Community: Meet an East Asian Activist in Bellevue, WA
Interviewer: Emily Feng; June 6, 2020
Interviewee's name has been removed for privacy.
Protestors gather even under the rain (Interviewee).
Could you tell us about yourself and your relationship to the current protests?
“My mom doesn’t let me eat at KFC when I visit America ‘cause she thinks we’ll get mugged since there’s so many black people there”.
I nervously shifted my gaze away from my friend’s face and forced a laugh out of lack of any better expression. That statement was messed up in many ways, but should I say something? Would that conversation merely leave an awkward, bitter taste on our friendship?
"That statement was messed up in many ways, but should I say something?"
I was only ten when I regretfully allowed myself to turn something blatantly racist into a comical moment, but I found myself in the same position countless times later with other friends and family. For numerous other young Asian Americans, this is a far too common experience. Although a majority of our friends and family are not as explicit with demonstrations of their discriminatory beliefs, more subtle but still harmful notes of racism permeates the Asian community through respectability politics, the model minority myth, cultural appropriation, co-option of black-lead social justice movements to mobilize opposition against affirmative action, complacency, and much more. Many of our parents and other relatives were hand-picked by American industries for their high skills and thus the myth of America being a meritocracy where the elevation of socioeconomic status would erase the struggles of race became deeply entrenched in their minds. We are often aware of problematic actions and rhetoric used by surrounding folks but refuse to confront the situation. It is difficult for me to put aside the expectation of agreement and politeness surrounding my loved ones, but my discomfort is menial compared to daily suffering endured by the BIPOC community sustained by the lack of solidarity of other POC.
"Although a majority of our friends and family are not as explicit with demonstrations of their discriminatory beliefs, more subtle but still harmful notes of racism permeates the Asian community...."
A few days ago after my family reluctantly let me attend the Seattle BLM protest ignited by social outrage over the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more. I accompanied thousands of other locals to listen to black religious leaders, black families who lost brothers and sisters to police brutality, and indigenous speakers. One message conveyed by Andre Taylor of “Not This Time” directed towards non-BIPOC allies deeply resonated with me: though conversations with other members of tight-knit ethnic communities may seem painstakingly counterproductive and frustrating at times, allyship does not mean solely confining activism efforts to yourself. Invigorate the people surrounding you with the same passion and vulnerability you have committed yourself to. Infiltrate your communities.