Modern culture demands a modern rockstar. YDE (EE-dee) breaks every mold. Based in Los Angeles, the 17-year-old Australia-born and half-Filipino singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actress rips apart convention with a razor sharp perspective, fearless honesty, and earth-quaking vocals

Addressing Solidarity and E(race)ing the Primrose Path 

There I was at recess, foolishly smiling alongside my friends, reciting rhymes that had somehow seeped into our minds…slanting our eyes upwards and downwards while chanting: 

“Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at These…” 

At the time, I heard the chant in purely a sing-song voice, with no understanding of how racist the intent of the rhyme was. I remember saying it aloud at home one day and when my parents confronted the school, they were dismissed with a message saying, 

“Oh, they’re only children…it doesn’t mean anything. It’s harmless and not a big deal. Something worse could’ve happened.” 

This ignorance and dismissal of minority culture has only been further perpetuated in my mind over these past few months, and especially now under the Black Lives Matter Movement as I have experienced it once again. My own voice and the voices of others have been swept away as if they’re pieces of ash. I’ve been told to let my feelings and thoughts go because they “weren’t that important” / “not a big deal” or “could be worse” by non-minority friends. 

 I’ve thought to myself during this time what it means to be called “Asian American” when the “American” part of the label seems ironic, especially since the category was born due to struggles for solidarity and racial justice in the 1960s and 1970s. The term was used to replace “Orientals” in order to align multiracial coalitions in the Third World Liberation Front and Vietnam protests. However, in 2020, this title of “Asian American” doesn’t seem to invoke the same devotion to solidarity. Why is this so? Why is it that even when I fly domestically I bring my U.S. passport with me as identification? Why is it that I feel like I need to prove to others that yes, I also speak English fluently? Why has this title become a hiding place for me? Is it because I am ignorant towards the true reality of America? Because acceptance of this cloak of “Americanness” also means accepting the detention of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II, the existence of Native American boarding schools, the turning away of Jewish refugees fleeing from the atrocities of the Holocaust, the torturing of prisoners at Guanatamo Bay, and the centuries of harm inflicted on Black people. Have we, Asian Americans, not tried for centuries to prove that we are “American” enough? And what has come of it? Only more violence and discrimination. Thus, especially now, we must acknowledge that the only way change will begin to ensue is by standing in solidarity with marginalized minorities and oppressed people abroad. However, before this union can begin, there are struggles that Asian Americans need to address. 

For me, I’ve realized an ugly reality, especially as a result of being raised in a predominantly White society: most Americans will never understand my race or any minority. Specifically, in terms of Asian Americans, they will never understand the tenuous alliance of the many nationalities Asian American encompasses, unlike other minorities. What many people don’t realize is that while Asian Americans are the wealthiest minority group in the US, we also have the widest income gap of ANY ethnic group. For instance, Burmese Americans have a much higher poverty rate, tripling that of any other Asian group. A lot of this is due to the difference in Asians who arrived in the US as immigrants versus refugees. This deterritorialization of ethnicity seems to have been forgotten among our race. To speak of Asian Americans without addressing the paradoxes within our race can be detrimental, especially as it perpetuates this perfect facade of neutral and pluralistic racial relations. Things are not ideal and perfect within the Asian American race and I think it’s easy for us to forget about this. 

We shouldn’t be afraid to express our emotions. Each one of us is entitled to the emotions we feel. However, throughout the Black Lives Matter Movement, I’ve experienced constant conflicting emotions. On one hand, I feel empowered to be a minority and use my voice to stand up for Blacks suffering from injustice. However, on the other hand, I feel that it is precisely because I am Asian that I shouldn’t speak up about my own emotions or atrocities that are currently happening to my race. When injustices are happening to your own race, it’s hard to look away. There is no denying that. The microaggressions that I’ve received from Caucasian acquaintances, whether intentional or not, have made me feel large and small as a person. After chatting with fellow Asian American friends, I realize that I am not alone in this sentiment. 

