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Editor's Take: Why #BlackLivesMatter to Asian Americans

Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men.

In 2019, black people comprised nearly a quarter of lives that were claimed by police, despite only making up 13% of the population in America.

We will never find a solution to this systemic problem if we can’t come together as a nation to take the first step: simply recognizing that something is extremely wrong. There is no fix, there is no solution, to battle the systemic problem when individuals cannot take the first step to simply recognize it.

I call upon my fellow Asian Americans to take that first step. When we think of discrimination, we tend to think of how we have been wronged by the United States. We think of the thick accents and unattractive faces, the emasculated stereotypes, the ostracization of our identities for comedic value. We think of the laws that barred our entry into the nation. It’s time to think about the disproportionately violent treatment that another minority - black Americans - face. The best approach to this issue, the only approach if we want change in this nation, is not to turn the other cheek and rouse only when it is our discrimination. Instead, we must demand justice.

When the footage of George FLoyd’s murder revealed an Asian American police officer standing nonchalantly a few feet away in FLoyd’s last moment, I felt immediate shame. The issue of police brutality has long been viewed as white police acting as the perpetrators. However, in this case, the involvement of Tou Thao is a reminder of the reach of inherent racism in the American police force, leading to the deaths that occur in the fields.

The Asian American community is comprised of refugees, descendants of survivors from war torn nations, ones who braved the actions of conflict and genocide built upon ideals of white supremacy. With this identity, it is clear as to why we are obligated to understand the purpose of standing against state violence. It is imperative that we recognize and acknowledge their struggles. How every day, being black can mean feeling terrified at the hands of law enforcement rather than protection.

When we look at the racist discrimination that both groups have suffered in this country, we can look at the paths of activism and progress that have occurred for both. More importantly, take a look at how our paths have crossed, producing historic wins for us. As the civil rights movement of the 1960s accelerated, the protests of black individuals further challenged the idea of a white America as acceptable. Dismantling the acceptance of normalized racism in the name of white supremacy led to major successes for Asians, such as the termination of the discriminatory Immigration Act of 1924, eliminating race-based quota systems that targeted Asian nations. The preference for “homogeneity” of white America would not have budged, had it not been for black activism.

Jama Abdirahman/The Seattle Globalist

Nowadays, it is even more imperative to recreate the unity, but this time, siding with the Black Lives Matter movement. Asian Americans have been far too complicit in the system that is hinged upon our historic oppressor. We commonly think of the model minority stereotype harming the validity of our achievements. But the stereotype is also discriminatory toward black Americans. Asian American success was weaponized by white supremacists, to further divide the minority groups and to pin one as inherently more successful than the other. It’s time to dismantle it, to build a bridge of sympathy and shared oppression and recognition of the suffering that is unique to one or the other.

Leaving ourselves ignorant only leaves our communities even more vulnerable. The Black Lives Matter movement is a check to the system of abuse, the one in which Asian Americans have repeatedly fallen victim to.

We can do our part in addressing the structural violence that contributes to racist murders in the hands of the police system.

Indeed, there is a generational gap in the recognition of unequal police treatment.

The unfamiliarity with the functions of racism in a multicultural nation means that conversations with older Asian Americans concerning the Black Lives Matter movement can be difficult to navigate. Now, more than ever, it is important to have these conversations. To approach the topic, remember to think about personal history. I know with my Vietnamese roots that the idealization of whiteness is all too real. French colonialism mirrors anti-black racism. Globally, I find a shadow of a sense of familiarity when it comes to fighting back against violent imperialist structures.

As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to an end, we should hallmark our achievements in this nation with a greater strive to create more allyship between Asian Americans and Black Americans to stand on the right side of justice.

I hope that in the wake of these senseless killings, more of our community can take the first step.

Rest in peace George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others who have died at the hands of police brutality.





The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Grassroots Leadership and Afro-Asian Solidarities: Yuri Kochiyama’s Humanizing Radicalism

by Diane C. Fujino

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

by Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates


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