Condemning Complicity in Anti-Asian America: Their Fight is Our Fight

I find it almost impossible not to acknowledge the recent attacks on the Asian American community. The same way I desire every conscious soul to affirm that Black lives matter- I must also affirm that the life of each Sister and Brother in every beautiful culture within the Asian American community matters.

Vulnerable conversations are powerful because it forces us to acknowledge our deficits and choose our mode of liability. That is, we can choose to ignore our own complicity in a system that breeds hatred and systemically condones discrimination, or we can actively work to dismantle this evil. I’m afraid that far too many people in our society, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps even myself, have fallen into the former.

Dr. King forcefully condemned this passivity in a Letter from Birmingham Jail when he blamed the stagnated progress of civil rights on White moderates, who were more devoted to a “negative peace in the absence of tension” than a “positive peace in the presence of justice.” Although his purpose, at the time, was to rally around the agitating methods of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s rhetoric echoes today as a condemnation of complicit silence.

Where are you, CNN? 
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy  
I am traumatized by your apathy

(Excerpt from Not Your Model Minority)

Honestly, my eyebrows did not fully raise until I listened to Boston College Law Student Rosa Kim’s powerful poem, Not Your Model Minority. If you haven’t listened or read this poem yet, I encourage you to take a moment before continuing. It’s easy for me to blame the media’s lack of attention or excuse my ignorance with notions of a more personal struggle in the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, these realities do not justify my own passivity towards the disgusting bigotry upon the Asian American community.

Not Your Model Minority stung, enraged, ignited, and compelled me to not only “stand against hate”, but also to act as a resource, ally, and advocate for my Asian-American Sisters and Brothers. The courage I ask of my White family and friends to work beyond ally-ship to dismantle White Supremacy is the same courage I (we) must grasp to prevent bigoted attacks on Asian Americans.

The audacity of White Supremacy
To use us as their tools to undermine the Black fight for civil rights 
To pit minority groups against each other and further the divide

The problem is not us and each other and this underlying tension 
The problem is White Supremacy so pay attention 

(Excerpt from Not Your Model Minority)

It should not be difficult for any person of color, or marginalized individual, to empathize with the grief and anger that Asian Americans feel following the recent attacks. Though feelings can be fueling, change requires more. That shared energy must charter a collective force aimed at destroying systemic racism. If we protest for police reform to prevent brutality and mass incarceration, we must also condemn assaults on Asian Americans and reject harmful stereotypes. When we oppose discriminatory jim crow-esque voting bills, we must also amplify the voices of the Asian American struggle. As we demand economic security and a livable wage, we must recognize the millions of immigrants unnecessarily living in poverty.

Earlier this month, Boston College APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Student Association) and LAHANAS shared resources to individuals seeking information, education, and support. I implore us all to recognize the essence of Not Your Model Minority, “A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities, We all suffer under the puppetting hand of this systemic oppression.

As a Black man in America, I believe it is required of me to stand with the Asian American community. Yet, I do so not out of guilt, but out of a shared necessity to end institutional racism. I conclude with the often-quoted, ever-salient words from First They Came as a reminder of our own personal fragility in a world laced with hate—but, also as inspiration of our collective power to reject that hate.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Travis Salters is a first-year student at BC Law. Reach him at salterst@bc.edu.

Featured image from Wikimedia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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