By the time I enrolled for Professor Chang’s history class, I had already become politically aware as an Asian American. I was already a member of Asian Pacific Americans for Action, our school’s on-campus Asian American political student group. I was already aware of anti-Asian racism and gendered violence, and angry as heck about it.
What I lacked was a researched foundation for that anger, a considered self-awareness of our intersections, or a broader context within which I might situate my identity as a contemporary Asian American woman. These are the things that Professor Chang’s class in Asian American History (and later, Introduction to Asian American Studies) gave to me; and, these are all things that continue to inform my writing and activism today.
The newest episode of Reappropriate: The Podcast is now available, and it’s one of my favourite episodes yet! In this episode, guest Cayden Mak (@cayden, 18millionrising.org) is back for another discussion on digital activism. In this episode, we specifically tackle the power and peril of Twitter as a tool for social change, and we discuss whether or not the use of Twitter could or should be considered radical and decolonial.
You can view the episode by streaming it through YouTube above or by listening or downloading the audio only version using the mp3 player at the bottom of the post. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel or subscribe to the podcast in the iTunes Store.
For over 12 years, the internet has been an intellectual companion, and a forum wherein I have shaped my activist thought. Although I found my way to Asian American activism through offline work, it was my online activities that have been largely responsible for who I am as an Asian American activist today.
My earliest political opinions — and my commitment to the importance of debate in shaping political opinion — were forged on highly-active Asian American message boards like YellowWorld.org (edit: holy crap — it is still online and someone even posted something this year!), which served as social hubs for the Asian American community throughout the early 2000’s. Over the years, my Reappropriate blogging self became a digital alter-ego, and this blog served as a space for the exploration of Asian American social justice thought — both for myself and for others. Today, I feel hyphenated in more ways than one; not only do I exist with the hyphenated racial identity of an Asian American, but I also feel as if my fundamental sense of self has become a hybrid of my real-life and my online presence.
For me, the role of the internet as a tool for radical consciousness-building cannot be understated. I would not be who I am without access to this digital space, and the freedom to cultivate new (and oftentimes revolutionary) ideas.
Today, that freedom is being jeopardized. Today, we are on the brink of legislation that would shackle the internet, and in so doing, make it fundamentally less free.
Suey Park (@suey_park) — graduate student and activist — rallied Asian American feminists to start a Twitter conversation on the intersection of Asian American race activism and feminism. She asked us to Tweet under the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick.
And then Twitter blew up.
By Sunday evening, 45,000 Tweets had referenced the #NotYourAsianSidekick, and spent nearly 8 hours as the top trending topic on Twitter. More importantly, Twitter spent that time highlighting such meaty topics as sexism, feminism, body image and immigration rights.
(I unfortunately was out-of-town this weekend, so jumped into the party Monday afternoon, when I returned to computer access).
As an Asian American feminist who has been blogging at this intersection for upwards of ten years, this was amazing, heart-warming, and redeeming. For far too long, Asian American feminists have been at the margins of both mainstream feminism and Asian American race activism. We have been pushed to the side, told to sit back and wait. We have been promised that one day it will be our turn to be heard; but not now, not yet.
#NotYourAsianSidekick — and the attention it garnered not only from the Twitterverse but from mainstream media outlets like Salon and ABC — was a reinvigorating demonstration that it’s time to end the silence.