After the Atlanta mass shooting on March 16 left 8 people dead, 6 of whom were Asian women, I was feeling very Filipino. That feeling is rare for me as someone of mixed ancestry with white skin, separated from any kind of life-giving cultural legacy or known family history to speak of—English, French, Filipino or otherwise—and socialized white. My grandmother at the age of 19 married my grandfather, a U.S. serviceman stationed at Clark Airforce Base in the Philippines during WWII.
My father was born in the Philippines but eventually they all moved to the rural New Mexico-Colorado border in the U.S. My grandmother, with her thick Tagalog accent and her kind smile, took a job at the Holiday Inn off the interstate and worked that job for 30 years, never returning to the Philippines. My father made his way to the University of Colorado at Boulder where he majored in physics and then stayed in Boulder the rest of his life working for the National Institute for Standards and Technology. So I was born and grew up in Boulder, where another shooting occurred on March 22 in the neighborhood I lived in for years.
I am angry at this mass of death and suffering. These bullets intersect so many lives and so many issues of injustice, but what rises up in me—the truth I want to scream—is that white supremacist violence will kill us all. Whether you are Asian or Black or white, racism is a machination of death, and in this nation it is completely enmeshed with capitalism, such that we are effectively living in a white supremacist plutocracy. It is killing us, every single one.
Native theologian and activist Mark Charles has always been clear that the founding documents of this nation are geared toward establishing and protecting the interests of land-owning white men. From that origin, aged and matured to this point in time, gun control policy (despite overwhelming bipartisan support) cannot be passed because it is not in the interest of the land-owning men of our day: the white corporation owners, etc. Gov. Kemp doesn’t want Black people to vote, not just because there is disdain for Black people in power, but because there is a strategic and collective interest to preserve the concentration of wealthy white power, the white plutocracy. Racialized capitalism is a form of sanctioned vulnerability that the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) women working in the Atlanta spas bore.
When we understand how the State can sanction racialized vulnerability to the point of death, and apply that understanding to the white plutocratic corruption of gun lobbyists ending the assault weapons ban the people of Boulder, CO, voted into place in 2018, then we cannot separate the sanctioning of vulnerability from the sanctioning of violence from the framework of white supremacy.
The liberating hope here is that we all, every single one of us, have an opportunity to recognize our own stakes. We must dismantle racialized capitalism. We must end racism and white supremacy in all its forms and machinations, no matter where we live, no matter our embodiment.
None of us is free until all of us are free. None of us are safe until all of us are safe. None of us will thrive until all of us can thrive.
Rev. Tracy Howe is the Minister of Congregational and Community Engagement for the United Church of Christ.