With the recent killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and other black victims dying in the hands of the police, every individual in America must fight against racism, especially racism that is targeted at African Americans. This extends way beyond changing white people and white culture, but for my fellow Asian Americans as well.
Anti-Blackness is not a problem that is unique to white people– Asian Americans are also responsible for Anti-Black sentiment in our communities. Just because we are both minorities in America does not mean we are allowed to acquit ourselves from Anti-Blackness. This is where the Model Minority Myth plays a vital role, both in the suppression of Black voices and in creating an emotional distance between Asians and African Americans. The essence of the Model Minority argument is that because some minorities manage to succeed, the system cannot possibly be racist. The insinuation is that all it takes for a minority to succeed is “hard work.” The Model Minority Myth brutally puts minorities against each other and praises the winner as a shining example of how our system is fair. The myth is also used by the “winning” minority to separate itself from others’ suffering. Examples that I hear all the time include the opinion that Asians simply have a better work ethic, or that our culture itself is somehow superior which is the reason that we succeed where others do not. Currently, most Asian Americans believe the Model Minority Myth and are pointing to their own history of suffering in early America as an example of how they managed to overcome it and how it is the fault of other minorities that they are unable to do the same. The important takeaway is that it takes more than hard work to overcome racial boundaries, it requires active awareness and effort from both parties. That is what Black Lives Matter wants to accomplish.
While it is true that we still face discrimination today, most of us do not need to be afraid of getting gunned or choked down for running, sleeping, shopping, etc. This is not an assumption, statistics show that Asian Americans have the lowest chance of being killed by a police officer of any demographic. However, this is a sad reality for our Black friends and classmates. Although they make up only 13% of the United States population, black people are the target of 24% of police killings. A common argument heard is the Black community committing more crimes than other races; however, the issue is that Black men and women are about five times more likely to be stopped without reason compared to white people. A system that specifically targets African Americans can obviously be expected to make more arrests on the Black community. I applaud my fellow Asian Americans who are standing with the Black Lives Matter movement; however, it is undeniable that we need to do a better job of addressing and fixing the anti-Blackness in our community based on pure human decency.
We can not ignore the instances of anti-Blackness in our community. In 1991, Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl, was shot in the back of the head by a Korean store owner in Los Angeles. In 2014, New York City police officer Peter Liang and his partner were at a public housing development when Liang fired his gun and killed a 28-year-old Black man named Akai Gurley. Asian man Tou Thao found no problem in watching his white colleague, Derek Chauvin pin down George Floyd, a Black man, by the neck with his knee until Floyd could not breathe. There are even more everyday examples of anti-Blackness in some Asian communities: Asian store owners profiling Black customers, Asian customers using skin-whitening products, or members saying the N-word out loud. Maybe it is even the racist comment your uncle says at the dinner table, but never in public. It is incredibly easy for us to hide these crimes, to wish them away and ignore them. It is so convenient for us to blame White people– to draw attention to their crimes and hope to hide our own. However, the truth is, our hands are not clean, and we have to change.
We need to remember that our history also includes a strong tie with the Black community. Black activists have started movements and fought for rights that have benefited Asian Americans, Latinx people, Native Americans, women, and LGBTQ+ people. For Asian Americans, the African American led Civil Rights Movement in 1960 inspired us to take action in our struggle for equality. This opened the way for the rights we enjoy today. With the result of this Black activist-led action, in 1965, the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act lifted restrictions on immigrants to the United States which benefited Asians such as my parents. Furthermore, the movement overruled anti-miscegenation laws leading to open admissions at institutions for higher education that benefit Asians today. I, as well as my Asian American friends, would not even be at St. John’s without this movement. Furthermore, we all listen to Black rappers, cheer for Black athletes, use Black slang, and wear Black streetwear, so we should extend that same love for Black culture to Black people.
“Don’t get involved,”
“It’s not our business,”
“We are minorities too,”
These are the phrases we are raised with as Asian Americans, but we need to be the ones to break this ignorance. We have to support Black lives and battle against anti-Blackness in our country and community. Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not take away any of our rights as Asian Americans. By realizing that we are also capable of wrongful behavior and evil against Black people is the first step to being part of the solution: be an ally at the dinner table, gently call out family or friends who are making racist comments or jokes, realize that as a non-Black person, you have privilege that can be used to support Black lives, keep educating yourself by reading books and listening to podcasts, be proactive by signing petitions, donating money, and attending protests, lead with love. Let us all have love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering. This is not the time to further divide ourselves; instead, we need to unite.
Edwardsa, Frank, et al. “Risk of Being Killed by Police Use-of-force in the U.S. by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Sex.” National Academy of Sciences. August 2, 2019. www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/police_mort_open.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2020.
Image : McGreal, Marcela. Solidarity. Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/marcelamcgreal/15829179718.