we have a race problem. (no shit.)
celebrating aapihm doesn't mean much if we're part of the problem.
this first part is for my fellow asian people, especially fellow east asians.
we come from cultures that are rife with casual racism and colorism, where we are taught, explicitly and not, to see ourselves as better than people with darker skin. i dare say most of us have grown up with casual racism, listening to elders openly and unabashedly spew their prejudice against black folx, latinx folx, southeast and south asians, while putting white people on a stupid pedestal. i certainly did, and i grew up in los angeles, which is supposed to be as diverse as cities come. growing up, koreans around me were quick to talk shit about black folx and latinx folx particularly, calling them lazy and violent, saying that, of course, they’re stuck in poverty and overweight with a prevalence of heart problems and diabetes. they won’t help themselves but expect others (aka whites) to help them.
it’s all racist, and it’s bullshit, but the thing is — i also dare say that many of us have internalized that racism and carry it within us. i’m willing to assume that many of us asians live with that impulse to align ourselves with whiteness, choosing to believe that, as long as we keep our heads down and don’t make noise, white people will accept us and let us move freely amongst them. call it the minority myth; call it some kind of stockholm syndrome where we’ve learned to empathize with the colonizer; but, whatever label we want to put on it, we have to be doing the work of undoing all that internalized racism and standing up for black folx, latinx folx, for all people of color.
rewiring our brains is hard work, and it’s really painful to confront that ugliness within us. i certainly don’t like to admit that i find myself thinking a lot of that same racist bullshit i grew up hearing. i hate to admit that, sometimes, when i read certain kinds of headlines, my first instinct is to pull up those narrow-minded, prejudiced thoughts. i don’t want to be that person; i want to think i’m better than that; but i have to be honest and say that parts of that racist, prejudiced person still live in me. i encounter her way more than i’d like to confess.
the thing that gives me hope, though, is that i know i’m able to change. just like i’ve rewired my brain to undo a lot of the misogyny i internalized since girlhood, i know i can work through the racism i internalized.
i share that not to show off or to make it sound like i’m some incredible person — i’m not. i’m as average as people come. i share that to say that change is possible; it is possible for us to change. we are all capable of being better people, of doing better, of serving our fellow kin (and i believe all people of color are fellow kin) better.
together, we are capable of building a better world together, of combatting oppression, of demanding justice and supporting each other and standing up to say, this [white] world we have is not good enough. it is not acceptable. in order to do so, though, we need to be clear where we stand and who and what we stand for, and we need to recognize that we need to do better by black folx, by latinx folx. we need to stand up alongside them, support them, ally ourselves with them.
and i know rewiring our brains is a process. we’re going to fuck up and say the wrong thing and make all kinds of mistakes. that’s okay; it’s inevitable because we’re human and we’re flawed. that shouldn’t stop any of us from trying, though, so just do the work of decolonizing your brain. be willing to listen and apologize when need be. get back up and continue to stand up for what is right, and, together, we can break down this racist system that was built on and continues to thrive on the bodies and labor of black folx and people of color while violently suppressing us.
and now white people — dude, i don’t care what y’all are posting on instagram and twitter or who you’re reposting/retweeting to signal your allyship. i don’t care which books you’re reading to educate yourselves about anti-racism. i care where you’re putting your money and bodies to stand up for black folx and poc. i care about whether or not you’re putting any of that social media signaling to work (and it will only ever be signaling unless there’s more behind it), like giving up work opportunities that aren’t yours to take and ensuring the right person of color gets those assignments, like making personal and professional sacrifices to ensure there is space at the table for black and brown bodies. i care about how you’re verbally and physically advocating for people of color in your daily lives.
i care about how you’re showing up every single day, not just on protest day.
this is similar to my problem with literary theory and philosophy. it doesn’t matter how much thinking you do, how much brain work you do, if you can’t pull all that theory down from the clouds and onto the ground.
if you think it’s unfair that i’m calling on asian folx to rewire their brains while requiring so much more from white people, step back and assess that for a second. why is that your first instinct? why does that make you angry and immediately put you on the defensive?
and, then, think about how poc are held to impossible standards while white people can barely be mediocre, but white people will still be given more opportunities, more basic human respect and dignity, more privilege, all because of the [lack of] color of their skin. and, then, think about how black folx and poc move about the world in fear of physical harm, how black parents worry when their kids come home late because maybe their kids have been arrested for no reason, maybe some dumb cops saw them in a corner store and decided they were stealing and shot them, how black folx throw their hands up in the air and regulate their facial expressions and voices and do everything right and still end up pinned to the ground until they die, begging to be able to breathe. and, then, think about that family in texas with young children who were attacked with a knife because they were asian, the asian woman in brooklyn who went out on her stoop to throw out the trash only to have acid thrown on her, the elderly asian man who was chased down a street and beaten.
then, if you still think it’s unfair that i, that people of color demand way more of you than the social media posts you can share thoughtlessly with a few taps of your finger, that we require you to bleed (figuratively) to bring about a more just, equitable world when you are continuing to benefit and profit off the bodies and labor of people of color while violently suppressing us, cry me a fucking river.