Weaponized Silence

from: Char

to: Jo

date: Weds, Feb 7, 2018

subject: Re: Silence

Hey Jo,

I can’t believe I SAW YOU on Saturday. New York City has always been so good to us. I wish we had more time. I wish we could sit all day in the Met and just catch up and look at paintings and be normal friends, but isn’t that always the way the City is? Everything always seems to be going by at twice the speed of any other place.

Since Saturday, I came back home to my job, and I found myself just milling about (is that even a thing, milling about?), thinking about my friends, about New York, about how fucking white it is where I live; how it wasn’t like that in other cities; and all I come back to is one word: Silence. Silence, and what silence means to particular Asian American communities, especially those of Confucian heritage.

Even within the Korean narrative (completely apart from the Americanness of being Korean American), silence is a reclaimed behavior. It’s complex… In parts ugly and in parts beautiful. Dismantling the hierarchical underpinnings of Confucian patriarchy and puritanical piety, I eventually found peace in the beauty of what silence means to us. For example, I was taught to speak only when I had something truly important to say. I was taught not to throw words around. Silence was a part of sound and of respect. It was integral to the rhythm of our household, an artful space for internal thought in a communal system. But growing up as an American, I realized that silence is also antithetical to the American political discourse.

In fact, SILENCE allows the model minority myth to define and destroy us from the outside. SILENCE is all that patriarchy and racism need to keep us caged in a box of exoticism and subject to the feminization of our entire population where ownership of self and perception belongs to the ones that wield our stereotypes. SILENCE turns us against our queer kin, against our brown and black sisters and brothers. SILENCE is the primary weapon of white supremacy against Asian Americans.

In other words, our beautiful, already-once-reclaimed, fragile, blank space of SILENCE– this art of mass listening– has been perverted by misconception and discrimination.

What I have learned is that there is a kind of reverent silence, respected as communal; and then there is silencing– a crushing of voice, identity and inherent dignity.

But the quiet will rise again.

To beat back racism coursing through the mouths of this multitude,

To repossess what it means to be from here,

Our home.

SILENCE is as crucial to the cadence of dialogue as sound. To weaponize our SILENCE is to weaponize our VOICE, and this tool of oppression will be used for our reclamation.

… (but for tonight)

… (petering)

… (out)

… (zz) z

It’s so fucking late (or early) and I’ve been working like 11 hour days since I got back and my brain and words are a complete mush. Also, gotta… stop cursing. I miss you already times 10.

Love you,



*Image by 张 学欢

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