Note: Monday night, a gunman shot and killed 10 people in Boulder, CO. Our hearts go out to the Boulder community and families of the victims.  

Hyun Jung Grant. Xiaojie Tan. Yong Ae Yue. Daoyou Feng. Soon Chung Park. Sun Cha Kim. 

These are the names of the six Asian women who were shot and killed by a young man last week in Georgia.

When I first heard the news, I was in shock. It would take a few days before the emotions would fully sink in; before the tears would come bursting through my stoicism.

Because when a hate crime happens to your community, you’re reminded of all the reasons why you don’t belong. You’re reminded of the simple fact that no matter how hard you try, that no matter how hard you love a place and a country, you will never belong.

And then you’re forced to reckon with your own identity. There is no hiding, no escape. It’s like you’re baring your soul to a world who does not accept you.

It doesn’t matter that during World War II my grandpa’s brothers enlisted in the army, demonstrating their patriotism for a country that was rounding their community up behind a barbed wire fence.

Because they would never be accepted as Americans.

It doesn’t matter that my parents achieved the “American dream” of buying a house and sending their child to college.

Because the American dream cannot be fulfilled in a country so steeped in racism and White supremacy.

As Montanans, let us not think we are sheltered from this hatred.

I’m often told that in Montana, “racism doesn’t exist here” and that “there is no diversity,” as if the two statements are independent of each other and have no connection.

In 1870, 10% of Montana’s population was Chinese. This history is littered with stories of violence and lynching. We also can’t forget the fact that Montana is home to Fort Missoula, an internment camp during World War II.

This history of discrimination continues today. As a Congressman, Governor Gianforte voted “no” on a resolution to condemn attacks on the Asian community. Seriously.

But hateful and harmful language doesn’t just come from people that hold explicitly racist values — it can come from “progressive” leaders and politicians too. In 2020, a nationwide trend of anti-China attack ads, perpetrated by Democrats and Republicans alike, fueled hateful rhetoric against Chinese communities and Asian Americans. We must hold everyone accountable to racist and harmful displays of white supremacy, especially those within our own movements and spaces.

So where do we go from here?

Today, and everyday, we are committed to creating a more equitable world and state in which everyone is safe and welcome.

We must recognize that it is not new for communities of color to feel unsafe, unwelcome, and fearful. We must also confront the reality of an increase in hateful and racist rhetoric towards Asian Americans during this pandemic as it has real-life consequences.

We must understand how Asian-Americans have been used as a tool to divide communities of color. We can’t let these attacks be the excuse for more policing in communities of color. We must acknowledge that the violence in Georgia is the intersection of race, class, gender, and imperialism.

It’s on all of us to create safer communities by educating ourselves and others, by speaking up and addressing problematic comments, and by creating culturally responsive systems to support those who have experienced harm.

We have a lot of work ahead of us that is overdue. 

In solidarity,

Kiersten Iwai