Preparation resources for Asian Americans?
Has anyone in this wonderful community come across and recommend any preparation resources that address preparation challenges for Asian Americans (and other People of Color)?
Being based in Portland (Oregon) in midst of the wildfire smoke crisis–and reading confirmed reports of armed vigilantes setting up illegal checkpoints in nearby rural towns–has made me acutely realize that being a person of color can be dangerous when traveling through the countryside during emergency evacuations. I’m beginning to realize that my evacuation strategies may have unique challenges, and that I’ll need to adjust accordingly.
I haven’t been able to find much on the topic–searching for “Asian preppers” returned links to articles about working in an Asian restaurant kitchen, or SAT preparation strategies, but nothing related to emergency preparedness.
By the way, I do appreciate The Prepared’s site and forums for being very inclusive and welcoming. And the site contents have motivated me to start assembling a BOB.
Alisa Felix - September 15, 2020
Ditto on how awesome and inclusive this community is! I’m not sure, however, if there’s anything that would modify prepping based on race.
It’s understandable to be concerned about how race might play a role during things like evacuations or SHTF. But the way that you would handle that is probably the same way that you would handle other potential threats during that chaos. Keeping a low profile, being situationally aware, being capable of self-defense, and so on.
What kinds of things would you imagine might be different? Maybe I’m missing something.
mopdx - September 15, 2020
Thank you so much for the thoughtful and kind response, Alisa! I’ve been thinking about the following things:
- If I were to blend in to the surrounding using “the Grey Man theory,” what extra precautions must I consider? It may be difficult to do this if I stand out based on color of my skin (especially in rural areas around here that are nearly homogenous). This may impact my escape destination (a friend suggested that I escape to a college town that has many exchange students).
- What extra precautions might I take to ensure that I appear harmless (but not an easy mark)? The Prepared has done a great job of recommending that I ensure that my BOB fits in with the surroundings.
Once again, thank you!
KKW - September 15, 2020
Are the armed militias out after people of color? It’s a funny thing what perspective does. I’m afreaid of rioters. But that really is a serious question. Do you know what the agenda is? I can see your concern. I would be trying to find out what the agendas are and working from there. Do you know what towns they have shown up in so the areas could be avoided? Beyond that, I can tell you (and I know this sounds crazy) but a smile goes a long way in a tense situation. It’s what I do when things are tense and it does help to diffuse things. I’m sorry you are in an uncomfortable situation or feeling you could be. Things would be bad enough without anything concerning ethnicity being added on too.
River - September 15, 2020
I’m an ethnic and religious minority, so I also think about this often. I think your friend has a point to gather in an area with other POC. I know if we ever had to leave our house, we would avoid certain areas that tend to be hostile toward immigrants, minorities, or non-Christians.
hikermor - September 15, 2020
Puzzling…What is the supposd agenda of thse armed militias? In any case,, i would void contact if at all possible. That would be my peersonal strategy and I am a “whitey” muself.
The current situation requires fire hoses, not firearms……
It probbly hlelps to have a definite plan for evacuation prepared, including a destintion wher you will be rceived (friend or relative) and get there as efficiently as possible.
A feew years ago, we had to evacuate because of the Thomas fire. We left in about twenty minute, and we had all the necssities – people, pets, personal items cash, cmping gear, and food. At the last minute, I tossed in my handgun, not so much thinking of self defense, as sentimental value (purchased in 1963 and a favorite of mine). Needing it for self defense is highly unlikely, but not impossible, and that would be the case for most of us. Still, some means of self defense is not totally outlandish….
Rich DC - September 15, 2020
This is another stray thought from a sympathetic white guy – so take it for a grain of salt from someone who hasn’t had to worry about this (as much) but trying to think constructively and help brain storm:
I’d imagine the traditoinal scenario is to try to avoid crowds, but managable crowds (not overwhelming but not isolated) might be something to consider and look out for and sticking with. Rephrased: people might be on better behavior if there are more witnesses (not always the case, mob mentality can also exist, so try and find the ‘right’ crowd, people you’d feel safer around). This is somewhat counter to what I assume is traditional logic of “avoid crowds” but I’m just thinking out loud here.
