The Generational Split in How Asian-Americans See the Atlanta Shootings

My mother, who immigrated to America in the 1940s, assumed my siblings and I would never really be accepted as American. Partly this was because there were so few Chinese immigrants when she came. But also, it was a rough time for minorities. My parents’ response to my brother’s being beaten up, as he was just about every day in Yonkers, N.Y., was to sign him up for karate lessons. The world was like a forest full of bears. There was no forest ranger. You had to defend yourself.


Of all the figures who have emerged from the recent surge in anti-Asian violence, my parents would have most admired Xiao Zhen Xie of San Francisco. This 75-year-old, having been punched for no reason, picked up a wooden plank and hit her 39-year-old assailant so hard that he ended up on a stretcher.


That woman was “hen lihai” — fierce. And yet in his account of the incident, her grandson John Chen emphasized how terrified she was. Over and over, people speaking on behalf of Asian-Americans in recent weeks have described how fearful people are, how afraid to leave their houses. Hearing this, all I could think was, there has been a sea change. Young people seem to believe that there are forest rangers around who, if they don’t exactly care, can be made to care. To sympathize. To come and help. I can hear my parents’ voices and see their heads shaking: You know what they are, these young people? They are Americanized, that’s what. … You know what happens if you show you are afraid? You have even more attacks.

这女人“很厉害”。然而,她的孙子约翰·陈(John Chen)在描述此事时,强调的是她有多么害怕。最近几周,代表亚裔发声的人反复描述人们心中的恐惧,甚至不敢离开家门。听到这些,我唯一能想到的就是,一切都变了。年轻人似乎觉得,周围的护林员就算不是真的关心,也可以让他们关心。让他们同情。让他们施以援手。我都能想象父母会说什么,看到他们连连摇头的样子:你知道这些年轻人是什么吗?他们被美国化了,就是这样……你知道如果表现出害怕会怎么样吗?你会遭到更多攻击。

Cynics equate “American individualism” with an “every man for himself” social Darwinism my parents would recognize. Idealists see it as an “every person counts” promise of respect and dignity: No one should be told to go back to where she came from or be accosted with “kung flu” comments. And certainly no one should have to fear being assaulted, much less killed, because of her race.


These two outlooks have long vied in the court of public opinion. With the killing of George Floyd, however, the idealists gained a decisive victory. His death made it clear, for those to whom it was not clear already, that the brutality and racism faced by Black Americans are an urgent concern for all Americans.

公众舆论一直以来都对这两种观点争论不休。但乔治·弗洛伊德(George Floyd)被杀后,理想主义者赢得了决定性的胜利。对那些还搞不清楚状况的人来说,他的死清楚地表明,美国黑人所面临的暴行和种族主义是所有美国人都必须迫切关注的问题。

Now many Asian-Americans wonder: Will these horrific Atlanta murders prove to be a similar turning point? Will this country own the racism and misogyny behind the gunman’s targeting of Asian women? Will Americans finally see these problems as everyone’s problem? And, most important, will they ask what needs to change? As Randy Park, the 23-year-old son of one of the victims, Hyun Jung Grant, said, his question to the shooter’s family is, “What did you-all teach him?”

现在,许多亚裔也想知道:发生在亚特兰大的可怕杀戮,会成为一个类似的转折点吗?这个国家会承认枪手以亚裔女性为目标背后的种族主义和厌女症吗?美国人最终会把这些问题看作是所有人的问题吗?最重要的是,他们会不会问,有什么需要改变吗?正如受害者之一玄贞·格兰特(Hyun Jung Grant,音)的23岁儿子兰迪·朴(Randy Park)说的,他对枪手家人的疑问是,“你们都教了他什么?”

Right now, we Asian-Americans are proving to be a great test case of the question, “Is America America?” It’s a question at which my parents would have scoffed. Of course not, they would have said. And let me pay heartfelt tribute here to their self-respect and their resilience, which we would do well to retain. But the time has come not just to cope but to move the world forward. Can we? Americanized as I am — American that I am — I can only hope there are forest rangers around.


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