“What we need to be doing in this moment is supporting and standing up for one another. The best defense is community. The best shield to state and hate violence is solidarity.” — activist Arjun Singh Sethi
In Suong says that the various members of PrYSM and the people they support all come together under the same fundamental experience of U.S. militarism in their home countries. “The U.S. had no moral or legal justification for invading our countries other than ‘stopping Communism.’ … The wars in Southeast Asia caused one of the largest mass refugee flows in world history and prompted the United States to create the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Many of us had no choice but to settle in the land of the invader.” According to PrYSM, the communities these immigrants have created in Providence are often incorrectly profiled as gangs by law enforcement, and their daily lives are monitored for criminal activity.
“PrYSM decided not to call police after the hate crime, because they believe in the abolition of police and military and other institutions that have inflicted violence on their communities,” Sethi said. “PrYSM doubled down on their neighborhood watch, required staff to take self-defense classes, created a buddy check-in program, and adopted other measures to protect their community. In that sense, the hate crime gave them the opportunity to reaffirm their values.”
also includes the stories of a Lebanese family who suffered harassment, assault, and eventually murder at the hands of a neighbor, a Jewish woman who got caught in the crosshairs of Richard Spencer’s alt-right movement and the alt-right website and an African-American alumna of American University in Washington who experienced racially motivated hatred after being elected to student government.
Many people feel helpless in the face of increasingly hateful rhetoric and violence toward immigrants, people of color, and members of other marginalized groups — and wonder what they can do. Sethi again emphasized the need to support survivors, many of whom lack health care and may need financial support for medical bills and missing income from taking time off work. “Vote and hold your politicians accountable for when they preach bigotry and hate,” he said. “Don’t let them condemn hate violence without simultaneously condemning state violence like the caging and separation of immigrant families. Demand better data on hate crimes so we can see who is being targeted, where, and by whom.
“Finally, white allies must step up and talk about the growing threat of white supremacy across this country. We are more likely to be harmed by a white supremacist in America than a Muslim or a refugee. White Americans need to help root out white supremacy like the cancer it is. Otherwise, tragedies like the one we saw at Tree of Life Synagogue aren’t just possible — they’re inevitable.”