Content warning: Anti-black slurs
The first time I began to realize that there was anti-blackness in our community was a few months ago when one of my Chinese family members told me to beware of black men on the street. I was warned to walk on the other side of the road if there was a “gang” of them, as she said there was a high chance they would steal my phone and anything else on my person. I tried pointing out how problematic that was, but I was cut off because she “wasn’t being racist, she just cared for my safety”.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking with a Filipino friend of mine when he called me his “n***a”. I didn’t say anything at the time (which I regret), but I left realizing how many of my Asian friends use the word as a part of their day to day vocabulary. I suddenly became aware how normalized it was for Asian people to use that slur.
I will be the first to admit that when I realized there is much anti-blackness in the Asian community, I was quite offended. I defended my family as being hard-working, overcoming all these obstacles and oppression and how they can’t be racist to black people because they themselves are people of color too.
As time passed, I began to realize the flaws in my thinking. While Asian people certainly are people of color and cannot be racist to black people because racism is systemic, we can absolutely be anti-black, and we are, but we don’t recognize it as anti-blackness. When my family member warned me about those “black thugs”, she was unconscious of the anti-blackness she had been fed by white supremacy and was perpetuating. She just didn’t see it as being problematic.
But just because we are unconsciously anti-black doesn’t make it any better. We need to try much harder to acknowledge and deprogram what we’ve been socialized to believe and own up to our actions.
The idea that just because we are Asian and have our own history of oppression does not justify our anti-blackness. We are still partaking in and perpetuating harmful ideas which still oppress black people today. Depicting black people as “thugs” and “gangsters” is a tired trope which has led to many negative outcomes such as the hyper-incarceration of black men, as they are viewed as inherently being angry and guilty of crimes.
We also need to deprogram this mentality that “we’re not like them”. This model minority myth in which we’re “hard-working” and “successful” as Asian people is harmful in itself, but also should never be used as an attempt to dehumanize black people in order to please white supremacy. “We’re not like them” is saying we’re better than them, and stereotypes black people as being poor criminals while we’re the hard-working and successful Asians who overcame our oppression and essentially assimilated into whiteness. In reality, while we obviously have our differences, we’re not better or worse than each other, just different. We shouldn’t have to bring down black people in order to raise us up, especially to adhere to white supremacy.
As a community, we need to do better. For too long now, we’ve allowed our anti-blackness to run rampant under the guise of it being fine because we are Asian. But it’s not fine. I certainly still have much anti-blackness to deprogram, but the first step to solving this issue is acknowledging that it exists. From there, we need to actively work to rid ourselves of these prejudices, support black people and not be afraid of owning up to our actions.