George Floyd. Soon Park. Breonna Taylor. Hyun Grant. Michael Brown. Suncha Kim. Trayvon Martin. Yong Yue. Tamir Rice. Delaina Ashley Yaun. Ahmaud Arbery. Xiaojie Tan. Botham Jean. Daoyou Feng.
What do those names have in common?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you’ve heard of at least one of those names. Most of us know maybe a few of them. The Asian names are less familiar because they were just released not too long ago. Those are the names of the victims of the recent mass shooting in Atlanta.
Of course, by now you get that each of them were murdered. That is what links them. Another aspect that connects them is the race of who murdered them.
Racism is still a major problem in this country. Some have even said that because of Barack Obama becoming our 44th president and the fact that Blacks are not walking around in chains, being whipped every two seconds, that means racism doesn’t exist anymore. And as of late, a sadly large population of individuals have become comfortable in being openly racist, not even to the point of apologizing after being caught and exposed. Number 45 (we’ll leave it there) is believed to be a major factor in the encouragement of this behavior. Even our lawmakers in Congress and those running for public office have made blatantly racist statements on a number of occasions.
While it may be easy to simply point the finger to white people in general, I will start by saying that that is not helpful. However, we have another problem here.
Many Blacks have spoken up to say that they are not about to support Asians, even after a mass shooting, because of how Asians have treated us in the past and often still do. As a black man myself, I understand about the treatment. Growing up in Baltimore City, I’ve been to corner stores and Asian carry-out restaurants to be either accused of stealing from them or followed around until I left the store. A lot have even spoken about treatment from Asians in nail salons and spas. The main idea is simple:
“Asians don’t support us; why should we support them?!”
The United States is aching for unity right now, to say the least; especially when it comes to different races. However, I believe there are a few things that need to be understood when having this tough and uncomfortable discussion.
When people are murdered, largely believed to be because of their race, and the victims are of different races, one would think that this would bring the races who were victims together. But that has not entirely been the case here.
I do not believe this speaks to selfishness. This speaks to a deep, systemic problem in this country.
The only way to really understand this problem fully is not by assuming or guessing, but by listening.
I can only speak from a black male perspective. I can only tell you where I am. Obviously not being Asian, I cannot speak from where they are sitting right now. What I do know is that we both have real concerns of domestic attacks from white people in this country.
Many people who are privileged enough to not have to deal with this problem, along with many Republican lawmakers, say that we need “unity.” However, their way to get there is to not speak up about issues involving race. They say that doing so will “keep us divided.”
Think about a parent who has two children. Let’s say one kid is beating on the other. The one getting beaten up makes enough noise to where the parent comes from wherever he or she is and demands that they just “be quiet” and “stop fighting.” If you are a parent with at least two children (as I am), it is universally understood that this is mainly for your own peace.
However, does that fix the problem? What does that mean for the child who was getting beaten up by the other?
The one getting beaten up gets the impression that the parent doesn’t care. The one giving the beatings believes that he or she can continue to get away with it.
Shutting up isn’t the answer.
We have to first, not look at this as a competition. We can be upset at both instances. It doesn’t have to be a “this way or that way” approach.
Next, let’s look at all those who are not the problem.
That’s right. This is hard for some people because it comes across as dismissing, masking, or “watering down” those who are the problem. But no one wants to be judged based on the worst of whatever group they are in. In other words, no black person wants to be judged based on everything people say is wrong with our community. I would imagine that Asians might feel the same way. We can agree on that much, right?
Next, we have to acknowledge the very valid concerns that exist. The things that make some Asians uncomfortable with us; do they happen? How about vice versa? There’s valid on both sides, and the only way to make progress with this discussion is to yes, talk, but to listen also.
And brace yourselves, because I’m about to say two words that many people despise:
I know. This has a dismissive feel to it also, especially considering when it’s often said. But it is a hard truth that we all have to accept, because it doesn’t change, no matter how we feel about it. Not all Blacks are bad people, not all Asians are bad people and not all white people are bad.
