Alyssa Lau is a photographer, creator, small business owner armed with a rarely used BSc from the University of Alberta based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Solidarity Through Conversation

“In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.”

 – Audre Lorde, “Transformation of Silence” 

During my undergraduate studies, I took a Black/Womxn’s and Gender Studies class called “Global Lockdown: Gender, Race, Justice.” We studied the Global Prison Industrial Complex and those affected by policing and the carceral system with special focus on the impact of race, gender, immigration, and class. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in that class enrolled because they had already begun the work to acknowledge the negative impacts of the carceral system and/or had experienced it themselves. From the very first day, we started talking about the ways in which society has been intentionally built upon violence and policing. Listening to my professor and my classmates around me who clearly knew more about this topic, I was already thinking about how I could incorporate this new information into my life but I had one question: How do we make this information accessible to those who might not be ready to learn this and join in the prison/police abolition and Black Lives Matter movements?

I’m not sure if I ever got an answer to this, or if there is a singular answer. I’ve found myself faced with this question again as I read, watch, and listen to the truthfully overwhelming influx of information, anger, passion, and countless other responses following the death of George Floyd. As a Chinese adoptee raised by white parents, I’m familiar with being the sole educator of race in my family. My conversations with my parents haven’t been perfect, and there were a lot of times where I’ve been silent in response (yes, silence is a response) to extended family members and friends when I should have spoken up. But I believe now more than ever that having these conversations plays an important role in standing in solidarity with the Black community. 

It is on white and non-Black people of color to educate themselves and to stand up for Black people by speaking up. The statement that I quoted above from Audre Lorde has guided me countless times as I continue to navigate my role in this collective transformation of silence into language and action. Acknowledging that this country would look very different if Black people had the support and solidarity of white and NBPOC, it is imperative that we have difficult conversations with the people around us as we all hold a common privilege and power. Conversations with those you trust have the potential to be an accessible way to inform people on how they can do their part in fighting against racism and systemic oppression. I do want to acknowledge that this can be very exhausting and potentially harmful to your wellbeing. Especially over the past few days, I have heard many transracial adoptees expressing their frustration with their parents/family and I want to name that it is okay to walk away if having these conversations could put you in any mental, physical, or emotional harm. 

That being said, here are some takeaways and lessons that I have learned from having conversations about race when you are ready to have them. If you’re reading this, I am hoping that you have had conversations about race in the past. I want you to recall what went right and wrong. In my experience, conversations quickly move away from the original point when I start talking down to someone or start using accusatory language. It is more than okay to be emotional and passionate, especially if you are a person of color who has experienced racism themselves. But in my experience, people shut down when you talk in a way that signals you’re better than them (they might be getting a taste of their own medicine, but the point is to have a constructive conversation so I digress). You can tell people that they’re wrong, but if you’re going to do that it’s helpful to then teach them or point them to resources that can help them. As white and NBPOC, it is important to remember that these conversations are efforts to support Black people– you are working together to help a movement bigger than the conversation you’re having.

I’ve also started conversations without having the proper information/data to back me up. At this point, I usually take it upon myself to walk away and come back with more information. I try to remember that the opinions and ideas I hold today have formed from years of learning from professors, activists, writers, artists, etc., so even though you might not reach an agreement with the person you’re talking to in five minutes, that doesn’t mean you haven’t accomplished something. People also respond to different forms of information, so pointing someone towards a book right away might not be the most helpful (but if they like books, Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis is a good start). Ultimately it is up to them to decide how they want to learn, which is why resources like “Anti-racism for White People” (https://tiny.cc/anti-racist) and https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ are extremely helpful. 

These are just two things that I’ve learned, and I am by no means an expert– I have a lot to learn myself. And I am fortunate that most people around me are willing to learn. I know that many aren’t as lucky and I hope you find the community and support you need. Like many of you, I am afraid to say the wrong thing. Society has taught me that as an Asian woman, I should be complacent and delicate with my words. Black authors such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Angela Y. Davis have shown me the importance of speaking up. That is why it’s so important to listen and fight for the Black community. Systemic racism, white supremacy, and the multiple corrupt structures currently in place aren’t going away, and we need every person who is able to speak 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.

We hope you’ll join us.

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