whomst and whymst

my name is Minna. i am the child of Chinese immigrants who wound up in Minneapolis, MN at the tumultuous tail end of the 1980s. i imagine my own story will become clearer the more i write here, so i’ll leave it at that for now.

i wanted to create shrimp chips as a place to engage critically with arts and culture coming out of the Asian diaspora today, and to do so with Asian readers in mind. i come from a background in arts & culture journalism, with a focus on music criticism. but rarely, if ever, have any of the (English-language) outlets i’ve written for thought of Asian readers as a worthy audience to center. i want to be part of the movement working to change that.

i also just don’t want to keep holding back anymore. like many of my peers, i have found myself continually frustrated by the lack of nuance, context, and understanding in popular discourse surrounding Asian Americans and issues that involve us and our varied communities. i’ve been afraid to comment publicly on certain issues, for fear that my words will be taken out of context (as they have been) and that i’ll have to face either backlash or total apathy. i’ve been afraid that if i don’t have a firm grasp on all the details of every historical/political/social/economic topic that might possibly bring to bear upon whatever central topic i’m writing about, that i might end up overlooking something crucial that would put me in the position of being the worst thing i could be: wrong.

i remember talking about this some years ago with a professor-activist whom i deeply respect. i remember them saying that this pressure to have to be impeccable, to have all my arguments airtight in order to engage at all, is something particular to the space Asians occupy in this country (the u.s.) — that particularly within justice-oriented, activist-y spaces and conversations, any assertion we may make about our own pain must first be scaffolded and buttressed with a million other qualifiers. we are asked, even expected, to call ourselves out for our endless wrongs before articulating some hurt — especially if that hurt is enacted by another community dealing with its own hurt. we are told, in many ways, that our pain is only really as bad as our performance of wokeness is good. that “wokeness” for Asians traffics as social currency today in much the same way that notions of good Asians vs. bad Asians did in the era of u.s. Japanese internment.

otherwise, our sorrows and joys, our friendships and heartbreaks, our experiences of profound struggle and triumph, are constantly glossed over, minimized, rendered illegible. because Asians aren’t really oppressed, right? because how bad can it be if our biggest struggle is representation in hollywood? (it’s not.) because aren’t we a bunch of peter liang apologists and anti-affirmative action WeChat activists?

i am so tired of these raggedy, white-supremacy-backed narratives that so much of this country has bought into. and i am so ready to do something about it, even if it means that sometimes, i am wrong.


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