This week, we're taking a deeper look at the stories of Asian Tint Fam members to learn about their identities, cultures, and the significance of the #StopAsianHate movement. Live Tinted stands with the Asian community and the #StopAsianHate movement. We believe storytelling is a powerful tool to build empathy, cultural awareness, and uplift important messages. Check out our interviews with these four incredible women and be sure to look at all the resources shared below.
Kristina Rodulfo, @kristinarodulfo
What does your identity mean to you? I’m a proud Filipino American. It anchors the entirety of my identity and heavily influences the way I move in the world, how I connect with others, and is at the root of my personal mission.
How has your relationship with your identity changed over the years? Both my parents immigrated from the Philippines in the late 80s/early 90s and I was the first person in my entire family born in the U.S. Even so, I grew up very strongly connected to the culture. I was surrounded by fellow Filipinos both my age and many auntie and uncle figures in my neighborhood in Queens, New York. Both sets of grandparents also lived with me for some time. So, I watched Filipino movies, TV shows, listened to OPMs (Original Pilipino Music) and learned to sing in Tagalog (the national language), cooked Filipino delicacies, participated in cultural events from a young age, and learned traditional dances like pandanggo sa ilaw and tinikling. I was in Filipino dance groups in high school (where I also found solidarity with friends from all Asian backgrounds including Chinese, Korean, Indian, and more), and in college was in NYU’s International Filipino Association all four years, even becoming President in charge of weekly cultural programming (I even hosted cultural identity workshops across the country). In college and right after graduating, I was heavily involved with Filipino American community organizing.
All this is to say, I had such a strong community and connection Filipino culture I never truly felt “othered.” I never felt any blatant racism or violence toward me. I was luckily surrounded by a diverse community since birth (the first time I found myself in a predominantly white environment was college, really). Then, I joined the corporate world as I started working in magazines and digital media and realized how uncommon it was to be an Asian in this industry. I was almost always the only Asian at events, at meetings, on staff, and I quickly realized how few other Asian people were on the mastheads at big publications. As an entry-level editor just wanting to learn and climb the ladder, I thought I had to shed my culture and try to “blend in” with white people to get ahead. I thought I had to hide my background, not pitch stories around it, not have it show up in my work, and distance myself from being Filipino.
I didn’t want to have to explain myself. I just wanted to be accepted. I just wanted a chance to succeed where I saw so few people who look like me in top positions. I was willing to amplify every other culture except my own because the Asian American experience has been so continually dismissed, that I’ve been gaslit to believe our stories about racism and microaggressions are “not that bad.” So, when a pitch about a history-making Filipino ignored without a response, or I was told that I was “so articulate” after a high-level person saw a video I hosted, or I’m in rooms with white male beauty executives talking about “diversity” and I know they’re not considering me or any Asian, I brushed it off as “not that bad.” I didn’t even believe my own hurt.
Now, I proudly wear my identity. I share my culture. I let it show up in everything I do, from what I post on social media, to the subjects and experts I look for in articles. I speak up on Filipino and Asian American issues. I tell my story.
What has the recent widespread of the #StopAsianHate movement meant for you? It’s been incredible to watch people speaking up about #StopAsianHate, seeing fellow Asian Americans empowered to tell stories they buried deep inside for too long, and to see the public outpour of support from peers and mainstream media. I’m feeling a real strong sense of solidarity and community among fellow Asians. However, the hate crimes continue (it feels as if there is another one reported everyday) and I really urge people to not treat this like a trend, or a one-post-and-done situation. We need to keep speaking out, and honestly, I wish I saw way more support from the beauty industry. SO many big brands have glossed over #StopAsianHate or have not even addressed it, and it crushes me. And the media reports? They wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t Asian people on staff pushing for it and applying pressure on their editorial teams. It shouldn’t have to fall on our shoulders. Where are the allies? One thing I keep thinking in my head as I scroll through the news and feed with post after post ignoring #StopAsianHate is “Why don’t you care?” “Why don’t you see me?” I wish there was more energy toward amplifying Asian American stories and voices. I hope the #StopAsianHate movement continues long term. I’m grateful more people are aware of Anti-Asian racism, but there is so much work to do.
What is one thing you'd like the Tint Fam to know regarding Asian identity(ies)? Reject the “model minority” myth – it’s a tool of white supremacy, using Asian success as a way to put other BIPOC communities down. We are not all rich or “well-off,” or “assimilated,” or established, and do not have proximity to whiteness. I also think it is crucial that people understand you can show up for Asians and support us without putting other communities down or comparing experiences, or level of attention paid, or arguing about who has it worse. That’s not productive. You can care about more than one community at a time!! At the core of anti-racism, the common enemy is white supremacy. Fighting that is beneficial to all.
Are there any resources you'd like to share? Definitely follow @asiansformentalhealth @stopAAPIhate @asianamericangirlclub @heartofdinner and @asianamericancollective! Also definitely read Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong.
