(TW: Police Brutality)
Dear Asian Youth,
I cannot speak on behalf of the Black community nor do I intend to. Rather, I hope to raise awareness and use this platform to do so. The attention belongs solely to Black people, and we need to listen to what they have to say. As an Asian American, I will not speak for the Black community or dictate how they should feel. I do not want to overstep by any means but hope to educate fellow Asians and to provide perspective. Marginalized groups should stick together and support each other in the fight against oppression, as we are stronger together. For instance, following the coronavirus, the Black community called out the xenophobia and racism towards Asians. The privilege we have and the anti-Blackness that persists within our community must be recognized and addressed. Our privilege allows us to bring awareness to the racism in our society, and as the number of tragedies continues to surface, we cannot enable ourselves to become desensitized.
#AllLivesMatter is not something we should be supporting. It is only used to invalidate the #BlackLivesMatter movement and was not born until after #BlackLivesMatter began. Notice how paradoxical it is that #AllLivesMatter is not used as an argument to justify gun control or counter-argue coronavirus protests. Yes, all lives do matter, but currently, Black lives are the ones at stake. As Asians, we cannot simply look away from the injustices Black people face, just because we aren't directly affected. This movement does not discredit our hardships, and we should not silence Black individuals; it is their turn to speak and we must listen.
As you may have heard, George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by white police officer Derek Chauvin. The video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, despite Floyd yelling that he could not breathe, quickly surfaced online and gained rapid attention. In the video, the Asian police officer literally turned his back on Floyd, when he could have easily prevented the murder. As allies, we must take action and do better. It is not the Black community’s job to educate us. We are responsible for doing that ourselves. We cannot support cops because they serve and defend a racist institution, instead of the people they swore to protect. When protesters arrived at Chauvin’s house, dozens of cops surrounded his home to shelter him. The arrest was not made until controversy arose, petitions were signed, and his second address was found. The arrest was not made until his safety was compromised. Even then, he was only charged with third-degree murder, which is consistent with accidentally shoving someone to death. Almost nine minutes of intentionally choking a man should be deemed as first-degree murder. Not to mention, the other three officers involved in the murder of Floyd were not initially charged. While they did not physically murder Floyd themselves, they all bear responsibility as they were complicit in the murder. They watched as Chauvin pinned Floyd down. It was only after public outrage that Chauvin’s charge was raised to second-degree murder, and the remaining three cops were convicted of their crime. The system continues to fail Black people, just as it has failed them for the past four hundred years. For instance, institutionalized racism stems far deeper in our nation than most realize. American policing was founded upon anti-Blackness: it originated upon slave patrolling, which remains evident in the similarities between modern police and slave patrol badges. To be proper allies, we must work to actively reform the law enforcement system.
Think back to the first time you drove a car. It’s known as a universal teenage experience. Except, Black teens have to be prepared on how to act if they are pulled over, the same way women are told how to act to avoid sexual harassment. For example, Mark Mesle, a parent who inquired Curious City about police brutality, found it necessary to have open conversations on such matters with his Black children. Television host and author Karamo Brown reveals that, in fear of being racially profiled, his son refused to get his license. Whenever I even see a police car on the road, I'm filled with anxiety. I cannot even begin to fathom the fear Black people feel when driving past a police car. On top of worrying that their parents will be angry at them for speeding, they also fear encounters with law enforcement that may end with death. While we worry about running a stop sign, Black men and women worry about not making it out alive and not being able to come home to their families. As Asians, we must recognize that the lack of police brutality we face is a privilege in and of itself.
Although it is important to attack racism within our community, we should not treat it as performative activism. For example, Asian-American Ziad Ahmed was accepted into Stanford after writing #BlackLivesMatter one hundred times for his essay. While it may seem like he is spreading awareness on the surface, the act seems performative. Ahmed publicly endorsed a politician that drafted the 1994 Crime Law and prides himself in encouraging mass incarceration, which specifically targets Black communities.Thus, to be allies we cannot be hypocritical and support cases of anti-Blackness. We cannot be selective in our activism and choose to only bring awareness to issues that affect us. We should not use the movement as a ploy to seem progressive.
As Asians, we have been deemed the “model minority” for decades. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 only allowed Asian immigrants who were skilled and well-educated to enter the country. Therefore, our people were pre-selected to be successful in American society. We were painted by the media to be good, law-abiding citizens and were expected to be an “example” for other minorities. Black people, on the other hand, lived through generations of genocide and were forced to perform back-breaking labor. Ultimately, this created a divide between Asians and Blacks. In addition, we benefit from white privilege because of the model minority myth. Yes, Asians have experienced an enormous amount of racism throughout American history, but it is drastically different than the oppression the Black community has faced and continues to face today. It's the same reason why non-Black POC cannot say the n-word. Black and POC are not synonymous. We simply do not experience the same discrimination. We are not racially profiled to be considered dangerous by society, as evident when comparing how police treat us versus our Black counterparts. When we protest Asian discrimination, we do not have to worry about being tear-gassed; we do not have to worry about being shot by the National Guard; we do not have to worry about hiding the protestors’ identities in fear of everyone “mysteriously dying” the same way the Ferguson protesters did. It is essential that we are aware of our privilege and Black experiences.
So how can we be proper allies? If you witness an act of discrimination, intervene instead of just being a bystander filming the hate crime. Do not spread graphic videos of death, even if the intent is to spread awareness, because it can be triggering and insensitive. If you see racist remarks on social media, especially from authoritative figures, call out their actions. If they proceed to choose ignorance, contact their employers or schools. User @killthelove on Twitter articulated that for non-Black POC, our activism must “start at home. It starts with correcting our families and the people around us and calling them out on their bigotry, no matter how uncomfortable it may be or who you make mad in the process.” Confront your friends, family, and favorite celebrities who choose to remain silent. Check up on your Black friends and ask how you can help. Allow Black people to speak on their experiences and boost their platform. Do not post selfies or beach pictures on Instagram during these times. Spread the word. Protest. Sign petitions. Donate to non-profit organizations helping the movement and families affected. Deliver protective gear and spray bottles to protestors. Use your privilege to prevent violence against protestors. Vote, especially in local elections. Contact your mayors, local representatives, state senators. Be actively angry. We have to fix and address the anti-Blackness that plagues our community. Black lives matter every single day, not just when it is trending. We cannot pretend we fully understand their struggle because the reality is, we will never understand even a fraction of their pain. We can only do our best to help fight for justice and let their voices be heard. As Angela Davis, a writer and activist, said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Repeat after me:
Black Lives Matter.
- Tia and Sunna
Resources to Donate to:
Petitions to Sign:
Text “FLOYD” to 55156 and “JUSTICE” to 668366
People to Contact:
Minneapolis District Attorney, Mike Freeman, demand justice for George Floyd
Jacob Frey, demand justice for George Floyd
Text “RESIST” to 50409