#InMySkin Series II: A New Series By Justin Wu to Highlight Asian Identities

#InMySkin Series II: A New Series By Justin Wu to Highlight Asian Identities

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#InMySkin Series II: A New Series By Justin Wu to Highlight Asian Identities

In this new series, 7 individuals bravely expressed their voices in an effort to stop Asian Hate and empower AAPI.

In this new series, 7 individuals bravely expressed their voices in an effort to stop Asian Hate and empower AAPI.

Photography: Justin Wu

Text: Xinrou Shu

A black cap and black-framed glasses, though Justin Wu’s signature style is reserved, his pursuit of equality and fight against racial injustice are outspoken. As a world citizen, he is beyond being a director, a photographer, and the co-founder of the World Is In Our Hands.

At the end of 2020, he stood with the Black community in the face of systemic racism, discrimination, and intolerance, spearheading the series #InMySkin to amplify Black voices. In 2021, he continued his path, shedding light on Asian communities in virtually shot portraits that strip everything but the skin. 

“Like many of you, I’ve been deeply troubled, heartbroken, and in pain the past few weeks with the ongoing violence against Asian communities. In light of all this, I have restarted my series to continue the necessary dialogue and amplify Asian voices,” Justin said on Instagram.

#InMySkin is a combination of activism and art. Skin is the definition of your identity, the revelation of human nature, and a feature that you can never hide. “By sharing new experiences and perspectives, I hope we can collectively help others understand our pain and know what it’s like to live in our skin,” he continued.

Below are stories shared by 7 individuals from different Asian ethnic subgroups. In response to Asian Hate, they share the means to help the AAPI community and reveal the experience of being Asian, being a member of the minority group. Keep in mind: everyone’s story is worth telling. Don’t hesitate to tell YOUR own story.

View the new #InMySkin series below to learn more about Asian identities.

Chella Man - @chellaman

"I am unfortunately unsurprised at the level of racism others can reach. It is always disheartening to see, but I believe in our community and the resilience of us all. I do have a few friends who have expressed aggressions they have experienced such as being spit on, called names, etc. Stop AAPI Hate. Racism lies on a continuum. It does not have to be intentional or violent in order to qualify as racism. Don't wait until you feel the racism is heavy enough to speak up! Most often, microaggressions are truly just aggressions contributing to a larger system of oppression. For those looking to support, I ask that you donate to the following organizations if you have the means! Even $1 can go a long way if we all work together. 

Additionally, there are SO many resources out there to aid in the unpacking of your unconscious bias towards Asian individuals. Google your most curious questions, I guarantee you there are resources full of answers. Although racism causes effects of mass experience, each one of us has our own individualized experiences. We must connect and share our stories to highlight how they are all truly intertwined. We must band together to support each other in mutual understanding and love as the obstacles and discrimination we endure can cause us to feel a loss of autonomy and/or burn out among other effects. We must fight because there is no other choice. We must fight because we owe it to ourselves and our community. I chose to feature the parts of myself which symbolize resilience and adaptation. My top surgery and cochlear implant scars are gorgeous. They show where I've been and what my body is capable of surviving. The two portraits, body and face, capture this moment in time. What I look like, who I feel I am - which I believe is continuously shifting for us all."

Donate here:

https://ca.gofundme.com/c/act/stop-asian-hate-ca

https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/a35885105/stop-asian-hate-aapi-donate/

Jamie Chung - @jamiechung 

"My face. It’s the first thing people see and within a second identify me as Asian. A feature I can never erase or hide. Within that second there is a conscious or subconscious opinion formed about my face. It wasn’t until young adulthood that I finally and fully loved and accepted my Asian face, along with the culture and long history that it represents. It is a tool I use every day personally and professionally. Our expressions are powerful and are the universal language that bonds us to other people around the world. 

When we as humans emote, that feeling is expressed through your face. At one glance you can identify empathy, sympathy, anger, confusion, guilt, love…the list goes on. Or vice versa, you can shield yourself by using your face to hide any emotion. However you use it, it’s what makes us uniquely human. HUMAN. 

