“Asian Americans are getting what we deserve. Since our community has been silent about anti-Blackness, we don’t deserve to speak about anti-Asian racism”.
In recent days, I’ve seen a number of people – Asian Americans – saying this on Facebook and elsewhere.
It makes me deeply, deeply sad.
These sentiments betray an internalized colonial mentality, presuming that Asian Americans somehow (A) have dropped the ball in being people of color and (B) would not face racially motivated violence if we had stood up for others. In truth, there’s a rich legacy and current reality of Asian American activism and interracial coalition building. Just because many aren’t aware of that doesn’t mean it hasn’t existed for 150+ years.
Supremacy works on Asian American history to erase our stories, including the very many times that our communities have come together to support others. Our accepting the lie that “Asian Americans have always turned a cold shoulder to Blacks and Latinxs” simply means that supremacy has succeeded in driving a wedge between us, other communities of color, and our shared histories.
There is still much work to be done. We need to understand how carelessly and wickedly America exploits and discards Black lives, bodies, cultures, and communities.
BUT that doesn’t mean no one is, or has been, doing this work in our Asian American communities.
I’ve noticed a pattern of Asian Americans saying “no Asian Americans are doing x – someone needs to step up and represent!” It’s extremely clear that what this actually means is “I haven’t done the research to find out what Asian Americans are doing x. Rather than go through the trouble, I’ll assume I’m the first to ever think about this.”
In saying this, people are subtly elevating themselves above the rest of the community (contemporary and historical). It’s another form of the “not your average Asian”/”not like other Asians” trope that needs to disappear. The stories of Bronzeville, Larry Itliong, Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Fred Korematsu, Warren Furutani, Mamie Tape, Hazel Ying Lee, the Third World Liberation Front, and so many others are powerful and deserve to be cherished.
Asian American Christians: we cannot make the mistake of speaking about our discipleship in a disembodied, ahistorical way – as though our relationship with God is not grounded in a particular time and place. That’s how God always meets and calls us!
Knowing and understanding Asian American history is crucial because it situates our life of faith. Even though these Asian American activists are not all Christian, we know that God uses all kinds of people in divine purposes of justice and the common good.
So – yes! Let’s fight anti-Blackness, be good allies, and be active in establishing new and more movements calling for justice. But please, let’s never assume that ignorance of the work already taking place is evidence of its absence.