Speech delivered at Stop Asian Hate Rally
in Scotch Plains, NJ on April 17
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Elizabeth Romage, a junior at Rutgers Prep in Somerset, as well as a member of the Global Outreach Club at my school. It is so great to see so many faces here today to support such a significant cause.
Racist and xenophobic violence and discrimination towards Asian-Americans and people of Asian descent has been prevalent in this country for centuries, but, as you know, has recently skyrocketed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as this shocking, sickening, and disappointing rise has occurred, one principle has become distinctly clear: change must take place, and it must occur immediately. Therefore, today is important. Today is the day where we all step into the light and incite change. In choosing to come out today, you chose to fight for justice, you chose to support all Asian-Americans and those of Asian-descent specifically, and all those who are the victims of racism and race-based injustice. And when on a path to creating change, we often ask ourselves, What can I personally do to make this change happen? A lot of the time, we feel as though we can’t do much because we don’t know where to start, or think our actions may have an insignificant impact. Well, that’s wrong. Community starts with us, so if each person created change in one way, the community would progress. And so I digress: here are some things each of us can do to stop Asian hate, and hate in general:
1. Understand that you cannot invalidate the feelings of another. If it hurts someone, it hurts them, and we are in no place to tell someone they are being too sensitive or their feelings are not real. Sound familiar? This happens a lot, and when it comes to combating racist remarks towards a person, it's known as racial gaslighting. In telling someone their feelings are invalid, you are labelling those that challenge acts of racism as psychologically abnormal. So just don’t. Instead of questioning or invalidating them, be supportive, and be there for them. That’s what they need.
2. Know about what you’re fighting for, and this is two-fold. Fighting against Asian hate is a fight for equality, it’s not a fight to place one group on a pedestal above another (which is a common misconception). It’s a call for the systemic and manifested obstacles that exist to minimize groups Asians to be removed to create a more fair and just society for those groups. It’s a call that all people can live happily and freely, regardless of who they are and where they are from. And knowing that this fight is about equality leads to the second part of knowledge of cause: get educated. Read sources, do research, and become knowledgeable on how racism has affected groups and America, and especially Asians. Take the time to learn about the history of systemic racism and how it continues to currently impact societies, not only because it’s significant knowledge to retain, but it can also give you a pathway to understanding the basis of change.
3. Don’t downplay racism, and call out racism you see. Racist comments and jokes are not funny, and there is no level of offense. They are all offensive, so don’t minimize the significance of these jokes. Additionally, if you see something, say something. Call out racism in your community, whether it be friends or family, or in person or online. By calling out racism, you are verbally inciting change.
4. Conduct self-reflection to spot unconscious bias. Self-reflection is a huge part of change; it allows you to assess who you are, and specifically identify the parts of your thinking that may contribute to the continuation of racism and prejudice in society. Ask yourself questions like “How do I perceive other races and cultures?” and “What assumptions do I make about other people subconsciously, and how do these assumptions affect my actions towards them or general decisions?” Understanding how you think will help you change your ways and maximize your personal progress, which will help you help those around you.
5. Be supportive. Whether this be reaching out to your friends who are victims of racism to make sure they’re okay, or donating to a cause pertaining to the social issue, you are showing support and serving a catalyst of change. Even coming out to a rally like this one today is an awesome way to show support and make victims, who may feel belittled, feel supported.
By personally taking actions to create change, we will create change to stop Asian hate in our communities, and continue to inspire change beyond our communities. We have voices, and we are powerful. Let’s use them for good. Thank you, and thanks for coming out today.