If these are tough for you to say about the other groups, just imagine how easy it is to say “not all” when you are the one being negatively stereotyped. It comes out a little easier then.
Progress means to acknowledge this much. Understanding that the worst of each group never has to speak for the entire group. Those who are not bad get lost in things all the time. Some can accept it and others cannot.
But when people can be murdered…people you don’t know at all, and your mind cannot feel sorry for them or their families based on something that happened from someone else in the past, that is a serious problem.
When George Floyd had the police officer’s knee on his neck, people said that his criminal past is why he deserved to die. Breonna Taylor was said to deserve it because she associated with someone with a criminal past. Tamir Rice had a toy gun, which is why he deserved to be murdered by a trained police officer at the age of 12. Black people are livid to see that our lives have such little value to certain people. So we understand. Does that mean no one in our community ever does anything wrong? Of course not. Should that lead to Blacks being murdered for any and all reasons? Some seem to think so.
And here, because of how Asians have treated us in stores and salons, people say we shouldn’t feel sorry for those who were murdered. We did not see a ton of Asians standing up against racism in Black Lives Matter or other protests. So because of the past, we should not feel sorry for these Asians OR their families.
We live in a society that tries so hard to not “feel” anything. We either have to be angry about something or to bury it. But that doesn’t get us anywhere.
Another hindrance is that we sometimes don’t care to acknowledge our allies. When Blacks are murdered by police, I see a lot of white people speaking up. They are tired of this too. Many are angry about the Asians being murdered as well.
Now some people don’t like to acknowledge allies, because again, that seems to “water down” our stance in some way. In other words, we gotta stay as mad as possible, even to where we’re ignoring those who want to stand with us.
Imagine being a black person and building a house. A white person and an Asian come along to help you. But instead of accepting the help, you chase them off, citing what white people and Asians have done to you in the past. While many say that wouldn’t make sense, that’s how deep-seated the issues are. We justify the very same prejudice that we don’t like happening to us.
But this has to be a start. Unity is not about pretending that very real problems don’t exist. If a part of your house is on fire, acting like it isn’t will hurt you at some point very soon. Unity is about pinpointing the problem and fixing it. In that same house, spraying water all over everything is not the answer, and will ultimately cause more damage than you want, whether or not you actually put the fire itself out.
Experiences are valid. Me saying all this doesn’t mean that concerns are not real, and that goes for all races. I don’t get to tell you that what you went through at a young age isn’t legitimate as it is likely part of the reason that you may feel the way you do today.
But if we (in whichever group) don’t like to be negatively stereotyped, which I don’t believe anyone does, that means we know it’s a problem. We have to work to get ourselves to a place where don’t justify doing the very thing we hate for others to do toward us. That means speaking up about any and all issues.
However, we should not give ourselves permission lack compassion for people who are murdered. Ever.
And we can’t turn this into a “white people are the enemy” thing, either. Even though they are also a common denominator here, unity is not about isolation, but accountability. Racism needs to END; not be silenced. Moving white people to another room doesn’t mean they’ll stop being racist. Again, we need to go after those who cause the problem; not just place everyone in the same basket. This is not the same as saying we don’t have a problem with some white people in this country or that White Supremacy is not still an issue here. That doesn’t have to disappear from the conversation.
To justify stereotyping, some people like to use this, or a similar example: Let’s say you have a bowl of 20 M&Ms. 10 of those are poisonous. Do you take your chances and eat one?
Fair example. It implies that it is understandable to be weary of some people of a certain group because of the “bad” who might exist within that group. I get it.
Now let me give you another one: Let’s say that you are in a group of ten people who were dropped into the ocean, and none of you can swim. Now, someone from another race comes along to rescue you, but that person is told that immediately upon rescue, five of you will shoot and kill him or her. How do you think that person would feel? Would it be valid for him or her to feel that way?
Or are we not ready to have that conversation yet?