You mention “grey man theory” which might still work for you even if you “stick out” based on race. One way to intepret “grey man theory” is its not about looking exactly like everyone else, its about camoflauge. What kind of car do you drive, vs the majority around you? Same with clothes, etc. If you’re driving a small sedan and everyone around you is driving a pickup truck, you’re going to “stick out” more. Likewise if you’re driving a hummer and everyone else is driving a small sedan… you’re still going to stick out more. Camoflage can also be misdirection. This happens in tv/movies a lot, the “spy” who draws attention to themselves by making a scene to distract people from whats really going on. Not sure how this might work in your situation but maybe include ‘camoflage’ and ‘misdirection’ into your specific grey man theory?
In an emergency this might not be an option, but planning your travel times through unknown areas might be a consideration. I encountered the term “sundown town” on a TV show recently and went to wikipedia to see if it was really a thing, I’d hope thats less of a thing now, but staying away from sketchier areas at night seems like a rule of thumb for everyone. Its just, unfortantely, you might have a different set of criteria for a ‘sketchy area.’
Owen's Mom - September 16, 2020
Sadly, I haven’t come across any resources like that but I’m a born and raised Asian American Army brat who’s been prepping since I was little.
I’ve lived in places from Alaska to Okinawa and my Dad has always told us this same thing: Blend into a mixed race crowd that looks safe. Don’t join a white crowd, you could be a single target. Don’t join an all minority crowd, you’re part of a big target. Keep your head on a swivel. No white or bright colors. No all black outfits. No camo (he was often wearing camo or fatigues when giving this lecture, ha!)
Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California and Washington were the states that Dad taught us the difference between rural and city. We’d take family car trips (like the Alcan Highway) where he was careful to point out how we were treated racially in these types of towns. College towns are the best of city towns. Higher education equals higher tolerance in my experience (or maybe they’re just desensitized to prejudging from all the types of people they’re surrounded by daily). But having said that there are exceptions and frightened people do scary things education or not, so again keep your head on a swivel.
When we were little kids these were the rules: If we got separated: 1st choice-join a family, 2nd-join a woman, 3rd-join a couple, 4th-Fireman, paramedic, doctor, nurse, but not police, 5th-military in uniform (to confirm check their boots) and declare Dad’s name, rank and division.
For us girls, Dad insisted we kept hair ties in our BOB’s to keep our hair tied back. Also we wore baseball caps and tucked our ponytails in the back of our shirts (they were too long to fit into our caps) to keep us nondescript and so no one could grab us by our ponytails.
Hope Dad’s advice helps you too.
Temari - September 17, 2020
This is an interesting topic that is hard to talk about.
In general, I think emergency preparedness is universal. It’s not limited to a particular gender or race. As an example of preparedness literature in other countries, here is a link to “Disaster Preparedness Tokyo Guide.” Some people might find it interesting to see the similarities to guides in North America and to see a few cultural differences too. (It’s a series of PDFs.) I don’t seek out prepping info geared towards my gender and ethnicity particularly, though I am concerned with parts of Japan where my relatives live. (They have to contend with typhoons, earthquakes, active volcanoes, heat waves.)
Despite the universality of disaster prep, I see what you are getting at when you mention that someone who is a minority has to also prepare for being a target of hostility. You might be trying to research prepping and come across content by people buying arms to protect themselves from external threats; it’s disturbing to think that they may consider you as one of the external threats based solely on your race.
Someone mentioned that smiling goes a long way to ease relations. Before the pandemic, I hadn’t realized how much I depended on smiling at people to express appreciation or to express friendliness. The mask has taken away this tool from me, and now the only thing I have left is to wave at people or place my hands together in gratitude. Attempts at friendly hand gestures may be better than expecting people to read me from looking at my eyes, but not much better.
