Atlanta and its suburbs are a surprisingly Whitmanesque experiment in pluralism, in which unpoetic concrete strip malls substitute for lyrical spears of summer grass. In Atlanta, as in other sprawling cities of millions, these spaces are where many new Americans go to make a life. When Georgia flipped blue last year, pundits noted the swelling Asian population in Atlanta counties like Fulton ; in suburban Gwinnett, the of Asians doubled over the past 20 years.
My family has lived this transformation. In the early s, when I was 5 or so, I asked my parents if we were the only Indians in Atlanta. But in high school, I embedded in the heavily Asian American world of debate nerds.
Steph Cha: The Atlanta shooting is another reminder the cops are not our friends. Novelist Steph Cha writes that the face of anti-Asian violence has always been white.
This week, that hard-won sense of home feels diminished for so many. I am South Asian, which means that during this particular round of hatemy subset of Asianness is not under direct attack.
These specific thre braid into something larger, which I recognize intimately. Atlanta spa shootings stir fear amid historic rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. For many Asian Americans, the killings further fueled fears about anti-Asian hatred that has mounted over the last year as police and advocacy groups have reported record s of hate crimes and harassment.
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Tailing this fear is a suspicion that I have no right to it — a feeling many of my Asian American friends recognize. This, in turn, makes it harder to perceive yourself clearly. It requires an enormous act of will to force others not even to care but merely to see your reality. All minorities are, at some point, asked to speak ourselves into existence this way — to hold all the anger while also trying to just be people.
What has the reaction been?
A pluralistic utopia — that Whitman dreamscape — depends on a shared narrative. I passed the two spas, the microcosm of Asian Atlanta — the first-generation import grocery stores and the second-generation fusion restaurants. On another day, I might have pointed to this part of the country as proof that we had arrived.
This week, all I can see is the fragility of our belonging. Strip malls, I realize now, are flimsy things.
Dolly Parton tries something new with a surprising collaborator: James Patterson. These writers would like a word.
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