When I was in first grade, there was an annoying kid named Michael. He was a bully with white skin and hazel eyes. One day, out of nowhere, he started calling the singular black kid in our class, Tyler, the N-word. I didn’t understand what that meant. I knew it was bad because Tyler’s face was covered with shock.
“What does that mean?” I asked Michael.
“He’s an alien! Look at his skin. He’s not normal.” Michael said.
“You’re being mean! Leave Tyler alone!” I said.
“Now you have the Chinese girl saving you! You need a girl to stick up for you!” Michael laughed.
“Just leave me alone,” Tyler said to me and sulked away defeated.
We were toddlers learning cursive and basic addition. We were in first grade, forming our perception of how our shades of color were going to affect us for the rest of our lives.
Tyler and I could have been allies. We could have teamed up on Michael to make him feel like an idiot.
But I’m the “Chinese” girl, and he’s the black boy. And a culture of “mind your own business,” fractured our allyship. That fracture is in our entire society.
Asians so quickly think we are better, or we just want to mind our own business.
The reality is the racist that will shoot a black man doesn’t see me as equal.
They see my shade as less threatening.
We aren’t human in the eyes of a racist.
We are a cuisine they order takeout from.
We are sexualized bodies.
We are nail salon jokes.
We are the reason for COVID.
Every person of color knows the pit in your stomach and tinge of paranoia when you are in a sea of white people. There’s a way my eyes move across a room to detect who is friend or foe. I’ve seen it’s been ingrained in white people to snub their nose at me, insert their preconceived notions about me, and combat my opinion. If I can detect someone closer to my pigmentation, we give each other a look. It’s a look of survival, of hope, of comradery. And while black people have certainly been able to advocate for me and I them:
I don’t get threatened by cops.
I don’t have my right to breathe questioned.
I don’t get asked to leave a white neighborhood.
It’s all our business when someone of color is treated unjustly.
Their injustice makes a case for our own oppression. Together we are strung together by the dehumanization that colonization has taken from us. Together we can rise, but apart we will fall. Generations of isolationism can’t be undone in a day. But it’s simple. Actually get to know black people.
Not just as a hip hop song.
Not just as chicken and waffles
Not just another headline of police brutality.
Literally just talk about shared experiences, crack a smile, and film instances of racism. If you want to go one step further, lend time helping lower-income community members, I volunteer with a homeless advocacy group. Talk to your church about what they do. Talk to your friends about what they do. Find a volunteer opportunity to make a small impact. Kindness and hope trickle up.
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.