How to Support Black Lives Matter As An Asian Person

As an Asian woman growing up in Asia then moving to the UK, I was never publicly political. I experienced firsthand racism and discrimination (both in the UK and in Vietnam) but I’d learned to keep my head down and move along quietly. 

I still remember this one time at work — a White man in power made an ignorant and racist remark about a minority role model initiative. Some people laughed awkwardly and no one dared to challenge him seriously, including the Black colleague whom that remark was jokingly, disrespectfully directed at.

It was one of the rare times that I was moved enough to step out of my minority, introvert, non-native English speaker’s comfort zone and raise my voice against the White man who everyone looked up to. It didn’t go well. My calling him out was dismissed. I felt so upset and lost for words that I ran to the toilet and cried alone.

Afterward, I sought support from other minority colleagues and asked them how I could appropriately handle a situation like this. It was tricky because racism here is often disguised as jokes; it isn’t as overt as in other countries. It’s easy to be gaslighted into thinking you’re over-reacting. In the end, nothing happened.

So when it comes to racism in my daily life, the natural choice for me is to brush it off and not let it bother me. I’d think to myself that fighting will hurt me more and, as a middle-class Asian with a university degree and a decent full-time job, I can blend in peacefully anyway. 

But I know this is a statement of privilege. There are people who can’t afford to keep their heads down and move along quietly because they don’t have the benefits of positive biases; harassment and violence are targeted at them on a daily basis even in broad daylight.

To say I’ve never been publicly political is an unacceptable cop-out. I need to raise my voice because what’s happening right now isn’t just a Black people issue or American issue, it’s a human rights issue. It affects all of us. 

The question is: How do I support Black people and fight racism as an Asian person? 

Fight anti-Blackness in your Asian community 

Here’s a candid story shared by Twitter user @keilahhhjd about her experiences growing up with internalised anti-Blackness messages and how she’s learning to undo them:  

A message for my fellow Asians: I’m about to be VERY transparent with y’all. 

I was raised to be anti-Black by my anti-Black parents. I’m a Filipinx and, as a child, I was taught that Black people are “ghetto.” I was taught to hold onto my bag a little tighter when I cross paths with a Black person. I was taught to cross the street and lock the car doors when a Black person walks near. I was taught that Black people are dangerous, criminals, and low-income. I was taught not to date a Black man. 

I cared about Black lives and they did matter, but I was taught to dehumanise them by viewing them as uncontrollable rather than people. I was taught that only Black people that dress nice, spoke eloquently, and had a good job were respectable. Bonus points for being Christian.

I grew up thinking that appropriating Black culture was ok. I could not differentiate appreciation and appropriation. I spoke in their vernacular, sang their songs, said the N-word. I mean it’s ok because I had Black friends who were ok with it right?? WRONG! 

I was never called out on my actions. I thought it was “cool,” I did it to fit in. I was young, immature, and uneducated. 

As an adult, I became educated & aware of my own privilege as an Asian American & the oppression that Black people face on a daily basis. I learned about my own people’s oppression that was never taught in public school. I was able to attempt to sympathise and empathise with the Black community. Now, I do my best to educate my parents and others who don’t understand. 

Like many Asians, my parents did not have the opportunities in college to take cultural classes. Social media didn’t exist back then; they weren’t and still aren’t knowledgeable. They were raised with many generational differences preventing them from education. 

They are instilled with a “traditional” mentality and fell into the “model minority” trap, believing the false narrative that whites are superior. We immigrated to America thinking the whites could offer us better opportunities than our home countries. By doing this, we’ve succumbed to the white man’s hand. 

I still have so much more to learn and understand, but telling my story is the LEAST I can do to spread awareness.

This isn’t an uncommon story among the Asian community whether in the US or elsewhere in the world. It’s important that, as Asians, we own up to our part in this fight and take actions to be better allies. That means explaining how white supremacy and racism are devastating to all people of colour including Asians. It means explaining that when we stay silent, we are being complicit in reinforcing oppression. 

If you want to have a conversation with your family about racism and don’t know where to start, my writer friend Irving Ruan made an email template for you here.

Educate yourself

There are many books, articles, resources nowadays that will help you have a better and deeper understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-Black racism, or why it is important that you are an active ally. For example, this one by It’s Nice That or this one by The New York Times or this one by Glamour UK.

Test your own unconscious biases

You can take this Harvard Implicit Association test to check your unconscious biases towards race, weight, skin tone, religion, disability, sexuality, and so on.

Donate to groups supporting Black communities and victims’ families

American Civil Liberties Union

Black Lives Matter

Blackout For Human Rights

Black Women’s Blueprint

Campaign Zero

I Run With Maud

Reclaim the Block

Stand Up To Racism UK

The Bail Project

The Liberty Fund

Unicorn Riot

Sign petitions to get justice for the lost Black lives

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Justice for Belly Mujinga

Speak up 

If you have a platform, be it your personal Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, draw attention to Black Lives Matter and show support for the Black community. Break the silence in your community about anti-Black racism. Share work by Black creators. And if someone you know says anything anti-Black while watching the news coverage of the protests, take your time to correct them. 

Evolution starts with little things. Your voice matters.  

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