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“Who are we? What are we? Is there even a concept of Asian-American consciousness? Writer Cathy Park Hong seeks answers to these questions in her essay book, “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.” Hong’s book, which appeared in February 2020, took on new urgency with the rise of anti-Asian violence and discrimination during the pandemic. Today, Hong joins Jenna and Wesley in discussing the usefulness of rabies and her experience speaking for – and listening to – the Asian-American community.
Many of you have kindly shared your thoughts in emails to the Still Image Processing Team. Here are some of your answers, which have been edited slightly for clarity.
When the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes first hit the news, I have to admit, I struggled. The long-standing tensions between the African-American and Asian-American communities made me think, “Well, they don’t ride for us, so why do we have to ride for them?”
I’m not proud of that, but that’s how I felt back then, and being truly anti-racist is all about recognizing and confronting your own racist ideas. Reading “Minor Feelings” took me on a deep journey that opened my eyes to my own ignorance. Not only is it brave and beautifully written, it also dropped knowledge of a ton of history that I almost completely ignored ?!). It also taught me that there is a term for the tension between black and Asian communities – it’s called white supremacy.
– Tiffany from Brooklyn
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I’m Korean, like Cathy Park Hong, and there were parts of this book that made me cry because she’s naming something (without any cover or disinfection) that I often refuse to name or talk about. I have found that the things that I find inexpressible are so because I fear most of all that naming and expressing them will put me in focus / in the box / in scope / in the target of the blank gaze.
I could comfortably describe my whole childhood as one spent escaping the framing, trying to hide in the tall white grass; Luckily / unfortunately I did it successfully – at one point a white girl in grade 11 decided to count all the Asians in the cafeteria until she turned to me and said, “Oh , I forgot to count you. ”
These are the last pages of the book, where she talks about conditional existence, that I got to see a new side of this idea that if I’m not ready to invest in my freedom, then all the freedoms I work towards will be. limited by what I don’t allow myself to feel. I’m afraid it almost sounds like “every man for himself” and interpreted that way. But of course, it’s more like the idea that my freedom is tied to the freedom of all oppressed people; this individual enlightenment is nihilistic. – Brooklyn Go
Hosted by: Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris
Produced by: Elyssa Dudley
Edited by: Sara Sarasohn and Sasha Weiss
Conceived by: Marion lozano
Executive producer, shows: Wendy Dorr
Editor-in-chief, Newsroom Audio: Lisa Tobin
Associate Editor: Sam Dolnick
Special thanks: Nora Keller, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani and Desiree Ibekwe
Wesley Morris is a critic as a whole. He received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his reviews at the Boston Globe. He has also worked at Grantland, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The San Francisco Examiner. @wesley_morris
Jenna Wortham is a writer for The Times Magazine and co-editor of the book “Black Futures” with Kimberly Drew. @jennydeluxe