Updated: Mar 13
Dear Asian Youth,
This year, we have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. As the movement gained mass support worldwide, emerged opposers to this cause just as widespread as its followers -- white supremacist groups making public statements in direct hostility towards BLM, or in family and friend arguments debating the meaning and the purpose of what “Black Lives Matter” truly encompasses.
It is not unknown that Asians have prejudices against other minorities. Many of our relatives and friends may even oppose and condemn BLM themselves. As a BIPOC community that is under the same shackles of white dominance as so many others, we ask ourselves, why is it so hard for our community to come together and support BLM? Why have we faced so much division this year upon the surface of this question?
We can trace these prejudices back to the infamous Model Minority Myth -- a narrative pushed upon the Asian community to portray them as impassive, agreeable, and superior in school and work. It was pushed during the 1960s that signified a dramatic change in the way Asian communities in the U.S. were treated and viewed, this reverent and respected image of the AAPI community contrasted with the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese concentration camps just years prior. Unashamedly, it was promoted in the media to essentially garner sympathy of Asian Americans and encourage assimilation lest they be stereotypes and shunned, which resulted in a sharp division in unity between the Asian American and African American communities, both of which were struggling for their rights and visibility at that point in history.
In light of the BLM movement, Gen-Z has brought significant attention to their own issues of internalized racism in their own loves, and have taken steps in the effort to dismantle something so ingrained in our community. But as we see Gen-Z tackle these issues, efforts of the youth are counteracted just as readily by older generations that fail to see the harms of this myth.
Gen-Z is significantly more open-minded, accepting, and outspoken when compared to previous generations, swept up in a sociopolitical and health crisis -- forcing us to unlearn, learn and educate each other. Racism, homophobia, transphobia fail to pass as easily they did in past years. We hold each other accountable.
Still, we see older friends and relatives oblivious to the implications of the Model Minority Myth. They pride themselves in this false notion that they are the “model” racial group in the face of Western society, that they are inherently smarter than any other minority, that they are the ones who remain calm, agreeable, and impassive. They find themselves stuck in this false narrative and pressure themselves in holding themselves to it, even though these stereotypes are in no way accurate nor fulfillable. In these unattainable standards, Asians harbor feelings of superiority and can tint their image of other minorities. In believing that they are the “model minority,” any other racial group can seem inferior, subordinate. Here, we see the risks of ignorance towards the harms of the Model Minority Myth -- the possibility of Asians wanting to fulfill it, instead… laying foundations for the pitting of the Asian community against other minorities and the enforcement of racist mindsets.
The Model Minority Myth pits minorities against each other and creates division between those oppressed under the same institutions and the workings of white supremacy. It is counteractive towards the unity in Asian communities and other racial groups and harbors hostility in Asians towards “lesser” or “inferior” races, reflecting the ideas that the Model Minority Myth enforces. As Asians look upon themselves as the “model” or the “better” race, it only sets the stage for them to look down upon other racial groups as not successful, agreeable, or intelligent as them.
There has been noticeable racism in the Asian community against Black people. Asians look at the Black community of individuals that are “inherently” violent, and stray away from those that look “suspicious” and have prejudices and preconceived notions about Black men, in particular, above any other demographic. Stemming from systematic racism from slavery and forward, the myth of Black racial inferiority has manifested itself in the beliefs and everyday practices of Asians worldwide. Being violent is not something that is inherited genetically. It is a trait that is nurtured through one’s environment, and is definitely not just limited to the Black community. Generalizing an entire racial group off a single stereotype enforces racism and racial profiling, contributing even further to the systemic and systematic struggles that Black people face every single day.
The Asian community has those that are violent, that are addicts, that are unstable, that are struggling, that aren’t smart, and more -- just like any other racial group. Asians are not a “perfect” minority. When that is acknowledged, it opens one’s eyes to the universalities of imperfectness, of human adversities. When human struggles are tied to a single minority group, it criminalizes them and puts them at a disadvantage in the eyes of the law and at the hands of the general public. The mass outlook on the Black community is something that cannot go unnoticed. Racism has its origins. It doesn’t appear out of thin air.
We have heard our relatives say “all lives matter,” not understanding the context and the need for a statement like “Black lives matter.” We have heard it time and time again, we have repeated it endlessly -- all lives can't matter until Black lives do. We see Black people getting shot, killed, harmed and the justice system does not do them justice. People are mad. People are tired. If George Floyd was an Asian man, if Breonna Taylor was an Asian woman, if Tameer Rice was an Asian child… we might finally understand sympathy, as a community. We would get a glimpse into the years of oppression and frustration that the Black community fights every day. We would understand why they shout “Black lives matter” in the streets.
It does not need to happen directly to us for us to care.
It is the goal of the Model Minority Myth to alienate us, to make it seem like we cannot sympathize with oppression because we are intelligent and resilient, grouping us into a false standard that jeopardizes our mental health and cultural beliefs. Yet we can’t sympathize with our white counterparts, either, because we are still oppressed under a white-dominated society and institutions built off years of hatred and hostility towards BIPOC.
It is our job to fight these myths and narrow this gap and division that colonization has created between us and other minorities that need our support and help.
As the Asian community, we have to stop being complacent with white supremacy and check ourselves and our internalized prejudices. We have to see in what ways colonization has affected our society culturally, and dismantle the harmful effects of imperialism in our everyday lives. We have to own up to our own faults and misconceptions and realize we are not a “model minority,” and we are not any more “white” or “privileged” than any other racial group.
We can look to Yellow Peril for Black Power as the Asian community reclaimed a condescending term that was used against us for years to empower and uplift those that were being silenced and oppressed. A phrase once used to alienate Asians from the Western world, Yellow peril is no longer a term of shame and cowardice, it has been morphed into one of renewed pride and zealousness, joining with the Black community to express it’s support, first spoken by Mao Tse-tung on behalf of the Chinese community in 1963:
I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practised by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination.
BLM is not the first time African Americans have spoken up about the injustices and flaws in the institutions in the U.S., nor is it the first time we have seen mass opposition to this fight. BLM has been labeled as a terrorist organization, an extremist group. We cannot let these accusations sway us. What we need is cooperation and support amongst minorities. Hatred, fighting and prejudice will not get us anywhere.
This is what we need to see in our society, the unity between those fighting against a system that has been made to quiet our cries for help and screams in protest.
We win nothing from hatred, we win nothing from hostility. At the end of the day, we are all still fighting against race-based violence, xenophobia, police brutality, imperialism, and more.
We have so much more that joins us than what divides us.
George Floyd's murder by Minneapolis police this year sparked the rise of the BLM movement, starting a record-breaking wave of global support through protests, petitions, donations, and advocacy. Though as much as there was alliance and coalition, we saw major pushback and opposition to the BLM movement. As a member of the Asian community, this year forced us to introspect and uncover our own prejudices, ones most likely fueled by the long standing Model Minority Myth. By dismantling these views, we open our minds and hearts to unity and sympathy with the Black community in their struggle for visibility and justice.
Cover Photo Source: Medium