Culture / People

Why I want to talk about Christina Yuna Lee

Christina Yuna Lee

Hope, forgiveness, patience. These guiding principles of life currently seem out of my grasp now that Christina Yuna Lee is in the ground. She was 35 years old. She’d moved to New York about a year ago to live out her dreams. She was a creative producer at a music agency. She could’ve been my friend, someone I worked with, someone whose soft, sweet nature would’ve been a light in my life. There are undoubtedly dozens of people who for them, this was true. She came home from work, she was taking a bath. Christina Yuna Lee was followed home and now she’s gone.

I used to wax poetic about how grateful I was to live in an age where Asian-hate had surpassed. Pauline Hansen had become a largely running political joke, and I was living off the back of the blood and tears shed by my father and grandmother, so that I could feel safe to be Asian-Australian. For a long time, I did. I used to pronounce, loudly and confidently, that I was so much more racially safe than others, and that I had to check my racial privilege. And of course I do — we all do, to varying degrees. My mother is white, and I hold a bright torch against that luck every day. But the mirror reads back an Asian woman, by no other definition. I resemble, for the most part, Christina Yuna Lee. And because of that, I now need to be scared. Scared enough that I can keep my wits about me. Scared enough that I can remember, and remain angry, about Christina’s death for the rest of my life.

The dawn of COVID-19 ushered in a newly reignited reason for people to revisit Asian-hatred and hate crimes. Whether or not Christina's murderer is convicted of such, it's a statistical fact that Asian hate crimes have skyrocketed in the last two years, and fear for our safety is high. The most plausible and reasonable explanation is that people are uncertain, scared and looking for someone to blame for what they are suffering. But honestly, we should be tired of giving racists an out like that. There’s plenty I don’t know about cultures other than my own, but spitting at people, swerving to hit them, or just generally going on about how everything is their fault isn’t going to make sense of what I don’t understand. Racism is senseless. This is something I’ve always believed. But hearing about how Christina Yuna Lee was murdered in her own bathtub brought on a whole new level of asking “why? This makes no sense”.

I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out the whiteness in my life, casting aside that which made me Asian. But I can’t run from my face. And I don’t want to anymore. I want to be one of Christina’s people. I wanted her to know I’m with her, I have her back, and I’m angry for us. I want justice and peace and safety for us. Asian women sit on a dangerous spectrum that on one side, sexually fetishises us into objects, and on the other, puts us in the direct line of fire to be killed. Sometimes it’s the same thing. So we need voices and we need them now, to end this life threatening narrative.

This is a reminder for everyone that blame gets us nowhere. More still, senseless blame is dangerous and cruel. A reminder that there will be more Christina’s, and there've been many before her. The system that upholds racism isn’t broken — it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do. So a reminder that while the current institutions that be still rule, racial hatred isn’t going anywhere. So what are we gonna do about it? Me, I’m going to pronounce, loudly and confidently, that I’m an Asian woman. And that my sisters are in trouble. They’re dying, soaked in spit and cowering from verbal abuse. I’m going to talk about who they were, what they achieved, where they were headed. Our blood must stop being spilled. Then I’m going to call my grandma, and my sister, and my friends, to remind them we’re at war. To start and never stop fighting…

To tell them to remember Christina Yuna Lee.


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