As a Taiwanese-American woman, there’s no doubt that I’m considered a minority, a person of color, but tbh I’ve never considered myself as someone whose rights or freedoms have been limited due to my skin hue or eye shape, because I *know* that the prejudices I face ain’t shit compared to the discrimination that those who descend from African, Latin, Middle Eastern, and many other Southeast Asian countries face daily. I use this phrasing intentionally to include those who live around the world, not speaking only about those who live in the US.
Having lived in Asia, Europe, and both coasts of the US, I will say that I don’t believe it’s simply an issue of ‘black’ or ‘Hispanic’ racism - I would argue it’s nuanced, based on how dark one’s skin is, not just black or white, but within ethnicities themselves. It’s considered “lower class” aka working class to have dark skin in many parts of the world. In much of Asia and the Middle East, a huge aspect of “beauty” is based on how light your skin is, hence the popularity of face whitening skin care products. I broadly call out these two regions because I’ve gotten to know parts of these cultures very well, and can speak from firsthand experience. I’ll leave this overall perspective at this for now, because I believe there’s a deeper, more important issue in the US to address at the moment.
I heard about Amy Cooper before I watched the video. My group chat with friends was buzzing about a woman in Central Park who was filmed as she called the police pretending she was being attacked by a black man. When I saw the video, my first thought was “This was in Central Park?” And that was a slap in the face for me. My thoughts spiraled from there… how can location be the first thought that came to mind? Does this mean that I’d accepted this to be not unusual (aka normal) for other parts of the country? Have I been so blind to racism that is right under my nose?
I’m not sure of the answers yet, but I’m working through them, mostly with a heavy heart but I have spurts of optimism as every small victory for justice comes through.
I started following Shaun King a few months ago, and he was the first to bring Ahmaud Arbery’s death to my attention. I couldn’t ignore it, I had to help in the small ways I could. I made the calls, I signed the petitions, I ran with Maud on his birthday - I didn’t share any of this on IG. The following week, Breonna Taylor’s murder came to light. This time, I shared the petitions, I shared instructions on how to call… after doing so myself, of course. Few people swiped up on links and I received one reply from someone who expressed how saddened and disgusted she was by what happened.
I hope this week isn’t a social media trend, and that long after these hashtags become less popular, we continue to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Let’s not forget the social media outcry in 2012 when 17-year-old Treyvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was part of the neighborhood watch organization. Sound familiar? Zimmerman was brought to trial and eventually found not guilty.
I’ve only lived in diverse cities throughout my life, I’ve never been to the South, and have only popped into the Midwest once for work. I quite frankly can’t begin to fathom what it’s like to be a minority in certain parts of the country - it blows my mind that this is 2020. The thoughts I share are largely based on what I read, see on the internet, hear, and the content that I choose to consume. It’s taken me a few days to weed through the emotions and thoughts in the wake of this week’s events - I’ve tried several times to write out my thoughts and they haven’t been coherent enough to share until now, and they will for sure evolve as I become more cognizant about the injustice that happens daily in our country.
I’m seeing a lot of anger on Instagram - most of it is directed at those responsible for the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, but there’s also a general sentiment of anger in the air.
One’s social media silence should not be immediately taken as ‘choosing the side of the oppressor’. Obviously, some people really don’t give a shit, but I implore you to look past someone’s words, and look at their actions instead - you’ll know who the fake bitches are right away. Everyone processes differently, and it’s important to remember that a social media post is not everyone’s method of communication. For many people, private conversations between friends and family, calling out racism in person, and self-education can do more good than a post or story.
On the flip side, just because someone else reposts artwork does not mean they actually care. To me, a mere repost of #StandWithFloyd as a blip in someone’s stories is the equivalent of “Prayers for (insert city)” - it doesn’t mean anything without action.
By nature, I am not someone who shares my personal life or thoughts on the internet - never have been, likely never will be - but I’ve consistently felt compelled to spread the word about something that’s always felt so wrong to me, and that pertains to our common thread - cannabis.
Why are there so many black and Hispanic prisoners in the US for a “crime” that we are all “guilty” of? The overall US prison population is disproportionately black and Latin people - we all know this.
Why has Michael Thompson been in prison in Michigan for 25 years for only 3 pounds of cannabis, yet cannabis businesses, owned primarily by white men, are allowed to make millions from the same “crime”?
How is it possible that prisoners be paid less than a dollar a day in some states for working inside prisons? How is it possible, that in the United States of fucking America, that we allow FOR-PROFIT PRISONS?
The US prison system is modern day slavery.
These are all questions that I’ve recently been asking myself and diving into, and I will continue to share what I find. In the meantime, I recommend going deep into the Last Prisoner Project to learn more about what we can do to help cannabis prisoners and The Sentencing Project for more information about mass incarceration.
Watching the video that was released yesterday of the Asian-American police officer who stood watch while the other officers were beating George Floyd in back of the police SUV perfectly sums up what Asian Americans and other “less marginalized” minority groups have been doing wrong in this country - turning a blind eye. I’m coming to realize that this is my lesson here - because I *can*, I need to use my voice to stand up for those who are discriminated against.
Black lives matter.
EDIT: I'm learning that Shaun King isn't the best resource and is known to cause divide in the activist community. Google his name to read articles about this. I've listed more resources at the bottom of this page.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was one of the most influential books of my adolescent years, and one that I’ve come back to over the years (I think it’s time for a reread). What books, podcasts, and writers have been prolific for you? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me @elevatejane. Tell me how I can help.
I could edit this post for days (I already have), but I’ve finally come to accept that this will never be perfect, so I welcome any feedback and suggestions. Let’s continue to open conversations and learn together.
When the campaign organizers give the green light, I'll be sharing more about what we can do together for Michael Thompson, and moving forward, I will continue to stand up + fight for those who can use our help - I hope you will join.
UPDATE: Here's a list of resources that have been kindly shared with me