I do high school debate. As a debater, it’s a common preconceived notion that I’m generally interested in politics and know a lot about politics. Although I’m not great at debate, I’m great at being an average teenager on social media with posting my debate tournament adventures. Along with also openly talking about my positive experiences with my debate team, there’s almost a sense of confidence that I project about myself. I know others think of me as someone who is (or should be, at least) opinionated about social justice issues and activism, and I often think of myself that way too.
The truth is, I haven’t been that person. I’m not the political person others think I am or the knowledgeable person I want to be. I’m not involved in politics nor have I done much research into the hundreds of justice issues that the US has. I read the news and I’m relatively updated, yet I don’t have an opinion on half of the things I consume. “How could I have an opinion on these things?” I often wondered to myself, “things aren’t just this black and white.” That’s a common saying from my family that I’ve reminded myself over the years of reading about politics. It’s just too hard to really take a stance.
At least, it was hard.
I remember first seeing the video of George Floyd’s death 2 weeks ago. I was shocked and stunned. “Does this really happen often?”, I remember thinking to myself. I remember seeing Ahmaud Arbery’s death earlier that month and catching myself almost forgetting that his death made headlines as well. Over time, I started swiping onto and reading more articles about police brutality across the nation. I started reading about white privilege and about the Black Lives Matter movement. I reposted a few images instantly that I agreed with, but then started to wonder if I should do more.
I was so afraid then to speak out about this. Or even just anything I cared about in particular. There were things like climate change, abortion, education, healthcare, gun ownership rights, and so many other issues that I have never had the confidence to share my opinion on. My main reason back then was because I wasn’t informed enough about these things. Now, I realize that although I’m no expert, I am informed about these things more than the average teenager is. As time went on with the BLM movement, more posts started flooding my page and I started reading into systemic racism and the flaws in policing. It was a lot to take in at first, but then I started reading a lot more into privilege.
I learned about what privilege meant and also began to realize how privileged I was. It is a privilege to be able to ignore or try to ignore all the issues happening around me and it was (and still is) something I’m really ashamed about. I didn’t misuse my voice, I did something worse. I didn’t use my voice at all. I remember feeling so awful but then stopping myself by reminding myself that this was my chance to finally use my brain and my (limited) debate knowledge to actually share information along with my own thoughts. I started researching, reading, signing, calling, doing anything I could instead of just ignoring something I was too afraid to have a full opinion on. I started doing something.
I think it’s a common and harmful stereotype that Asians “keep to themselves” even in times like this. I see it in many of my friends who won’t bother to post. I see then in the private stories of my friends who criticize the movement for being too much. But I whole-heartedly disagree and believe that this stereotype is wrong and hurtful. As Asian women, we must remain as strong as we are and use our voices (our valid and powerful voices) to speak out about the issues of systemic racism in our country.
We can’t be afraid of being wrong anymore because there is no wrong. There is nothing political about human rights, it’s given that they should be granted no matter what. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t just about politics, it’s about human rights that can’t be debated. It’s horrible to see the amount of confusion in my peers and friends on whether or not they should do something.
It’s something I, unfortunately, can empathize with. Every time I think about this, I start thinking about myself two or three weeks ago, being too afraid to speak out about my opinions and values. Being too afraid because I was no “professional” or no “expert”. It doesn’t take an expert to look at a few Instagram posts or Tweets and realize something is radically wrong in this country and speak out about it.
The Black Lives Matter movement is undoubtedly needed. It goes unsaid that there is a huge racism problem in America. As an Asian American, I’ve figured out how to use my privilege and my voice to talk about these issues and to start the conversation. I’ve found my voice and I’m going to continue to use it for as long as I can.
And I urge all of you to do the same. Whether it’s annotating a full article about qualified immunity with a friend or if it’s donating what you can to an organization, it’s important that we all do something to fight racial injustice and find our voices within while we’re standing in solidarity.
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.