Some real talk righchea about our own (Asian) community’s struggles, straight from my Facebook timeline and onto the site, written by poet/writer Bao Phi:
Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and comments in discussion that work off an assumption that Asian Americans don’t get criminalized. We do – at least here in Minnesota. Besides other young people of color and indigenous people of color, Southeast Asians – especially Hmong and Cambodian – are criminalized. The corrupt and abusive Metro Gang Task Force was full of officers that have a history racially profiling people of color, including Southeast Asians, and many of those officers have records showing extensive complaints about their anti-Black and anti-Hmong behavior, specifically.
I don’t say this to say all communities suffer in the same way, nor distract from the very real ways in which Asian Americans can participate in anti-Black white supremacy – though I’d add other POC can too. I’m responding to an alarming pattern that I see emerging, where many Asian American activists point fingers at other members of the Asian American community and demand that we check our privilege in a way that is unilateral and myopic. Just because some Arab and South Asians put American flags outside their homes after 9/11 as a measure to show alliance with America to protect themselves *doesn’t mean that it worked.* Jason Yang had just gotten a job and was ready to turn his life around – that didn’t save him from being racially profiled at the club and getting chased off a bridge, to his death, by police.
Assuming Asian Americans don’t get racially profiled isn’t just bad politics, it’s inaccurate. We have to be very careful, when we speak, that we don’t assume our own privileges are the same for all Asian Americans across the board. It’s been a long time since I, personally, have been criminalized. But it doesn’t mean that Vietnamese people aren’t criminalized. Cau Thi Bich Tran was shot and killed in her own home by police, with her kids in the other room, because the cops (who were never charged) thought her vegetable peeler was a cleaver.
Strategically, if we acknowledge that Asian Americans often don’t have access to anti-racist frameworks that are relevant to their own communities, it’s more effective to show them examples of people who look like them who have been racially profiled – and unfortunately that list is quite long. Vincent Chin, Fong Lee, Chonburi Xiong, Michael Cho, and the many South Asians and Arabs who have suffered abuse especially after 9/11.
I believe working in solidarity with other communities of color requires us to think about how our experiences are different but related. Yes, that means we have to have difficult conversations and examinations of our privilege. But that doesn’t mean we erase our community’s struggle, it doesn’t mean we romanticize other communities of color’s oppression because we believe it carries more weight than our own.
We all want to be good allies. We all want, so desperately, to do the right thing – above all, to be useful. I just want to put forth that being a good ally works most effectively when we work from within our own communities – with nuance, with intention, and with love. If we instead give in to our ego, if we instead play that ‘exceptional’ card, where we point at our own communities from outside of it and point fingers saying we wish Asians were more radical, why can’t Asians be more down for the cause like us – if we indulge our self-righteousness rather than work from a place of love and nuance – we are not effective, to our own people or anyone else. Community activism isn’t a competition – it is above all an act of love. Peace.”
Shit…. that’s what it is. Just to add my little two cents, my friends and I used to get randomly searched too, walking around the Flushing area in Queens because cops got a call about Asians wearing baseball caps and hoodies (which was like everyone who wasn’t a fob). I don’t know what it’s like in your town but I know in the metropolitan areas (with more Asians), we are getting profiled and it’s not crazy to have a friend spend some time in jail because cops planted drugs on them and straight lied about the situation on record. I’m not going to act like we got it as bad or worse than other minorities but it happens and being looked at and treated like a criminal can fuck with you. Going back to what Bao said, let’s not downplay situations because you don’t see too many Asians being vocal about it and also use it to open discussions up on some knowledge and understanding. Dope write up.
Photo by An Rong Xu