While sharing injustices about the BLM movement, I am supported and applauded by non-minorities. However, while sharing injustices about my race, the same group expresses to me that it “takes away” from BLM to show other acts of violence CURRENTLY happening in the US and dismissed by stating that “your [Asian American] type of racism” will never be solved easily and that there isn’t anything that can be done. But… isn’t that the point of confronting racism? To address the issues that society finds uncomfortable and brushes over? Injustice is injustice and the US needs to start being comfortable with the amount of injustice that is prevalent amongst more than just one race. No form or act of racism is any better than another, especially when they are concurrently prevalent. It makes me sad to hear that I shouldn’t talk about violence elicited by our own mundane citizens against the Asian race and be met with dismissal. Why can’t current events be fully discussed? Isn’t there a problem with that question alone? I’m often met with the defensive reasoning, by these Caucasians, that “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean that other lives do not matter. So… then why do I feel as if my voice falls on deaf ears when I speak about my race. There is no limit to activism the last time I checked. Is it because what I’m sharing is not “trending”, so therefore attention doesn’t need to be drawn towards it? 

I feel as if there is a wedge that is being shoved down my throat as if to cause tension between minorities. Why is there a disconnect between realizing that the attacks against Asian families and state violence against Black people are under the SAME system of oppression? I’m tired of the performative, self-assuring activism on social media. I’m tired of being silent because of other people’s discomfort. I’m tired of being told that I should deal with my discomfort alone. It’s through these acknowledgements about myself that I realize why solidarity is so important. Power in numbers is what wins in order to shed light on racism on MULTIPLE minorities. 

The abuse of police power that continues to extinguish the lives of Black people is part of a system that upholds white supremacy, robbing them of the opportunity to live life freely with hope and safety. This is the SAME system that causes Asians to be harassed, attacked, and blamed through deliberate scapegoating that dehumanizes us from the inside out. As a society, it needs to be understood that movements are more than what is spread on social media and what seems to be largely “accepted.” As minorities, we c
an no longer afford to be comfortable and only practice activism in spaces where we know people will agree with us. We have to be loud and create discomfort to truly be effective. We must ask ourselves: who benefits from minority groups fighting against one another or being apathetic to one another’s struggles? The colonists do. They are the ones who have long been advantaged by our divide, only shedding light on issues when they feel safe and willing to do so. I believe that as we all fight at the decision making table fo racial justice, it is imperative that we make rooms for OTHERS as well. We should not stop until the table is as diverse as the body of people that it represents.  

The tension between Asian Americans and Blacks has been prevalent for a while now. And this tension has been used to pit ourselves against one another and lose track of the bigger picture. In November 2014, a New York City police rookie, Peter Liang, and his partner were patrolling a public housing development when Liang fired his gun. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and killed Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old Black man, who was walking down the stairs at that time. Liang was indicted on six charges, including manslaughter. This incident created tension amongst the Asian American community. Activists began protesting and arguing that Liang was unfairly scapegoated for police brutality due to his race. Liang was the first indicted among all police officers who had abused police powers in the line of duty resulting in many deaths of unarmed and innocent Black people. All the white officers were let off easily and not charged with manslaughter. It became clear to Asian Americans that the government was once again using Asians as a scapegoat to alleviate the national racial “crisis” highlighted by BLM activists and their demands to abolish the police system built on the ideology of white supremacy. Thus, protests ensued as Asian Americans labeled the state’s scapegoating tactic as “selective and unfair treatment.” Asian Americans felt like this was a rare opportunity to express their voice in their long-overlooked identity. While this divide worsened the progress towards solidarity in the 1960s and 1970s that was built between Blacks and Asians, “Americanness” decided to dig deeper into this wound and highlight the “model minority” stereotype of Asian Americans. The protests by Asians advocating for Liang were described by news sources to be a “historical” show of “unprecedented unity” that was “mature and rational.” Joseph Concannon, a white retired NYPD captain, failed Senate and city council candidate became a major force in the pro-Liang rallies standing behind the narrative of celebrated Chinese American “political unity” and façade of racial minority support. The Liang incident became another classic example of how Asian Americans continue to be used in perpetuating the model minority success in order to deny institutional access to other marginalized minorities. Is it not ironic how the union leadership monopolized Asian Americans in order to reappropriate the racial crisis, completely ignoring the true ethnic-nationalist concerns in the country?

