Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.
Asian Americans are no strangers to hate — since the arrival of the first Asian in America, anti-Asian sentiment has been very prevalent. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese internment camps in WWII to the Asian American struggles for civil rights throughout the 1960s and 1970s, there is no denying the fact that, we, as Asian Americans, have not been accepted. Throughout history, we have been demonized, excluded, and interned.
However, we are not the only group that has experienced this blatant rejection at the hands of our own country.
One of the earliest lessons that we learn during elementary school is the “golden rule” — treat others the way that you would like to be treated. Why is it, then, that this basic rule is ignored when discussing race in America? Why is it that, when it comes to Asian Americans, the suffering of other minorities is continually ignored?
Let me be clear: I am not saying that the suffering of Asian Americans is not valid or important. I am not saying that the centuries of pain and fear that Asian Americans have felt should be disregarded. I am saying that acknowledging the suffering of someone else does not take away from our own.
We have been silent for too long, complicit in White supremacy systems that lead to more and more deaths of people of color every single day. We have internalized the “model minority” myth, chewing up the idea that, as Asian Americans, we’ve achieved a level of success that no other minority has. This myth has been forced fed to us, creating divides within our communities, silencing our voices, whitewashing our history. The model minority myth is designed to pit minority groups against each other — throughout American history, the success of Asian Americans (dubbed the “model minority”) has been used to emphasize the “failings” of other minority groups and silence the struggling of Asian Americans. The sole reason why the term “model minority” was created was to create divides between groups of color. The term continues to oppress Latinx, indigenous, and Black Americans, while simultaneously ostracizing and ignoring Asian Americans.
It is the staunch belief in the “model minority” myth that has led to Asian Americans reinforcing anti-Black systems in America. We yearn to be accepted here — and this desire for acceptance has led to silence when it comes to the oppression of other groups.
The recent death of George Floyd, an innocent Black man who was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police, is sickening. I’m angry that he was murdered for simply being a Black man in America. I’m angry that this is one of thousands of cases where police officers were able to exercise their power to silence a person of color. And, as an Asian American, I am angry that one of the cops who stood there, watching as George Floyd was being killed, is Asian. Instead of being an ally and aiding a fellow man of color, Tou Thao decided to watch as his White partner killed George Floyd.
The complacency of Tou Thao represents a much larger issue within the Asian American community.
When do we know that we’ve truly become Americans? When cops like Tou Thao and Peter Liang can kill innocent civilians like George Floyd and Akai Gurley without repercussions? When we stay silent while experiencing xenophobia or when we spot the oppression of other groups? When we can reap the benefits of White Americanness, profiting off the backs of other people of color? When does the immigrant-refugee become the settler-gentrifier?
As people of color ourselves, we cannot advocate for equality while simultaneously ignoring the struggles of others. Every single individual has a role in speaking out against the injustice they see, regardless of how they identify. It is not enough for groups to turn their backs to other groups, simply because we don’t share a common identifier or cannot relate to each other. Failure to speak out about such issues only fuels institutionalized racism. As a whole, we all need to do better if we want to combat the structures of inequality that are present within our nation.
The racism in the United States has hurt us as well — we can’t ignore America’s long history of anti-Asian sentiment or the thousands of anti-Asian hate crimes that have been committed during this time of crisis. The recent rise of hate is a perfect demonstration of why we can no longer be silent when faced with the oppression of other groups. Now is the time to realize that, no matter how much we renounce our homeland, no matter how much we buy into systems of anti-Blackness, no matter how complicit we are with the racism in America, we are seen as yet another group that is expendable to the narrative of White America.
Fellow Asian Americans, I ask, how many more? How many more people of color need to be sacrificed until we stand up? How many more lives need to be taken before we embrace POC solidarity? We have nothing to gain from staying silent and complacent under the canopy of White supremacy. It is time we recognize the importance of our history, rejecting the narrative of whiteness that we have been forced into.
The suffering of one minority in America is the suffering of all minorities. We must stand together.
About the Author: Ashley Shan is a high school student from Dallas, Texas. From a young age, she has been passionate about issues such as Asian activism and educational equality and hopes to use her voice to promote ignored and, as a result, often unheard narratives.
Feature Image via Getty