Racial tensions against people of color have been increasingly fueled by the proverbial fire of our nation’s current sociopolitical climate. In the Asian-American community, the color of our skin and even our religions (namely Islam) are being used as justifications for unfair, unjust treatment and legislation. To say the least, people of color are (for the most part) not huge fans of our current President. Now more than ever, you’ll see calls for unity, togetherness, and harmony as we all venture out onto the next four years. If there is anything that this past election has taught Democrats and Republicans alike, it is that divided we will indeed fall if united we refuse to stand. In an attempt to practice what I preach, I came up with 5 reasons that I believe Asian Americans should stand solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
REASON #1: They paved the way for all people of color.
Without the Civil Rights movement and all of our black brothers’ and sisters’ blood, sweat and tears–those same doors would be closed for other people of color–including us! What history fails to report to the masses is there was indeed an Asian-American Civil Rights movement in the ’60s and ’70s. Hot button issues included the Vietnam War, reparations for the Japanese people affected by the WWII internment camps, as well as the push for a space in the collegiate ethnic studies space. Essentially, along with black power came yellow power. In Amy Uyematsu’s 1969 essay entitled, “The Emergence of Yellow Power,” she proclaims, “…this ‘yellow power’ movement is relevant to black power movement in that both are part of this world struggle to liberate all colored people.”
REASON #2: Racial profiling also applies to us.
Asians are no strangers to violence and unrest under an oppressive system. We are no strangers to racial profiling, with Sikhs and Muslims under constant watch simply due to their religious beliefs. Even if we take a look back at historical events like the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, and the Delano Grape Strike, we remember a time similar to today where Asian immigrants had to fight to be seen as Americans. Imagine a time where you could not move to the United States simply because you were Chinese. Or a time where your entire family had to abandon their lives, jobs and businesses just to be moved to an internment camp simply for being Japanese. Fast forward to 2017, where Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning travelers from 6 Muslim-majority countries from getting new visas. Granted, Asian Americans are targeted in a different manner than African Americans, but we do know what it feels like to have the powers that be single us out simply because of the color of our skin.
Racial Profiling against Asian Americans pic.twitter.com/rx6yF34hbn
— Jean Lau Chin (@JeanLauChin) September 27, 2016
REASON #3: We know the feeling of being discriminated against for having darker skin.
Along with other Filipinos, I believe that this attitude towards black people stems from the influence from our own European colonizers – the Spanish. At the top of the 16th century, we were pretty much forced to take on these attitudes or run the risk of being a threat to the colonizer’s agenda. Being lighter in skin tone became socially praised when a huge part of the Asian community are brown Asians. All of a sudden darker skin color became synonymous with being poor and uneducated. This theme certainly rings true with the black community, which leads me back to the point of why Asian Americans should stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. To bring this point home, according to the #Asian4BlackLives’ website, “mass incarceration, gentrification, unequal pay, mass unemployment, and inaccessible housing, education, land, fresh food, water, and healthcare are some of the other manifestations. In standing with Black people in this struggle, we are therefore standing not only against racist police violence but against all war tactics.”
— Hal Dockins (@HalDockins) July 11, 2016
REASON #4: We need to educate the rest of our community.
In July 2016, the Angry Asian Man reported that Christina Xu, along with hundreds of other Asian Americans, crowdsourced and wrote an “open letter to our own Asian American families addressing the shootings [of] Castile and Sterling and the urgent issues of the Black Lives Matter movement.” Read their letter here.
Angry Asian Man goes on to report that this began as a series of tweets from Xu “who’d seen how Asian Americans had reacted negatively to previous police shootings of black Americans and wanted to do something proactive to change their perspectives.”
REASON #5: Supporting Black Lives Matter is standing on the right side of history, regardless of your ethnicity.
What side of history do you want to stand on? Would you be proud to tell your grandchildren that you fought for justice? In Sathvik Nair’s “Letters for Black Lives: South Asian American Version,” he so eloquently reminds us all:
“More than a century ago, Sri Lankan and Indian religious leaders visited the U.S. and spoke out in support of Black Americans. In the 1950s, Indian freedom fighters shared nonviolent civil disobedience tactics with Black civil rights activists. In the 1960s, Pakistani Professor Mirza Hamid Kizilbash challenged racial segregation in Jackson, Mississippi. Today, many of our community members are starting to support movements like Black Lives Matter. We can choose to continue this 100-year tradition.”
Don’t stand on the sidelines and wait for someone else to fight. Your voice is just as loud and important. This is my plead for us to speak up in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, my fellow #YLWRNGRs!