As an Asian American, I’ve experienced my share of racism. While the Asian American community has experienced its own injustices, particularly with heightened xenophobia over the past few months, now is not the time to tell that story. George Floyd senselessly lost his life on Monday, May 25th. He did not have to die. His heartbreaking story rooted in a history of excessive force used against the Black community, often without repercussion, is one that is continually on repeat in America. Though I’ve tried to imagine it, I can’t pretend I know what it feels like to be in the shoes of a Black American. This is something I will never understand. I think my invisible load is heavy as a wife, mother, and caregiver. Admittedly, I’ve never stopped to consider how much heavier that must be for a Black American. I will never have to have a conversation with my children about comportment in front of police officers. The color of their skin will, in all likelihood, preclude them from an act of unreasonable force. I will never truly feel the desperation of wanting to breathe under the oppressive weight of four hundred years of sluggish civil rights progression. I just started the third session of my writing course. The assignment theme this week is travel. With all that’s going on in the United States, I’m finding it difficult to write about my own experiences that have been steeped in privilege. Instead, I am opting to time travel. How far in the future do we need to travel to arrive at a nation absent of inequality because of the color of your skin? My hope is that the events of the past week and a half will serve as a battle cry for all of humanity. May we come together, keep our gas on the pedal and propel ourselves forward into a nation absent of the abject injustice that disproportionately affects our black sisters and brothers. Today, racism permeates every day of our lives no matter what color your skin is. You either benefit from it or you suffer from it. So how can we expect to upend and change an insidiously embedded everyday reality for so many black Americans? The answer is action.
Action is the only way, but it’s important to acknowledge I am uncomfortable. Maybe many of you are too. I am uncomfortable with some of the dialogue as it’s opened my eyes to my unknowing passive participation in a social structure that has perpetuated inequality. I am uncomfortable in my privilege. I am uncomfortable that it took me nearly 37 years to take action. But I know now, as I hope many of you do, that doing nothing at all is to be silently complicit to an unjust system that sweeps racism and inequality under the covers. What has come to light is that it is no longer acceptable to not be a racist, you must be an anti-racist. It is time now for us to do a better job, to be active participants of the fight. We are responsible for shaping what is and isn’t acceptable in this new nation of ours. If we don’t, what kind of legacy are we leaving our children?
Like you, my week began with the news of Amy Cooper and her encounter with Christian Cooper. “I’m not a racist,” she claimed as she later defended herself on CNN. This single statement prompted a sobering moment of self-reflection. How could it not after the news of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd who echoed many stories of those that came before them like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Oscar Grant III. How many of us wouldn’t consider ourselves racist? But have we ever stopped to consider what it actually means to be racist? In my own experience, racism is associated with acts of violence, hateful speech, or it is a silent detractor in upward mobility. What Amy Cooper made very clear last Monday was that racism is also privilege and the power to use the privilege with no fear of the repercussions. She felt comfortable feigning an attack on her life because the society we live in has perpetuated the notion that black lives carry less weight than white. This CANNOT continue.
I don’t claim to know exactly what to do in this situation. All I know is that I don’t want to be on the wrong side of this fight. I am open to feedback on anything more I can do or on anything I got wrong. I am learning how to be an advocate, learning what it means to truly be an ally. I share my own experience in hopes that it might push you to do your part. I am listening. I am consuming media at an all-time high because there is so much to learn and consider. Many articles are giving suggestions on films to watch, podcasts to listen to, articles to read, Black-owned businesses to support and books to purchase. Beyond this, I am donating. Donating to organizations that support the injustices the Black community faces, donating funds to George Floyd’s family, donating bail funds to support those that have been arrested while protesting. The list goes on. I am demanding. Demanding justice through petitions. More than that, my outlook and go-forward mentality will demand change through my actions. Lastly, as a parent, I am educating. I am teaching my children. Today, as Dave and I were watching the news and having a discussion, Tessa asked us why we had been watching the news all day. During her bath, I told her the story of George Floyd and how he lost his life. “My heart is crying for him. Police Officers are supposed to be good people. Why did he [George] have to die? Why did the Police Officer do that?” Dave and I were unable to explain to our five-year-old the deeply rooted systemic reasons for his death. She wouldn’t understand. She was having a hard time understanding how this could even have happened to George. But what we did say, very simply, was that sometimes people are treated differently because of the color of their skin. It’s not something we do in this house. Everyone should be treated with the respect and kindness you would want to be treated with.
We finally got news the other three officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been charged. I personally have been waiting to hear this news all week as I’m sure many of you have as well. It’s a step in the right direction, but we are still far from the nation I see in our future. The most important part of succeeding in bringing this new nation to fruition is going to be consistency, not to let up on the fight. Let us continue to model with consistency the type of people we want our children to be. Through doing this, they will be the next generation of fighters ensuring this nation does, in fact, provide liberty and justice for all.
Below I've listed some resources I’ve been referencing and organizations I’ve been following and/or supporting. Please note this is not an exhaustive list, merely a very small list of resources and organizations, of the many, that are available at your fingertips.
“Here’s a list of more than 85 black-owned food businesses in L.A.” by the Los Angeles Times
"Black-owned businesses in L.A. say they're open and looking for support. Here's a list" by the Los Angeles Times
Anti Racism Resources by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein
8 Can’t Wait - A project aimed to reduce police violence
ACLU - The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
NCAAP - The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
Black Lives Matter - support the movement and BLM's ongoing fight to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.
Black Girls Code - not-for-profit organization that focuses on providing technology education for African-American girls.
TGI Justice Project - The Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization working to end human rights abuses against transgender, intersex, and gender-variant people, particularly trans women of color in California prisons and detention centers.
Sign the petition for justice for Breonna Taylor.