That’s why I chose to feature my face. Because there’s a story behind it. Like the story I told Justin while shooting this series of portraits via zoom. Would you like to hear that story? "

Karen Fukuhara - @karenfukuhara 

"Naturally, my first response was anger. It was then quickly followed by sadness and worry for my community and loved ones. I thought about what could happen to any one of us on any given day. I have always been a strong proponent of allyship for the racially oppressed. What is happening with the AAPI community, requires carrying the same sentiment and activism. Our allyship must be converted to community leadership to rally our allies to action. 

As an Asian American, I’ve always felt on the peripheral. Whenever I walk into any given room, I scan it to figure out where I fit, how I fit. I’ve learned over the years that I am not alone in this practice. America’s definition of 'Asian' has boxed us and limited our community’s growth. We are not portrayed as the multilayered community that we are. 

As an ally, ask yourself, how has the word 'Asian' been defined to you? What has shaped those views? How can we catalyze a positive change with these definitions?

Shattering a social construct is a difficult task, but it has to start somewhere. Acknowledging one's own prejudices against Asians is an important start. 

We must stand together to liberate ourselves from the limitations that society has put upon us, as well as the ones we put on ourselves. Let us undo the brainwashing we have felt of feeling 'less than.' We are so much more than the definitions we are assigned - we are so much more than the sidekick to the hero."

Ludi Lin - @ludilin 

"It can be suffocating and I’m trying to understand how anyone can turn a blind eye to the hate that’s directed towards our community.

I’ve found the biggest source of strength and healing is where I’ve always sought it out it, which is from my friends and loved ones. We may have our ups and downs, but in times of need, they show up. When I check up on friends inevitably I hear: I’m ok, I’m just worried about others. Before I even pick up the phone to call my mum, she’s already calling me with a warning to be careful. What we need to do is expand the sense of family to our entire Asian community and beyond. That’s how we protect each other.

I just want to say that we came to this land to build, never to break, and we’re still building. If you believe in humanity, then you’re my family.

If we don’t stand together, then we fall together.

First, my back. It is a solid Asian back bearing the responsibility of people generations in the past and will bear it for generations more in the future. I choose to embrace that responsibility, working to own it is the meaning of life.

My face, anyone of Asian descent living in a western world will feel the tug and pull of seemingly diametrically opposite cultures. Why does it feel like we’re being ripped apart sometimes? When the society we live in will not let us freely express ourselves, and accept our cultural inheritance, we all will feel the suffocating wrench of stereotypes and dehumanization.

My beautiful male body. My masculinity loves its feminine side, there is no conflict. When I made the choice to become an actor despite the obvious risks, that was my masculinity acting. When my emotions well up any time I see a friend affected by something I’ve achieved, that’s my femininity gently persuading me to open even more. We need to redefine what being human truly means. To me, that means to consummate both sides of yourself in harmony."

Hung Vanngo - @hungvanngo 

"It’s quite upsetting, actually, since it’s 2021 and we still have to go through this. I don’t know anyone who has directly experienced this, but since we live in the new world of social media, we hear/see things so often that we feel like we know the victims directly.

Please donate to and support: www.gofundme.com/f/support-the-cause-against-anti-asian-violence, stopaapihate.org, @stopaapihate @nextshark 

Speak up. I know in our culture we were taught to be silent and mind our own business, but if we don’t speak up and band together in this fight we will not see the change. Because this is not just one person’s issue. And one person alone can’t create the change needed. The crimes, the discrimination, are only going to get worse if we don’t do anything about it. 

What’s shown in the portraits: My face, especially my eyes, because that shows my ethnicity. "

Mia Kang - @miakang 

"The verbal and physical attacks on the Asian community have made me feel everything you would expect - angry, sad, frustrated, enraged, hurt. Above everything though, for me the helplessness is the most draining. Seeing people who look like you, or your loved ones, or family, being viciously targeted and attacked for looking the way that they do creates an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Wishing with every ounce of your existence that you could stop this from happening, but you can’t. Then waking up the next day and experiencing it all over again with the next attack. 

To my Asian peers, I would like to remind you all to take care of yourselves. This burden doesn’t fall only on us. I feel like I see so many Asian people around me, myself included, burn out because we feel like we are never doing enough, and no matter how much we do we can always be doing more. I think that there is a deep-rooted sense of community within Asian culture and it is common to see a conditioning to put the needs of the individual behind those of the community, which is a beautiful thing. It has been such a heavy time and we are carrying so much hurt so please remember to take care of yourselves. This month is also mental health awareness month and with Asian Americans being 3x less likely to seek mental help, I’d just like to remind people that it is more than ok to seek support, especially during these difficult times. 

