Celeste Chung is a youth activist from Malaysia striving for gender equality and education for all.

THE “RACIAL MIDDLE”

“I can’t breathe.” Despite the man’s cries for help and exclamations of his inability to breathe, the police officer kept his knee on his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. This man was murdered. This BLACK man was murdered. His name was George Floyd. Say that name. Remember that name. Continue to carry his name into the revolution that we are currently witnessing. 

Over the past week, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding what allyship looks like for non-Black people of color. It’s a layered, beautiful, and powerful source of energy that is needed, especially now. But, allyship goes beyond the present day. It has always been needed and continues to be needed as this country was founded on the brutalization of Black bodies. Within the Asian American community, we must evaluate the ways we are complicit in our racist institutions and recognize the privileges we hold in this country. Our experiences vastly differ from our Black counterparts and understanding those stark differences is crucial in becoming allies to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In order to be productive allies, we need to understand the origins of the model minority myth and dispel it. The ideals that surround the Asian American community were created to place a wedge between Whites and Blacks in this country. By identifying Asians as the “model minority,” a racial hierarchy is created to further reinforce white supremacy. According to an address that law professor Mari J. Matstuda gave to the Asian Law Caucus in 1990, she expresses that “the role of the racial middle is a critical one. It can reinforce white supremacy if the middle deludes itself into thinking it can be just like white if it tries hard enough. Conversely, the middle can dismantle white supremacy if it refuses to be the middle, if it refuses to buy into racial hierarchy, if it refuses to abandon communities of Black and Brown people, choosing instead to form alliances with them” (Matsuda, 1990, p. 150). We choose to be on the side of white supremacy when we stay silent and continue to perpetuate anti-blackness rhetoric in our conversations. It’s important that we reflect upon our past and current actions with regards to allyship towards Black communities. We should be asking ourselves the following questions: Based on my actions, have I stood on the side of the oppressors? Do I want to continue to be complicit and uphold white supremacist ideals or do I want to help create a space where forms of hatred are eliminated? 

Especially within the Asian American community, we need to recognize the normalization of anti-blackness in our households. For many people in the community, the issue lies within silence. One of the police officers present at the scene, Officer Thao who is of Hmong descent stood idly by as Officer Chauvin murdered Floyd in broad daylight. Officer Thao’s silence in Floyd’s murder is reflective of the anti-blackness within our community and this silence must be converted to meaningful conversations. On social media, many have quickly condemned his actions or lack thereof. But, one of the alarming components within these condemnations is the phrase “we don’t claim him.” The issue with “not claiming him” is that we continue the vicious cycle of racism and microaggressions. We will claim him. We will claim responsibility for the Asians who are complicit in racism because it’s our duty to educate each other on the need to dismantle our implicit biases. It is imperative that we educate our peers and family members on the violence inflicted upon Black folx for centuries. We need to remind each other that our rights and privileges in this country exist because of the Black struggle. The government policies that derived from the Civil Rights era greatly benefited many immigrant groups including Asians. For example, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, backed heavily by Black Civil Rights advocates, allowed for an influx of Asian immigrants which drastically shifted the demographics in the United States. First-generation Asian Americans especially owe our hyphenated identity to the Black community. In addition, Asian Americans were granted voting protection rights as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits the discrimination of race and language capacity when voting (Nakagawa, 2014, para. 8-9). Voting is an integral part of our democracy and our ability to participate derives from the persistence of the Civil Rights Movement. 

We have to do better. Beyond claiming that racism is morally wrong and acknowledging our own privileges, we must do the work. It’s not enough to repost and like social media posts. The “activism” is not enough if the information and resources that one provides are not applied and continuously practiced. Frankly, that activism is not needed. That activism is merely performative. Dismantling racist institutions like the police force and the prison system will only come to fruition if we are actively taking productive measures. Productive action includes signing petitions, donating to organizations fighting for Black liberation, calling elected officials, participating in protests, attending Black-led conferences, and having those “uncomfortable” conversations.  

When we talk about allyship, it means continuous support towards Black businesses, artists, activists, and community organizers. We must not speak over them or for them. We must amplify their voices. Most importantly, we must not succumb to be the “racial middle” as we will not be used as tools for white supremacists to further their agenda.

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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