Mae Sitler, @maesitler
What does your identity mean to you? I think the great thing about your identity is that it is ever involving. My identity as an Asian American has only grown throughout the years. I feel more confident in speaking up when it comes to challenging topics. I also feel so fortunate to be alive at a time like this, to see actual change whether it's through our politics or media. As a little girl, I rarely ever saw someone look like me on the big screen. These are still milestones to be celebrated even though we have a long way to go.
How has your relationship with your identity changed over the years? My relationship with my identity has changed over the years in the sense that I am more self-aware of the color of my skin. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood raised by a single mother. Although my mother is Caucasian, she always stood up for me and voiced her opinion on anti-racism. It wasn't until I was older, where I noticed all of the apparent racism towards me even the ones that didn't seem racist but actually were backhanded compliments. I feel like now more than ever, it is important to speak up amongst your friends and community.
What has the recent widespread of the #StopAsianHate movement meant for you? The most devastating part about all of this is that the senior citizens are the ones being scrutinized. They don't deserve it and I can't even imagine something like this happening to my own mother. We must do better, to see change.
It's also very empowering to see other Asians I look up to speak about this movement. It really has caused an uproar and encouraged the media to finally address it. We can have multiple movements going on at the same time without criticizing another race. We have to lift one another up and be there for each other to see any improvements.
What is one thing you'd like the Tint Fam to know regarding Asian identity(ies)? We as Asians, all look different and come from different backgrounds. We have stories to tell and I think we are finally going to hear some of those heartbreaking stories come to the surface.
Are there any resources you'd like to share? AAPI has a GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-aapi-community-fund)
Seerat Saini, @seeratsaini_
I am a proud Punjabi-American and my identity shapes the way in which I view and move through the world. My relationship with my identity has been through hell and back—it took time but I’ve come back home to myself. When I was younger, all I wanted was to be like everyone else around me: blonde haired and blue eyed. I felt “othered” by my classmates and teachers. And seeking approval and acceptance, I despised my skin color. I felt like my skin color was the reason boys didn’t like me back and the reason my “friends” weren’t kind to me. Looking back—it wasn’t in my head. There were countless microaggressions and even instances of blatant racism.
I lived in a society with a very narrow and Eurocentric definition of beauty. Looking back now, I can’t believe they brainwashed us into thinking that our skin color and melanin was anything less than perfection. We absorb the sun—and what could be more magical than that? Through years of unlearning these lies WHILE simultaneously understanding why those lies were made up to begin with (spoiler alert: colonization and imperialism), I’ve come out on the other side more in love with my skin than ever before.
Attacks on Asian Americans aren’t going to stop if we don’t put in the work. What some American choose to see as a homogenous group is actually composed of 43 ethnic groups. The racism embedded in this country and awakened again by our previous leadership has caused physical and mental harm to Asian Americans—we must do our part to stand in solidarity. My favorite account to follow on this topic is @alyssahowritings!
Aditi Mayer, @aditimayer
What does your identity mean to you? For me, my Punjabi identity roots me in a rich history that informs my relationship to so many things-- from stewarding the Earth, to a dedication to community, and fight for justice.
How has your relationship with your identity changed over the years? Growing up like many diasporic individuals, my relationship to identity in my early years was informed in its proximity to whiteness. I’ve since unlearned that, and have come to a space of reclamation of my identity beyond its relationship to whiteness-- going beyond validation from white spaces, creating our own hyphenated identities, and learning our own rich histories.
What has the recent widespread of the #StopAsianHate movement meant for you? The #StopAsianHate is an important step in building empathy, alliance building, and solidarity between BIPOC communities to address systemic issues such as lateral violence; it’s brought forth an important conversation around violence within marginalized groups when they are put against each other under a larger framework of white supremacy.
What is one thing you'd like the Tint Fam to know regarding Asian identity(ies)? It’s important to know that Asian identities are not a monolith; there is a wide degree of lived experiences under the Asian umbrella of identities, and it’s important to hold space for that. It’s also important that individuals within the Asian community do the work to interrogate our own internalized systems of oppression, from anti-Blackness to casteism.
Are there any resources you'd like to share? Yes! I encourage folks to study Claire Jean Kim's theory of racial triangulation and the model minority myth. This framework looks at the ways in which Asian communities have been valorized as the “model minority” (an idea that is inherently false, and is weaponized against other minorities to ultimately uphold white supremacy), but continue to be alienated politically, culturally, and aren’t perceived as true Americans.
@HateIsAVirus is a great community of mobilizers and amplifiers dedicated to dismantling racism and other forms of hate, with a focus on anti-Asian violence.
@EqualityLabs is another brilliant organization that is highlighting (and addressing) the realities of caste based violence. They work at the intersections of organizing, community based research, socially engaged arts & digital security for South Asian religious & cultural minorities.
At Live Tinted, we stand with the #StopAsianHate movement and against anti-Asian racism. We’re deeply concerned by the influx of hate crimes against Asian Americans and we encourage the Tint Fam to seek out resources to get educated, reach across cultural barriers, and use our voices to shed light on the current issues.