Why Sandra Oh Is Choosing Asian Pride Over Fear — And We Should Too

Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock/Youtube
Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh took to the streets of Pittsburgh to celebrate her Asian identity amidst growing fears about anti-Asian violence.

Pennsylvania hosted a Stop Asian Hate rally in which Oh addressed protestors and called for Asians to take pride in their racial and cultural identities instead of succumbing to fear and shame.

The rally took place in response to the brutal shootings carried out by Robert Aaron Long in which eight people were killed in the deadly spree shooting at three Atlanta-area spas.

Six of Long’s victims were Asian-American women, and they join the numerous victims of racist attacks against the Asian community in recent months.

But Oh was careful not to stir up any more fear as she used these heinous events to illustrate the damage being done to a community that deserves to celebrate their identities, not hide them.

Oh called for Asian-Americans to celebrate their identities.

These instances of violence are enough to diminish the pride of any community but Oh’s speech was a reminder that Asian-American culture is something to celebrate even if systemic racism tries to tell the community otherwise.

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Prior to the rally, Oh took to social media to express her sympathies and sadness about the events but urged her fellow Asian-Americans to channel their fear into a positive push for change.

“I know many of you are scared but let us not be afraid,” the Killing Eve star wrote before quoting her iconic line from the 2018 Emmy Awards: “Remember #itsanhonorjusttobeasian.”

She carried on this sentiment during the rally as she encouraged the masked protestors to celebrate what it means to be Asian.

"I know many of us in our community are very scared," Oh said, "and I understand that. And one way to get through our fear is to reach out to our communities. I will challenge everyone here, if you see something will you help me?"

As the Grey's Anatomy star received cheers from the crowd, she led them in chants saying, "I am proud to be Asian."

The rally was no doubt an emotional experience for a community whose very existence makes them vulnerable to violence and vitriol from racist, xenophobic attackers.

Oh’s speech is a reminder that Asian pride needs to elevated just as much Asian pain.

As we have seen in the Black Lives Matter movement, often the experiences of minorities are only addressed when they are being victimized and abused.

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But these experiences do not capture the essence and beauty of cultural identity. In fact, these actions say more about the people perpetrating this violence than it does about those experiencing it.

Perhaps if we did a better job of elevating Asian-American experiences in positive ways, then they wouldn’t be left vulnerable to victimization and racism.

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Instead, the voices and experiences of the Asian community are often only displayed to us in their darkest moments when they are experiencing racism.

And by then, as is the case with the Atlanta shootings, it is too late.

Oh pointed out that the Stop Asian Hate movement has given a voice to a community that has been Intimidated into staying silent about their experiences for so long.

"For many of us in our community, this is the first time we are even able to voice our fear and our anger, and I really am so grateful to everyone willing to listen,” she said.

And though we can certainly leverage this anger into positive change going forward, Asian-American identities should be given space to celebrate their triumphs as well as grieve their challenges.

Even as the news cycle gives way to another story and these protests inevitably subside, we must actively choose to listen and learn from Asian voices going forward.

RELATED: We Stand In Solidarity With The Asian Community Experiencing Xenophobia Right Now

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.