Serial entrepreneur Sonja Rasula isn’t mincing words: she’s not okay.
In a recent Instagram post, the Chinese-American founder of pop-up market coordinator Unique Markets and gifting business Care Package said to followers that “a mass shooting killed numerous women … in Atlanta. Numerous Asian women. As an Asian-American and a woman — already exhausted from, well, my entire life and last year — I am tired, frustrated and sickened.”
Rasula’s post refers to the recent terrorist attack in Atlanta that resulted in the deaths of eight people — six of them, Asian women. The shooting, which has garnered national press attention, is the latest in what has been a year-long rise in anti-Asian activity. Acts of violence, vandalism and harassment — including from former President Donald Trump, who frequently referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus” — have been increasing, in tandem with a decreasing number of people soliciting Asian-owned businesses.
And Asian-American women entrepreneurs like Rasula are tired of all of it, to say the least.
Aileen Xu, founder of lifestyle brand The Lavendaire Shop, is also fed up — by the violence, and by the silence. “Because I follow so many Asian-Americans, my feed is filled with people speaking up about this. So in my world, I felt that a lot of people are on our side,” she posted. “But outside of this world, I also recognize that many people see this as a non-issue and something to brush over, and not take so seriously.”
As Xu and beauty business owner Angela Jia Kim point out, not only is this a significant problem, it’s also a long-standing one. “I put away my phone, horrified by the recent news surrounding Asian hate crimes. Sadly, my first thought was: ‘Nothing from my childhood has changed?!’’ Kim said. “Growing up in Iowa, microaggressions and stereotyping became daily occurrences: I saw my dad’s broken English taunted and my sisters and me being bullied for our eye shape.”
Payal Kadakia Pujji, founder of booking app ClassPass, encourages action in the face of such anti-Asian racism. “It’s a disturbing rhetoric that’s only grown more this past year. As we grieve for the families and communities that have been affected, I know we can use that grief to catalyze into action,” she wrote. “We can speak up against racism and misogyny and violence, and hopefully move people to take action however they can.”
This past weekend, some took to the streets to speak out against anti-Asian racism. Protests sprung up in cities from Pittsburgh, San Francisco, San Antonio and Chicago, with elected officials, celebrities and private citizens banding together in demonstration against the rise in anti-Asian hate.
Kim believes that action will speak loudest right now, and encouraged followers to join her brand in making donations to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Chronicon founder and chronic illness awareness advocate Nitika Chopra notes the particular importance of those outside the Asian-American community doing this work. “Yes, check on your Asian friends and be there for them as they process this trauma. But also, check your own prejudices when it comes to Asians, their work, their culture,” she wrote. “Don’t just enjoy their food and not embrace their struggle. Their beauty. Their history.”