Seattle Rice Society Rally *** some additions and edits for clarity
My name is Akiko Eisner Waters. My pro-nouns are she/ her. I’m a second generation mixed race Japanese American, multi-hyphenate creative, entrepreneur, daughter, mother, wife and lifelong advocate for women and girls equity in education. In the last year I’ve come to identify myself as a social justice activist expressed most readily through my business the Cura Collective and in the last month I’ve been deep in the process of unlearning and learning about who I am in the rise and the wake of Anti-Asian violence and hate in America.
Today, I’m sharing and unpacking layers of my own internalized oppression. Not by way of the blatant racism or micro-aggressions I’ve experienced in my professional life or in school, but by the more sinister aspects of white supremacy which infiltrates one's sense of agency and manifests in our own ideas of who we are, living in our Asian bodies in America.
Through this process I've had a moment of clarity about why my mother despite being a strikingly beautiful woman, never saw herself as she was. She had been so manipulated the beauty myths of whiteness, like thin bodies, white skin, big eyes, that she perpetuated harm on her self-worth and unknowingly on me because I internalized these falsehoods as well.
A memory resurfaced from my adolescence, I had forgotten a girlfriend, one I looked up to, informed me at age 14 that boys would not be as interested in me in high school, because I looked too “exotic”, but when I got to college they would think I was "hot" because of it.
My father was abusive, and when my mother finally found the strength to leave him, he grasping at straws, lied to her, threatening her with loosing her children or being deported if she left their marriage. With English as a second language and little understanding of her rights, she felt powerless, so she kept her head down, and tried not cause trouble, to protect us, just like a model minority wife and mother would do.
Eventually, my mother discovered the truth though, friends saw what was going on, and intervened, but she still had to fight for us and for herself with everything she could, because he wasn’t going down without a fight, without attempting to murder her.
And I’m sharing this deeply personal story because of it's simple analogy of our collective shared experience, my fellow Asian and BIPOC communities.
Living in a country that was built for white supremacy, a country that has perpetuated lies from it’s inception, lies intended to keep us quiet and keeping the peace, doing what it takes to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, because we didn't know the full truth until we did, is exactly what my father did to my mother.
The full truth is our communities, the AAHPI and BIPOC citizens of America are the equalizers that are going to drown white supremacy, while it is a long way off, it is the truth. It’s why Trump was elected 4 years ago. He wasn’t elected because rust belt democrats thought he would really bring back coal. He was elected, because centralized white heteropatriarchal power is desperate, and they are not going to go down without a serious fight.
Like my father, white supremacy is flailing and grasping at the straws of waning power, by espousing lies, manipulation, and violence to try to save itself. It has seen the writing on the wall, whiteness is so afraid of equity, so afraid of justice, it is literally trying to murder us.
As we continue the work towards dismantling white supremacy, I urge you to pay attention. I challenge each of you to unpack, unlearn, address how you’ve been subjected to harm and perpetuated harm in this context. Don’t be fooled, remember white supremacy is clever, it’s seasoned, it’s why it’s survived for so long. It needs the model minority myth, it needs to manipulate us, through racism, classism, ableism, ageism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia etc. Look at your own story, your family story, look at the ways in which this system has fooled you into not seeing the truth of your own agency, your own power. The more aware we are of ourselves the more strategic we will be in combating and dismantling this system that was intended to keep us isolated and apart.
Thank you Aggie and Grace and the Seattle Rice Society for being the friends that are intervening, helping us see the truth. Our coming together is critical work.
We have the power to leave, we must fight back with everything we’ve got. We’ve stayed long enough. Did you hear me, white supremacy? I’m speaking, we’re speaking.