Updated 5/31/2020: An Education section has been added to the Resources section and Black has been edited to its proper adjective form. A list of resources is available at the end of this article.
To my other Asian Americans,
I realize that I’m screaming into a void. It’s likely not many people will read this, but if this reaches even one of my cultural siblings, then I implore you:
We need to do better.
Our voices cried out as our communities suffered not even three months ago. We were saddled with a worldwide pandemic’s worth of blame, we were facing scrutiny in restaurants, workplaces, and homes, we were hit and slandered and kicked to the side, we were hurting. We stood up, we advocated, we fought the rhetoric that tried to shut us down. We felt it as one.
Why have we fallen silent?
We need to face the reality: we, as the Asian American community, have not done enough to help our Black neighbors. We never did. Instead of coming together to give them our hearts, we have reached back into the fearful, hate-ridden norms we call our “culture” and pushed them away. We have left them to suffer, to perish, all while we subscribed to systems that only promised them a bleaker future. And for what? So our oppressors would learn to tolerate us as they spat on and killed the people we left behind? So we could fool ourselves into thinking we are inherently smarter, more hard-working, better than our subjugated equals? So we could stand complicit to the murders of countless Black folks, all while we turn our noses away?
There is a Chinese proverb that encapsulates this philosophy well: 各家自扫门前雪. In Cantonese, that’s gok gā jih sou mùhn chìhn syut, or, “Everyone only sweeps the snow in front of their house.” But we have lived like this for far too long, and we cannot continue living like this anymore.
Let go of your racist ideals and look at the fundamental reality: Black people are being hurt, pillaged, and killed for the color of their skin, and what is just about that? How is any of this right? How much longer must we look down from our supposed privileges before we realize it is our duty to help the hurting neighbor? How much longer must we hide behind fear before we realize there are injustices that need our fight? How much longer will we claim that “they’re more violent,” or “we don’t care about politics,” or “it isn’t about us,” tossing out petty excuses and cop-outs until we can pretend we have cleared ourselves of anti-Black blame?
No community survived by sweeping the snow only in front of their house.
The Black Power Movement fueled the Asian American Movement in the 1960s; if you are an Asian American, there is a good chance you, your family, and your ancestors are here because of the movements Black activists spearheaded. But what matters most now is that they are hurting, they are being unjustly punished, and they need us to help. They have suffered for years. Decades. Generations.
And we’ve failed them.
I should not need to convince you that they need our help by listing all the ways Black activists have furthered Asian American sociopolitical movements. I should not need to convince you by throwing out the hypothetical, “What if that were us?” and I should not need to ask you if you know a Black friend, teacher, coworker, or the like. I should not need to convince you, because by denying their pain and the injustices they face, you are denying your most basic sense of empathy, and, honestly, you are casting away what makes you human. If you can only understand that via your own self-interests, then I have nothing more to say to you.
But if you are still listening, this is what I can say. We must stand by their side, but not take their place at the podium. We must challenge the cultural norms, Asian or American, that brought us to this stubborn complicity. We must not shut down or negate their anger, sadness, or frustration, but rather accept that they are angry, sad, and frustrated; in doing so, you might feel angry, frustrated, and hurt, too, and that is completely normal.
Know that, contrary to what your bowdlerized fifth grade U.S. history book taught you, Rosa Parks was not simply too tired on that bus, but it was her radical activism that powered the seat that started a revolution. Martin Luther King Jr., the man many weirdly immortalize as some sort of perpetual pacifist, said this in his speech, “The Other America.”
“A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
Before asking, “Why aren’t they protesting peacefully?” consider how many peaceful protesters have not been heard, some silenced forever. Including King.
Above all: give them our hearts and our fight, and do not let the flame die out. Be active, be angry, but do not be apathetic.
Dear Asian Americans:
Black lives matter, and it’s time we stood up for that.
Check out Letters for Black Lives, a multilingual project that transcends cultural barriers in order to directly address anti-Blackness in immigrant groups and communities of color.
Also check out this list of readings on Black Theory.
This is a good Instagram post about anti-Blackness in the South Asian community and how to challenge it.
…and another great article by Kat Chow of NPR on the model minority myth in regards to Asian Americans and Black Americans.
If you want to donate to the official George Floyd memorial fund, click here.
Both the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Racial Justice Network bail protesters out and hire lawyers to represent them.
- If you want to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, click here. However, they have stated that they have a surplus of funds and recommend donating to other organizations, too.
- If you want to donate to the Racial Justice Network, click here.
The North Star Collective coordinates medics and other healthcare resources to work directly with organizers and protesters. If you would like to donate money and/or supplies, click here.
The Black Visions Collective is an activist group in Minnesota cultivating Black leadership and campaigns. If you would like to donate, click here.
Reclaim the Block is a grassroots organization advocating for Minneapolis’ marginalized populations, including its Black, LGBTQ, indigenous, and immigrant communities. If you would like to donate, click here.
If you would like to donate directly to Black Lives Matter, click here.
Taking direct action
Refer to these links for:
- General protection for what you might face during a protest or riot.
- Tips to protect yourself from tear gas.
- Information on pepper spray and how to mitigate its effects.
- And – I resent that I even have to include this, but – tips to treat a gunshot wound, should it come down to that...
Some final notes from me: if you want to protest, make sure you check and double-check the organizers, as alt-right groups and police forces have set up false demonstrations to coerce protesters. Beware that Donald Trump has threatened violence against protesters; protect yourself and be prepared for any attacks they may levy. Wear proper face coverage and, similarly, do not share images or footage that can identify protesters, as they can be used against them by authorities in the future. Lastly, we are still in the midst of a pandemic! COVID-19 is rampant all around the United States, so bear that in mind as you decide what to do.
These are scary times, which makes our solidarity all the more valuable. Take action, and fight for what’s right.