and congress members alike have spoken out about the violence. Now, wellness entrepreneur Minna Lee is using her platform to call out these injustices — plus the many others affecting the Asian-American community — and to advocate for collective change.

On Wednesday, Lee took to Instagram to describe her experience as a Korean-American woman who grew up in a small town in Florida. There, her mother and sister were the only people who looked like her, she wrote, and that environment had profound effects. “As a 3rd grader, I wanted to run for class president,” she explained in the post. “I was told by my best friend that the other kids were saying not to vote for me; Because I was Asian.”

Over the years, Lee continued in her post, she's faced discrimination based on her appearance, had her talents chalked up to stereotypes, been told “to go back to my country” by passersby on the street, and more. “All because of my skin, my eyes, and my name,” she wrote. (Related: How Racism Affects Your Mental Health)

Incidents such as the ones Lee has faced — and the violent attacks that have occurred in the last few weeks — aren’t new. Between March and June of 2020 alone, more than 2,100 anti-Asian American hate incidents related to COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., CBS News reports. These events ranged from online harassment and workplace discrimination to verbal assaults and physical attacks, according to the outlet. 

Even before COVID-19 hit the United States, though, hate crimes against Asian-Americans were already on the rise: The number of these crimes rose 12 percent annually from 2012 to 2014, followed by another increase from 2015 to 2018, according to research published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice. And as Lee puts it, “regardless of if [racism] appears in the more subtle otherism discrimination of divisive stereotypes, or outright and disgusting violence; all of it needs to be addressed and fought against.”

In an attempt to stifle the violence against Asian Americans that has taken place throughout the pandemic, President Joe Biden signed an executive action on January 26 condemning and denouncing the acts of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. The order also called on the U.S. Attorney General to support state and local efforts to prevent discrimination and hate crimes against these communities.

But if there’s a key point to take away from Lee’s post, it's that anti-racism efforts can’t stop there — nor should we fight just one injustice at a time. “Our collective efforts need not focus on dissecting and trying to quantify what causes and injustices deserve more attention (because they all do), but rather they should go towards dismantling the very root of racism that births all the pain and division — white supremacy,” she wrote in her post.

In order to accomplish that, Lee stresses that people can't be "selectively anti-racist." In other words, you can't claim to be anti-racist if you don't acknowledge the breadth of people touched by racism or understand that the types of racism experienced vary between communities, she tells Shape. (Related: Kristen Bell Spoke Out About How She's Raising Her Daughters to Be Anti-Racists)

Through her strong messaging, Lee says she's hoping to encourage others to do the internal work required to become actively anti-racist for all those affected by racism. And that starts with reflecting on your own actions, she says. "No one likes to think that they may have participated in some form of racism, particularly if you consider yourself to be someone who believes all human lives are of equal value," she explains. "But more likely than not, everyone has a blindspot — whether it was laughing along with a racially-loaded joke at someone else’s expense, participating in stereotyping, or not thinking about the implicit bias that colors our perception of our experiences in life. (Related: Tools to Help You Uncover Implicit Bias — Plus, What That Actually Means)

"In order to heal, in order to advocate for the righting of wrongs to build a better future for all, we must first acknowledge the areas that we need to personally improve on — and then take those actions to encourage discussion within our personal circles and communities," she continues. "I hope that discussions about race and inequality become much more normalized because choosing to be 'colorblind' is no longer an option anymore."

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