To my allies, I would like to remind you that your support is a journey, not a destination. Your allyship extends past AAPI heritage month, it is a continuous relationship of learning and action. The Asian community has had to scream and shout for over a year in order for the mainstream media to simply cover our stories, and even though hate crimes are still happening the media seems to have moved on. It creates more disappointment and heartbreak to see support dwindle. Keep fighting, keep learning, keep taking action. This is the only way change can be made. 

With my photos, I wanted to express the personal journey that I have been on. The increase of anti-Asian sentiment has made us have uncomfortable conversations and for many of us, these conversations happened for the first time. I was born and raised in Asia, and I came from a bi-racial household so I haven’t witnessed or experienced this type of racism and discrimination to such a degree before. I have experienced different kinds of issues within Asia and being an Asian woman and a mixed woman, but a lot of this was new to me and I felt emotions that I have never felt before. I had to go through it and figure it out for myself and process these new thoughts and feelings. I had to unpack a lot within me - revisit my relationship with my identity, understanding my white-passing privilege, and exploring my own internalized racism. When I started to read about these crimes and I started to receive racist messages about myself, my family members and being called racial slurs, I had to sit through that rage, that pain, that hurt, and figure it out. I think that many of us have grown so much because of this movement, and many of us feel a sense of community that wasn’t necessarily there before. More than ever I am proud of my heritage and my roots. I stand in my skin and I ask people to understand and respect where I come from instead of tolerating and normalizing ignorance and stereotypes. Being Asian brings me joy. I am so proud of the Asian community for its combined strength and for continuously inspiring me and navigating with such grace. I think I have expressed so much sadness, hurt and anger during this difficult time, so with these images, I wanted to express PRIDE, STRENGTH, JOY and GRACE.

We must keep fighting because if one of us isn’t free, none of us are free. 

We stare at our devices and our screens for so much of our day and spend increasing amounts of time on social media, so diversify your feeds. Get used to seeing our faces and listening to our voices. Understand our beautiful diversity and destroy the idea that we are a monolith. Always remember that what you see on social media is a starting point for learning."

Recommendations

For news: @nextshark, @mayleeshow, @lisalingstagram, @jackfroot, @cefaan

For education/activism: @kimsaira, @intersectional.abc, @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch, @asians4antiracism, @annie_wu_22, @veryasian.co, @michellekimkim

For community support: @welcome.to.chinatown, @stopaapihate, @stopasianhate, @goldhouseco, @hateisavirus, @safewalksnyc

For beauty: @seoulcialite, @kristinarodulfo, @liahyoo, @teawithmd, @dr.zionko, @arianayap

For mental health: @exploring.therapy, @asiansformentalhealth, @asianmentalhealthcollective, @asianmentalhealthproject

Naomi Yasuda - @naominailsnyc

"It makes me extremely sad to see motivated attacks against any race, gender, or group but the attacks against the Asian community have personally affected me. It has been absolutely tragic to see these senseless, racist attacks, especially the cases with the elderly.

I moved from Japan to America 12 years ago and it wasn't until then that I experienced my first encounter with racism. It wasn't physical abuse per se but I found as a woman, men would say 'Ni Hao' in a flirtatious way as if they are making the assumption that all Asians are from China. It feels like, despite the attacks, Asian women continue to experience fetishization, something that is perpetuated in media and entertainment.

There are many great resources that I have found, some of my favorites include @cafemaddycab which covers a cab fare for Asian women who don’t feel safe taking the train or walking, and 'Welcome To Chinatown' which has been providing support to Chinatown businesses.

We need to all stand together. No one should be oppressed! We need to be open to true and genuine conversation to understand the needs and struggles of each other’s communities in order to be helpful and effective allies. 

My hands because I work with them daily and I am proud of what I can do with them. Through my work they allow me to help others express themselves creatively through nails. My hands touch a lot of people and it is through them that I exchange energy with people."

Credits: Production by Yael Quint. ALL IMAGES ARE #SHOTVIRTUALLY.

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