Why now?


Trigger warning and reader’s discretionary note: discussion of anti-Asian hate, violence, suicide,  racism, and sexism. 

In journalism class over Zoom, my professor went on about the state of news today, addressing an anti-Asian hate-related news package one of my classmates had pieced together. “Just before class this morning, the Internet was plastered with headlines about a Filipino woman in New York…” I zoned out as if my brain had grown accustomed to blocking out harmful information. But still, I shut my camera off and turned down my volume as my face grew hot, tears pooling in my eyes. 

Since the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes earlier this year, I’ve felt myself endure the pressures of addressing the sociopolitical implications of the #StopAAPIHate movement, as well as my own experiences as an Asian American. It felt as though people were finally paying attention and like I needed to cater to audiences now that my voice was actually being considered, despite the years of hard work I had poured into my work. 

With every passing day, a new frightening occurrence would overtake the news, and my rise in followers and retweets would parallel said tragedies.

Why did it take this for people to finally listen to me and other Asian folks?

Growing up, instilling the standards of white approval against my intrinsic Filipino identity and Asian appearance to combat my lack of whiteness was a habit I, like many other Asians raised in America, felt forced into. It was a survival tactic. It was instilled at the cost of denouncing other people who looked like me. It was a practice my first-generation mother and second-generation father adapted to at the cost of failing to practice Tagalog in our household and avoiding passing on family recipes in order to please the Americanized palette my siblings and I had taken on. Bagel bites smelled a lot less intimidating than dinuguan

Once I got to college, the importance of my heritage and culture made itself apparent when I realized that I felt more at home with friends who understood the damaging trek to becoming white. It made my blood boil. Suddenly my trajectory in life would change because I found a new passion that involved directly combatting the white standards that made myself and other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color feel like we are less welcome, less worthy, and less human. Joining Overachiever was just one way for me to hone in on this passion, and for the editorial internship opportunity, I am forever grateful.  


I soon felt more drawn than ever to executing projects that would involve deeply personal aspects of my identity. I would constantly dissect emotionally taxing experiences of my own. I had opened up about yellow fever and the queer experience as an Asian feminine-presenting person on live radio. I had revealed that my passion for writing and the startup of my online publication were born out of the literal silencing of my voice–writing was, and still is, a tactic of communication and survival. Even when I distanced myself from my projects, I would still take on ones that revealed systemic racism and sexism in garment factories overseas or the recurring workplace prejudices against women and other gender minorities in STEM fields. As if the research and preparation that went into these projects weren’t already emotionally draining enough, I contributed a thorough academic analysis of Orientalism and the Yellow Peril as foundations for anti-Asian sentiments for Overachiever’s latest Asian American History issue. And of course, ironically, I’m writing this article—very meta. 

If I weren’t taking advantage of my ability to publish the work aforementioned, then the opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge would be going to waste. Or at least that’s what I’d tell myself. 

Being “on” 24/7 and carrying out this mission against racism began to take a toll on me. The worry of losing traction and skipping out on the opportunity to discuss rarely-addressed issues burdened me and left me feeling more burnt out than ever. It felt like I had to make up for my years of compliance by using every opportunity to educate or call out racist behavior in my academic and social circles. While these conversations were (for the most part) productive, many of them would go nowhere. The discussion would only end in the other (read: white) person on the receiving end of my critiques trying to level out their faults with overcompensatory white guilt that would only make me pity them and feel ashamed for trying to call them out for their behavior in the first place. Now and then, they’ll post about my work or repost photos of me, and it leads me to believe I’m just a poster child used for proof of allyship. 

*deep breath* 

Is this how it’s going to be from now on? People will only listen to me and accredit me when there is a tragedy at hand? Am I only going to be received well when I put myself in a vulnerable position to educate or call out someone? Why are they just now paying attention?

Why are they just now paying attention? Why now, when this has been happening for centuries?

While I do recognize that being able to execute such projects, having a platform to share the voices of others, as well as bringing light to the varying injustices specifically endured by AAPI, I hope that there is a day when I am not pressuring myself to flesh out personal experiences to catch the attention of those who would not otherwise pay mind to me at all, whether it be my actual writing or my existence alone. It is not my responsibility, nor the responsibility of BIPOC in general, to educate and keep others in check. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in all fields, whether it be STEM, the creative realm, or what have you, have been doing so much to further their crafts and passions for themselves—not for the sake of white people. 

I pride myself on the work I’ve done. I take solace in knowing that there are (read: non-white) folks out there who have read or listened to my work who have been able to not only learn but also to relate and identify with. But having to explain the origin stories of my ideas and of my passions breaks my heart more and more each time I do so. My self-proclaimed trajectory in life was still so clearly being defined by the hardships myself, my family, and other marginalized communities have been undergoing in the name of white supremacy.

And that seems to be a recurring pattern: a marginalized person dedicates their life’s work to bettering the circumstances for those who come after them in an attempt to combat the trauma that has been inflicted onto themselves and their communities.

Iris Chang (2003)   Photo Credit:   East Bay Times

Iris Chang (2003)

Photo Credit: East Bay Times

Iris Chang, a Chinese-American journalist, political activist, and author, and Ronald Takaki, a Japanese-American academic, historian, and ethnographer, both dedicated their lives to addressing and recounting racism and violence experienced by their families, communities, and Asian people all over the world that had been suppressed from the public’s eye for so long. Both of them are highly regarded as influential trailblazers, and their work is still widely used today in academia. Both of them took their own lives. 

The stakes, the pressures, and the responsibilities people of color feel the need to adhere to are traumatizing. Yes, the work they produce is beneficial to many, as it furthers discussions, literature, and self-discovery for other Asian people, but why must it be at the cost of their own well-being? 

Do not cherry-pick our labor. Do not use us as your proof of allyship. Do not assume that our sole purpose is to liberate ourselves and our communities. Do not tokenize us as your personal crutch whenever you mess up and need help figuring out how to come off as someone who isn’t racist. The entirety of our existence does not amount to the racism, prejudice, and xenophobia we have been subjected to. BIPOC do work (and have been doing work) that exists outside of our racial and ethnic identities. We deserve credit, attention, and love whether or not our work has any sort of educational value pertaining to said identities.

If you’re going to support BIPOC, uplift us in everything we donot just when we serve any benefit to you. 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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