Last month, the month of May, was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month as well as Jewish American Heritage Month. Being an Indian Jew means that both aspects of May intersect for me in a celebration of history, heritage and culture. However, the feeling of joy that one would expect during such an honorary time is left vacant, replaced by fear and a sense of numbness.
It seems as though every week, a Jewish person is killed in the west as a result of a violently antisemitic hate crime. In the same vein, it seems that Asian American peoples are just as targeted. A typical week for me is as follows: I hear the news of two South Asian men being killed during the FedEx facility shooting. A few days later, I learn of a South Asian student at Hofstra having acid thrown on her. A week later, I am informed that a Jewish woman in France was thrown out of a window to her death. Another week passes, and I hear about a Jewish man in Baltimore being shot to death.
I measure my life in the brutalization of my people: I allow myself allotments of mourning that must be carefully timed so that I don’t miss my next college class, where we take notes on a lecture and pretend like everything is normal. I am only left wondering whether today’s news will detail the death of an Asian person or a Jewish person. It becomes difficult to exist in a way that is tethered to reality when you become desensitized to death on two fronts: Your Asian identity and your Jewish one. You are a medley of two peoples; this should be a cause for celebration rather than grief.
I am playing a game of catch-up: Skating through hundreds of news headlines of murder while waiting for the wave of anguish to hit. Neither of my communities has slowed down enough to feel the heaviness of what has been done to us, so existing between the lines of heartache makes the month of May blend in with every other death strewn period of time.
I spend my free time sipping coffee and hurriedly catching up on infographics on Twitter and Instagram, watching Jewish and Asian trauma put on display through colorful fonts, because all either of my communities hopes is that someone will notice and care long enough to try to make it stop. Our grief is aestheticized using Canva and Picsart, because what else are we supposed to do?
Part of me is angry at both peoplehoods; I want to ask what good a slideshow on Instagram does when we’re being treated like animals. When we even treat each other like animals. I want to convey the complexity of my pain in more than 250 characters, and I want it to exist without retweets and reblogs. I don’t want to put on a fake smile for the month of May when all I feel about who I am is numb. The words “amplify Asian Jews” in pretty pink letters on a phone screen become empty, because I don’t care whether or not you like my Instagram post, all I want is to feel whole.
So, I am left asking myself, is it safe to celebrate? I don’t know if pretending will save us any more than it will do irreparable damage. What does it mean to celebrate an identity when that identity is becoming defined by hurt? The month of May is one of mourning.