For the final day of Asian American Pacific Islander Appreciation month, I'd like to talk once more about the importance of Asian-Americans supporting our black communities in their times of need. It's crucial that we continue to educate the world on why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important and relevant, no matter what race you are.
The Asian American Movement has been relatively recent, considering the immigration of Asians into the United States only really began in the late 1800s. However, the history of oppression of black people dates all the way back to the 1600s, to the roots of slavery. The path for the Asian American Movement was paved by the Black Power Movement and much of the achievements and legislation from that movement has also provided Asian Americans with the increased rights we have today. The Civil Rights Movement especially, was a time in history mostly associated with the Black Power Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. However, this legislation has transcended that movement and aimed to provide rights to all races in the United States.
As an Asian, I've noticed that in our community, there is an inherent racism towards black people that is taught to us from an early age. It's like there's this constant concept of a competition between minorities, and this constant thought "who deserves it more". Honestly what the hell is that. It's the "model minority complex" that has driven a wedge between blacks and Asian Americans.
For those of you who aren't really clear on what that is, it's a corrupted perception that Asian-Americans are all successful. In reality, it's an excuse made by white America to downplay the struggles of other minorities by saying "they can do it despite the racism they face, why can't you?"
Not only does this absolutely disregard the more intense racism black communities have faced throughout America, it also makes the generalization that all Asian-Americans are successful and rich. I recently did research for a new DeclarASIAN project that looked into the statistics on Asian-American income and poverty levels and the data was shocking. (Check it out here.) For example, it showed that 38.7% of Hmong Americans live under the poverty line as compared to the 12% of all Asian Americans that live under the poverty line. That's insane. So why are Asian-Americans generalized into this "model minority" category? Because having this argument allows for white America to avoid taking responsibility to address racial discrimination and consequential damage.
Arguments like "all Asian families have two parent households and a steady income and that's why they're successful" are simply overlooking the other factors that play into success and minimizing the role that racism plays in the struggles minorities face. Maybe black families can't afford to stay together and get a steady job because of the racism that is deeply embedded in America.
For generations, what has linked minorities has not only been our similar struggles through oppression, but also our goals in the end. Goals of equality and freedom for all.
I wrote a history lesson on Yuri Kochiyama a while back, and what amazed me the most about all her accomplishments was her commitment towards creating unity between the Asian and Black communities. She had described the impact of Malcolm X on the Asian American Movement, how he advocated for all minorities to have self-determination, and how he promoted learning about each others' cultures and history. She tried to emphasize that we are all fighting the same battle in the end, and together we are more powerful.
It's so frustrating how our society seems to be moving backwards, as Asian Americans--even some around me--still look down on blacks and downplay their struggles.
We too, have faced those struggles.
We too, have had those goals.
We too, strive for justice.
So I urge the Asian American and Black communities to come together in this crisis and support each other. By becoming part of the movement, we are giving our support to people in need. If we do not speak up for the black community and demand justice for them, we are just as guilty as the officers who killed innocent black people. By staying silent, we turn a blind eye like America has done for generations to the struggles that the black community in America has faced. So don't turn a blind eye. Don't stay silent. Support the black community in their time of need, like they have done for us.
Author: Carina Sun