These intra- and inter-racial tensions have now resurfaced with the BLM movement, once again causing minorities to lose sight of the bigger picture. Within the movement, phrases such as “Black and Brown Lives Matter” are often used to describe the antistate racial subjectivity that is defined by shades of skin tone and disproportionate police violence against such bodies. While this political message has the intent of racial solidarity, it simultaneously operates to single out Asian Americans, especially East Asians, as a differently positioned racial group that is absent from such struggles and openly embraces racial assimilation. This is only partially correct. Statistically speaking, Asian Americans are less likely to be targeted by direct police violence, compared to people of African and Latinx descents. However, this should not be interpreted that Asians have not been subjected to police violence throughout US history. The cases of the 1992 LA riots, the fatal beating of Vincent Chin in 1982 by white men who thought he was Japanese, the incessant beating of Peter Yew by NYC police officers, and tragedy of Chonburi Xiong who was fatally shot 27 times by white policemen in 2007 are but some of the tragic events with highly racialized intent. Yet despite these acts of violence, Asian Americans tend to be viewed as upwardly mobile and apolitical. Thus, state violence against Asian bodies is actively erased in order to “cultivate”  Asian Americans as legitimate citizens under the benefit of U.S. multiculturalism. This is a disheartening moment for progressive Asian American politics and the fight against racial injustice. Yet, Asian-Black animus, whether stemming from white and Asian elites to instigate inter-racial conflicts or “internalized racism” resulting from the Asian American psyche, prevent more nuanced questions to be asked towards society. As seen from the protests against the violence on Gurley and other Black lives, the motivation to push against the model minority stereotype began to become so peremptory among Asian American activists for Black Lives that they had remained completely silent around the state’s treatment of Liang as an easy target to manipulate in order to mitigate the national racial crisis of white supremacy. This dogmatic approach seemed to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. As solemnly expressed by Cathy Park Hong in Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, “When I hear the phrase “Asians are next in line to be white,” I replace the word “white” with “disappear.” Asians are next in line to disappear. We are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, that we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog. We will not be the power but become absorbed by power, not share the power of whites but be stooges to a white ideology that exploited our ancestors. This country insists that our racial identity is beside the point, that it has nothing to do with being bullied, or passed over for promotion, or cut off every time we talk. Our race has nothing to do with this country, even, which is why we’re often listed as “Other” in polls and why we’re hard to find in racial breakdowns on reported rape or workplace discrimination or domestic abuse. It’s like being ghosted, I suppose, where, deprived of all social cues, I have no relational gauge for my own behavior. I ransack my mind for what I could have done, could have said. I stop trusting what I see, what I hear. My ego is in free fall while my superego is boundless, railing that my existence is not enough, never enough, so I become compulsive in my efforts to do better, be better, blindly following this country’s gospel of self-interest, proving my individual worth by expanding my net worth, until I vanish.” This dynamic, which I have personally experienced up to this day, reveals the struggle in the Asian American body: one that is constantly displaced and oscillating on the scale of temporality. As mentioned by Wen Liu from Johns Hopkins University, “Asian Americanness is a projection of the irreconcilable racial temporality of American nationalism itself.”

I’ve noticed this rearranging of mindsets amongst Asian Americans with my own eyes. The sentiment on social media seems to constantly say “we [Asians] must confront anti-Blackness and denounce it within our own communities”, instead of “a call to understand that Asian Americans are oppressed ‘Third World’ people and should ally themselves with others who suffer under imperialism.” The two sentiments pictured are quite different. However, I’ve noticed that the former has become quite rote at this point. It sounds like it’s an affirma
tive and progressive command to take action. However, upon further examination, there is a tone of defensiveness and guilt with no explanation of what the individual terms mean. The wrong message is being highlighted. And the truth is that a large portion of this guilt arises from the white-constructed narrative that only serves to pin Asians against Blacks: the “model minority.” The problem with the idea of “countering anti-Blackness” in Asian communities is that it means everything and nothing all at once. The sentiment is not a positive one and there is a lack of emphasis on actions:  allying together during this tender moment. Whether we choose to admit it or not, this first mentality creates more tensions and rifts among Asians than we may intend. The effects can clearly be seen by those Asian Americans who either choose to be silent about BLM due to discomfort or disappointment by the lack of attention on the recent racial hate crimes against Asian Americans from COVID-19. The silence of Asian Americans is a privilege of the detrimental “model minority” stereotype driving a larger rift between minorities. Who actually benefits from the silence and who is harmed? The imperative of “confronting anti-Blackness” sounds like a serious call to action, in practice, but in reality is subsumed by self-indulgent and self-serving guilt. As Soya Jung, a senior partner at ChangeLab stresses, “We’re facing a crisis where everyone feels like they need to do penance. This sort of ‘penance’ can not only be performative, but can also be counterproductive: By the time we feel as though we’ve sated our guilt – more Black lives will be lost.” 

