To The Black Community: Responding to the Atlanta Shootings & Anti-Asian Violence
In the wake of the racist and misogynist shootings in Atlanta, and the tragic incident of mass gun violence in Boulder, how can the Black community reflect and respond? Here are some thoughts for our community in light of feelings and thoughts that might come up in response to these events.
(Check out our last blog post in solidarity with the victims of the shootings)
Some in the Black (and Brown) community feel:
“….well, now they (Asians) know how it (racial discrimination) feels.”
To that I would say, many Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have known how it feels to be discriminated against since the beginning of their existence in this nation in great numbers since the mid 1800s (i.e. Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, etc.). The truth is that, for a long time, many non-Asian people of color and White people have failed to realize or take seriously these acts of discrimination, potentially because of the insidious model minority myth that enforces the idea that Asians are good law-abiding, productive citizens/immigrants, while at the same time, promoting the stereotype that African Americans and to a lesser degree Latinx people, are prone to crime and dependency pn welfare.
“…well, they (Asians) discriminate against us (i.e. Asian business in the Black community).”
To that I say — this is a time for solidarity, not for falling into the oppression hierarchy of who oppresses who. True, there are many instances of Asian American complicity in anti-Black racism. All communities, whether White or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color), should be examining their particular privileges in all arenas of our lives — including Asian Americans on issues of classism, racism, and misogyny (here are some tips on anti-racism for non-Black POC). At the same time, calling attention away from the particular issue of Orientalist racism and fetishization does not strengthen the cause of Black liberation, it only adds to the hurt and division caused by this most recent act of hatred.
“….this shooting in Atlanta happens and now they want to get all worked up over it.”
To that I say — this is not time to fall into “oppression Olympics” in terms of who is more oppressed than who. The Oppression Olympics is a game where nobody wins. Everyone committed to equity must decry every act of racism — not just ones that directly affect them. Remember that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Taking that quote seriously means committing to recognizing and fighting against all forms of oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Given all this, how should the Black community respond?
Audre Lorde famously said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you.” Liberation must be collective — it cannot happen if each individual or community is only looking out for their own needs. There is a commonality in racial oppression: it is predicated on stereotypes, prejudice, misinformation, ignorance, obliviousness, and fear. And whether Black or White, Asian or Indigenous, all are affected by the presence of racial injustice. Of course, the impact of different forms of racism affects everyone in different ways and to varying degrees.
To a White shooter, the impact of his own racism is the ruining of his life and likely borne out of an incredibly warped and damaged sense of self and their own racial identity. For the victims of his “bad day,” it meant death and terrible loss and fear for all who loved them. Of course these impacts are not the same and should not be seen as comparable. But seeing the intertwinedness of oppression doesn’t lessen the cause of Black racial justice — it broadens the possibilities for allyship, cooperation, and eventual flourishing. This is our call as a Black community to be allies and supportive of Asians as AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) groups and individuals have come out to support BLM, particularly in the last year.
In our work towards justice, let us extend hands, not resentment, to those who are all fighting against the same enemy of White supremacy.