Regarding evacuation plans, I think it’s a good idea to get a physical map and see where the safe destinations are located and how you might get there. The destinations can include designated evacuation centers, homes of friends, an office space, a place where you are a member and might have member privileges, things along this line. You can also put on the map known hazards: Locations of protests, locations where you might run into angry citizens. You can plan out escape routes.
And although we do the thought experiment of living in a post-apocalyptic world where there are no cars, no cell phone, and no friend in the world, plan A should be to not suffer unnecessarily if you can avoid it. First choice would be to try to get to safety as quickly and as easily as possible. So before thinking of walking through the countryside, risking an encounter with a nervous and armed homeowner thinking you might be up to no good, the priority would be to find an easier way to get to safety. That means making sure you always have a cell phone and battery backup for the phone, a fueled up car or cash to pay for a taxi/uber/public transit, funds to cover a motel room (homeowner or renter insurance might reimburse this later if you are under an evacuation order), a list of phone numbers of friends and family, a small supply of extra masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc. The goal would be to try avoid encounters with scared/angry people. And if possible, try to be around kind people when you come across them.
In an emergency, you might be surprised that some people will go out of their way to be helpful, it’s not always doom and gloom. When my neighborhood was evacuating, everyone seemed to be on the same page emotionally. There can be a camaraderie in times of crisis. You might find yourself helping someone out and someone might be offering to help you out too. In these instances, follow your gut and act accordingly.
Of course there are hostile people in the world and they dominate the news. You’re more likely to see a news report about an unprovoked verbal attack on a random asian family at a restaurant (maybe being blamed for the pandemic or maybe just for not being caucasian), than a news report about how many asians managed to get through the day without such an encounter. So I was afraid I might be targeted too. It doesn’t matter that I was born and raised in the U.S., to some I will always look “foreign.” So far, people have left me alone but it’s something that I worry about. The restaurant incident I mention above happened very close to me, in my county. It was so disturbing. However a brave restaurant server ordered the verbal attacker to leave which gave me a bit of hope.
Regarding how to “blend in” during an evacuation, one thing that I sometimes think about is to try not to dress too casually most of the time. When my area went into mandatory evacuation, I left in an hour wearing what I happened to choose to wear that morning, and I didn’t bring much additional clothes with me. There might be a temptation to dress down for an evacuation, but I think it’s better to try to look sort of pulled together most of the time, so that if you are going to be leaving at a moment’s notice, you will look okay. You don’t want to look too poor or too rich either. But regardless of what you happen to be wearing when you evacuate, it’s good to have practical clothing in good condition in the go bag. If you can help it, you don’t want to look like an evacuee when you go to the store to pick up those items that you didn’t bring with you when you fled your home. I think it’s good to try to look clean and tidy.
During emergencies, I go so far as to sleep in regular clothes, in case I have to leave in the middle of the night under power outage conditions. I hope some of these thoughts help.
pnwsarah - September 19, 2020
I wish I had some advice or ideas for you, but as a white person (and a new Oregonian) I don’t have personally relevant experience. I mainly wanted to say that I think your idea of university towns as safer waypoints makes sense (certainly Eugene!)— and to say “hey” from one Portland prepper to another. 🙂
Also, I hope that one silver lining of the terrible precarity of these times is that, as more people get into prepping and think about the various prepping needs and concerns one might have based on various aspects of their identity (ranging from the big stuff like race and gender to more particular things like having food allergies or specific types of pets), you’ll be able to run that same search and get more relevant results in the not-so-distant future!
hbic - September 21, 2020
For the respondents in this thread doubting the need for this type of planning, here’s a news article where a Black woman with a clear plan and friendly location to bug out to is stopped and menaced by armed patrols in rural Oregon.
I found this article easily by searching “armed militia Oregon wildfire”. There are dozens of stories on it to choose from, if you don’t like my source. Google is always a good place to start if you need more information about a claim.
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