I believe that warmth and acceptance need to be widespread in order to encourage those Asian Americans, who have not spoken, to feel comfortable taking part in solidarity with our Black siblings and to keep this movement alive in our hearts. Thus, instead of pushing away and neglecting who we are as a minority, Asians should embrace this aspect of our identity as the key to solidarity. Asians can and should take time to grieve the collective trauma of what we have experienced in recent times while pushing the boundaries towards cross-racial solidarity. To be frank, the surge in anti-Asian bias would not exist if there were not already a strong foundation in society rooted in the ‘forever foreigner’ mindset, coined by Dr. Janelle Wong from the University of Maryland. This ‘forever foreigner’ mindset is one that has been in the US for decades; it suggests that Asians living in America will always be fundamentally foreign and never fully American. That we will always be kept out. Our grief from this pandemic is not new either, so it’s understandable why we should take a moment to reflect and take a deep breath. According to San Francisco State Public Health researcher Joan Trauner, in the late 1800s/1900s as smallpox and the bubonic plague spread, San Francisco Chinese residents were repeatedly used as “medical scapegoats” and the state attempted to quarantine roughly 14,000 Chinese Americans. The city officials even proposed sending Chinese residents to detention camps in order to shield the public for “safety.” We suffer from collective trauma that we often forget because the society we live in chooses to forget. As a result, we have become pitted towards one another and lose sight of the bigger picture when fighting injustice. 

Thus, it is our time to push our collective racial consciousness forward and fight with other marginalized minorities in the US. The tactics used against all minorities are all too familiar and have been wielded against us. We lose sight that the state has never performed out of sole protection for minorities. Even though the Civil Rights Movement did aid in lifting the immigration ban, an act of racial segregation at a global scale, it was not the impetus to passing the Immigration Act of 1965. When the US welcomed the “degraded race” back in 1965, it was because they were entangled in an ideological pissing contest against the Soviet Union. There was a PR dilemma for the US. If the Communism ideology was to be fought and stomped out, then the country had to prove that democracy was somehow superior. Thus, the solution was to allow non-whites back into the country to “see for themselves.” 

In Audre Lorde’s 1981 speech on anger, she states that “…guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action…all too often guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.” True solidarity, acceptance, and willfulness can change the world with action. Solidarity mired in the pursuit of some impossible penance and guilt will not change the world. As ChangeLab’s Jung stated: “Do not bench yourself. We need you.” 

Asian Americans have rallied in solidarity with the Black community during the Civil Rights Movement and have made progress, as seen through the Third World Liberation Front formed in 1968 to demand racial changes in admission practices. As a society, there needs to be recognition that it is never just one race at a time. This is a time for all minorities to come together and fight. For Asian Americans, this moment in time shows us how we have always been expendable to America, no matter how much we renounce our homelands, no matter how complicit we are, no matter how much we buy into classism and anti-Blackness. The only way we will be able to make a difference in the system is solidarity. We, as a race, need to fight back on the mentality of being a “model minority” and speak up for ourselves and those around us. Because the truth is that as long as some groups are more vulnerable to violence and death than others, we will never be able to achieve racial justice for our collective humanity. In recognizing our shared vulnerability to white supremacy, we can productively move forward in racial politics. Solidarity is not “me for you”, but “we for us.” 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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