Seriously Asian-America, whose side are you on?
Are you gonna get with the program and pound your feet on the pavement? Are you gonna do what’s inconvenient and help call white supremacy out when it has its hands on minority throats?
Or are we gonna play the model minority card?
Or feign indifference?
Or point the finger at ‘those undeserving black people’ because ‘they didn’t work as hard as we do?’
This is the penultimate question that needs to be asked amongst all of us here in America. After the violence that happened in Charlottesville earlier this month, I began to wonder if this will spur more of us in our community, including myself, to act and fight alongside other people of color when more of these hateful rallies roll into town in the near future. However, folks like Chris Newman, a Charlottesville farmer and native, remind us that it isn’t always the tiki-torch bearing Alt-Right mongrel that dehumanizes us. Sometimes, it’s that hipster asshat with his artisanal cookie shop and winery. Sometimes, it’s that liberal white chick who’s really into exercise:
It isn’t Richard Spencer calling the cops on me for farming while Black. It’s nervous White women in yoga pants with “I’m with Her” and “Coexist” stickers on their German SUVs.
Newman also added that for Black people in general, places like Charlottesville are filled with business that use Blackness for their own gains without employing any Black Americans in the mix. In addition, Black Americans’ lack of representation in the town pigeonholes them into tropes and symbols stripped of any depth, while its other citizens (da white pipo) occupy a variety of depictions that other POCs would friggin’ die for:
Check out C’Ville Weekly’s Instagram feed when you get a moment, and try not to notice that the few depictions of Black people are limited to sports, singing, criminal justice, or single parenthood. White people, meanwhile, are represented as political activists, chefs, cogs in the gig economy, musicians, dancers, people who get married, visual artists, songwriters, architects, landscapers, thespians, artistic directors, wedge-heel-wearing rugby players, dog lovers, farmers, firefighters, and people who play with their kids in cul de sacs.
Richard Spencer is not the editor of C’Ville Weekly.
Truth is, as a Black dude, I’m far less bothered by the flag wavers in this picture than this town’s progressives assuming its race problem has nothing to do with them. The former is a visual inconvenience. The latter could leave my daughters without a father.
I was shocked and angered about what I saw at Charlottesville. Hell, I still am. However, we can’t kid ourselves here and say that this was unprecedented. We can’t keep acting like ‘Oh dear, this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’ What I’m trying to get at is that none of this shit started with the Alt-Right steamroll of Charlottesville. None of this started with Trump or with ‘Crooked Hilary’ or with the end of the Obama Presidency.
It starts when you give off that suspicious look to somebody darker than you on your Saturday morning jog.
It starts when you touch somebody else’s hair without permission, even though you have blonde hair and you wouldn’t dare let anyone else bump into you, let alone touch your hair.
It starts when you show amazement at how ‘articulate’ your ‘ethnic’ co-worker is when you finally have the gall to say hi after avoiding them in the office kitchen for six months.
It starts when you feel obligated to ‘save’ others, or pretend to want to learn about their ‘interesting’ culture in tone-deaf Facebook posts.
It starts when you follow Black kids around your store all the fucking time for no damn reason.
It starts when you give your darker customers wrinkled, furrowed looks but smile like you just discovered the goddamned sun when a white customer walks in.
It starts when you parade around New York to defend Peter Liang. That’s right, Peter-fucking-Liang.
It starts when you do stupid shit like this:
Notice that what I wrote seems so interchangeable between white folks and Asians. We talk about white oppression a LOT in this country but don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that we Asians in America don’t engage in that kind of shit either because these small and seemingly insignificant actions can add up into full-blown beliefs that dehumanize other people of color. As a result, we are compelled to look at darker people with suspicion and prejudice. This is why beauty shop patrons can get hurt or killed for nonsense in this country. This is why our pals from the Old Country make insensitive skits and advertisements that denigrate people of African descent even though they have the resources to better inform themselves. This is why we crave these Anglo-centric ideals of success that puts us AND other minorities on the backseat. This is why we just don’t give a shit. This is why we are silent. We don’t want any trouble. We just want to be left alone. We just want to ‘live in peace.’
In response to this indifference, groups like Asian-Americans Advancing Justice or Letters for Black Lives have emerged to bridge the chasm. These groups are important because they realize that the battle against both racism and White Supremacy must begin by looking inward. They know that the Asian-American community is not monolithic, but diverse. However, they know all too well that no matter how many well-meaning members of our community show-up and do our part to help speak up or protest, we will still have the specter of Anti-Blackness hanging over us. We will still be related to the family member that talks bad about Black folks in our restaurants. We will still be the man that makes money off of Black beauty supplies in Black neighborhoods. We will still be the assholes that have the nerve to sell you booze all day long while decrying that ‘you should stop being lazy and get a job.’ We still killed Akai Gurley. We still defended Peter Liang.
Sebastian Whitaker from Affinity put it to us this way:
The idea that just because we are Asian and have our own history of oppression does not justify our anti-blackness. We are still partaking in and perpetuating harmful ideas which still oppress black people today. Depicting black people as “thugs” and “gangsters” is a tired trope which has led to many negative outcomes such as the hyper-incarceration of black men, as they are viewed as inherently being angry and guilty of crimes.
We also need to deprogram this mentality that “we’re not like them”. This model minority myth in which we’re “hard-working” and “successful” as Asian people is harmful in itself, but also should never be used as an attempt to dehumanize black people in order to please white supremacy. “We’re not like them” is saying we’re better than them, and stereotypes black people as being poor criminals while we’re the hard-working and successful Asians who overcame our oppression and essentially assimilated into whiteness. In reality, while we obviously have our differences, we’re not better or worse than each other, just different. We shouldn’t have to bring down black people in order to raise us up, especially to adhere to white supremacy.
So to sum it all up, we need to do more. We SERIOUSLY need to do more.
I’m not here to stomp on the real progress Asian-American activism is doing. I’m not an authority on this, and I’ve only started waving my signs this year. However, I’m here to stomp on myself for not being on the streets sooner. I’m mad at myself for not walking the beat to yell down bigots and I’m saddened to see us sulk in fear instead of marching with others. What you saw in Charlottesville might just be the beginning, but for a lot of people in America, this shit ain’t new. It’s time we call our people out and wake up. It’s time to quit chasing that whiteness that so many of our people crave. Put away your uber-hip Matcha cake, burn your collection of ugly-ass Abercrombie shirts and stop selling $14 Pad Thai. Use that time you spend on Yelp to engage with Black, Muslim, Latino and LGBT people and start the healing process. Use your ears to listen to others’ concerns about how we prey on other communities of color while rarely giving anything back in return. Use that money from your oh-so-fly white-collar job to go make a sign so that you too can protest like so many others did before us. Use that education (y’know, the education that your parents constantly talk to your relatives about?) to talk to your selfish, asshole parents about how racist they can fucking be, and tell them that you’re not okay with that bullshit.
Now, ask yourself one more time. Whose side are you on?