I cried last night. Was it grief? Frustration? Or shame? A bit of all three, but mainly the last. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. So many others. I’m heartbroken. I’m outraged. But most of all, I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to feel this way.
How long did it take? How many innocent Black Americans had to be killed ruthlessly by the racist system that we call “law enforcement” for me to feel affected at a personal, emotional level? How many times did I have to see the same headlines over and over again until I felt internally distressed? I’m ashamed at myself, because for so, so long, Black Americans have been denied the right to walk their streets and live in their homes and be recognized for their humanity, and it was only just last night, after nearly 19 years of being alive, and after years and years of being aware of what is going on in our world, that I was beyond angered and beyond shaken. It was only last night that I felt the slightest, merest fraction of the internal pain that my Black community members have been subject to for hundreds of years.
I’ve been wanting to write something for the past few days, to use my voice in some way, but to be completely honest, I couldn’t think of anything insightful to say. Friends and activists and authors and role models have offered such compelling words, and anything I’d say would fall short. But today, I want to write the only thing that I know. And selfishly, the only thing I know is how I feel right now. And even that I find challenging to articulate.
My community is part of a really big problem. As an Asian American, specifically a South Asian American, I’ve only recently been made to really think about how my community’s actions and words help support a sickening, dangerous framework of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Let’s not forget that one of the four cops responsible for the killing of George Floyd was indeed Asian.
We are so very privileged. Yes, racism against South Asians and Asians as a whole is real, but nothing we experience comes close to the systemic oppression Black Americans have been subject to ever since they were enslaved by white imperialists on stolen land. It’s been rooted in this country from the start.
And when we as Asians are conferred the title of “model minority,” this false status comes out of direct oppression and anti-blackness. We are seen as a “model”– a “hardworking,” “lawful,” minority group– at the expense of Black Americans, and as a way to put down our Black counterparts, who were systemically denied the rights and privileges that most of us enjoy with relative ease. It’s shameful that it only truly occurred to me recently that these rights and privileges would not have been made possible if it weren’t for the tireless sacrifices made by Black leaders and community members. So when people in our community make uninformed, dangerous statements like “Black Americans need to work harder like we did” or “Black Americans need to move on,” they are categorically denying the suffering that has been forced onto the Black American population. Every time we as South Asians discredit the Black community or fail to recognize their unique struggles or ignore our own privilege, we deny the centuries of oppression that they have faced. And that very seriously makes us part of the problem.
I’m embarrassed, I’m frustrated. There’s a sense of helplessness, because this issue is so deeply rooted and it’s hard for me to understand the solution. I’ve been reading about how to get involved, I’ve donated a few dollars, made a few calls, and signed a few petitions, but I can’t help but think that I’m not doing enough. I don’t know what is enough. Is it even possible to treat this issue at a surface level? Is it even possible to change a system of politics and law and economy so deeply rooted in racial oppression without fully dismantling it? Is it even possible to address anti-blackness in my own ethnic community if people I talk to are so quick to deny the problem? How can I help? How can I do anything that ever really helps?
I have no answers and solutions, and nothing new to say. I have nothing to offer because so much has already been powerfully and eloquently delivered by those who know much more than me. I am in no position to impart any advice because I myself am seeking it. I can’t ever imagine the reality of being Black in this nation, and for now, all I feel like I can do is to educate myself. To keep reading, to keep engaging, and most of all, to keep listening. I am flawed in many ways. I have privilege that I probably still do leave unchecked. But I intend to keep learning.
Honestly, I don’t exactly know why I’m writing this. It’s just some emotions and reflections and feelings that I felt the need to pen down, and maybe share with the few that do pass by this blog from time to time.
To any of my Black friends who happen to be reading this, I am imperfect, but I am here to learn and listen and be a safe space if I can be. To my fellow non-black POC and white friends, we need to do so, so much better. To the brave people out there protesting and demanding justice from a racist system, so much respect and power to you. To anyone reading this at all, stay strong.
I want to end this with the beautiful words of Ruhel Islam, a Bangladeshi-American and the owner of Gandhi Mahal, a South Asian restaurant in Minneapolis which was damaged in the protests: “Let my building burn, justice needs to be served. We can rebuild a building but we cannot rebuild a human.”
Some resources that have been really helpful and inspiring to me, and have also revealed to me how little I know and how much there is to learn:
- How to Help Demand Justice for George Floyd (includes a list of places to consider donating to)
- South Asians, we need to step up for Black lives by Malavika Kannan
- 20+ Allyship Actions for Asians to Show Up for the Black Community Right Now by Michelle Kim
- An Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi
- Mass Incarceration by NPR’s Throughline Podcast (discusses systemic racism in the prosecution and “justice” system)
- Strange Fruit by NPR’S Throughline Podcast (discusses anti-black violence and the history and legacy of the racist “War on Drugs)
- A Decade of Watching Black People Die by NPR’s Code Switch (overall this podcast has been a really eye-opening resource to me)
- Revolutionary Violence and Pan Africanism by Hella Black Podcast (recommended to me by my dear friend Teanna <3)