My fellow brown folks of the South Asian diaspora, stop trying to make the Oppression Olympics happen — they’re not going to happen. Though we exist in tandem with Black people as “other” in the white/nonwhite dichotomy that is the dominant state of the world, we are not Black, nor do we share the same experiences and traumas as Black people. We cannot say the “N-word” and we cannot claim the same struggles, but we can work together to uplift each other in the face of racism.
Let’s get this straight. Just because we are not white does not mean we are marginalized and discriminated against nearly as harshly as Black people are. Yes, we face racism every day; yes, we are targeted by hate crimes; yes, we have it bad. But constantly bringing this up in the face of massive increases in explicit anti-Blackness will not help us. Silencing Black voices by talking over them in order to show that we are also minorities and also targeted does not help the fight against racism at all.
Trying to argue that brown folks have it as bad (or worse even) than Black people is counterintuitive to our collective liberation. Working to end racism targeted towards Black people does not take away from the liberation of our own people. Oppression does not end till all of us are free of oppression. Partial liberation is not enough.
In fact, though we do not always recognize it, non-Black people of color (particularly those of the South Asian diaspora) benefit greatly from the level of anti-Blackness prevalent in this country. Ultimately, the gratitude we feel for being labeled a “model minority” is simply us experiencing a sense of relief for being considered the best of the worst in a system that white people have created that separates the “best” from the “worst.” Being categorized a “model minority” should not be a point of pride. Why do we value favorable positioning in an unjust system? White people paint us as the poster child for what it means to be a minority. There is a false sense of gratification gained from being categorically separated from other minorities.
Our parents aspire to the American Dream, white picket fence, white privilege and all. As immigrants, we have attempted to assimilate to the new culture we are brought to — and we end up adopting whiteness in a way that is explicitly anti-Black.
I don’t want to undercut the issues of discrimination and prejudice that exist among those in the South Asian community. We are here because of great lengths our ancestors have gone through in immigrating to this country. There is struggle in our history, struggle embedded in our narrative, but it is so different from that of Black people.
In times of revolution we must remember that it is counterproductive to the liberation of everyone, not just communities of color, to whitewash our narratives. Our brown and Black brothers and sisters have been on the forefront of movements in ranges of capacities, from using the power and strength of their voices to bringing softness to their resilience to enact change. It would be remiss of us to forget the incredible precedent they have set for us through their sacrifice.
We cannot be silent in a time when our Black peers, friends, families, teachers and neighbors are being killed in cold blood because of the melanin in their skin. Just because we may experience racism against us does not mean that we cannot be racist, nor does it mean that those we hold close cannot be racist. We are always learning and unlearning, so understanding that we are coming from a place of ignorance is paramount. In the fight against white supremacy, we can only benefit from listening as much as we can in order to hear the full nuance of people’s experiences. We also have a responsibility to speak out and educate not only ourselves, but our families and friends too. Do not be complicit with your silence.
Please, speak up. Do your part to end this culture of ignorance and hate. Remember that just because family may be raised to think and feel this way does not mean that it is right or that its OK for them to continue to.
#BlackLivesMatter to me, and it should matter to you too.