This is a draft for an illustrated essay. I welcome your comments and criticism

A Person of Color, for example, East Asians, generally hold racial privilege over Black people in America; an East Asian youth is less likely to experience stop-and-frisk on their way to school compared to Black youth. The same person may experience discrimination at a workplace, but they are less likely to be tokenized in the way a Black colleague may feel through their career. The East Asian person may live through a series of microaggressions and may feel difficult to integrate into society as an adult, but they are unlikely to feel threatened in all the ways a Black person is likely to feel in their everyday life. These experiences of racial privilege may influence the East Asian person to gravitate towards Whiteness and seek for an adjacency with White spaces. Do stereotypes hold any semblance to the truth? — East Asians who are obsessed with Higher Education credentials, employment at recognizable companies, and romantic relationships with White people. These recognize the signs of acceptance and their place in the White society. Through marriage and childbirth, they reproduce their privilege and encourage their children to walk the path of least resistance towards Whiteness. For the last fifty years, this was the common narrative of integration for East Asian immigrants. The stereotypes that are hard to revoke because they are revealing something. East Asians in the U.S. often live in tightly-knit communities based on languages, religions, social class (what school they went to in their homelands or the U.S.), and business relations. While they equate their sense of worth with external validations, they are comfortable to exist in their own bubbles and choose not to engage with the local politics or inter-racial and inter-cultural solidarity. I will end listing the cliché here, because I’m noticing changes, among the younger activists and social justice organizers, especially in the LGBTQ communities. There’s a movement towards a radical redefinition of East Asian Identities towards allyship with the Black Lives Matter movement that defy the stereotypes of the past. Artists, Activists, Organizers, Shop owners in NY, LA, other major cities in the U.S. and around the world are exploring many ways to protest against police brutality and systemic violence, support Black people and organizations, and demonstrate redistribution of their wealth and resources.

I’m learning from them — what I did not learn from reading White philosophers and activists, their storied reflections of the 1960s uprising in Paris and the U.S., or what the Anti-War movements of the 2000s left out — the wars at home, ongoing police brutality and the connections between slavery and carceral systems, gentrification and displacement, and Capitalism.

The most important and possibly the most challenging thing has been to have a conversation about race, racism, and racial justice with people around me. I began to notice the subtle racism, white supremacy, anti-blackness, and lack of empathy in my friends and relatives. I felt a sharp pain in my stomach as if I swallowed a swiss army knife. The blade piercing through the racism and bias that I inherited and propagated, unconsciously, or reluctantly by lack of action. I’d like to share my thoughts to my East Asian friends and other allies who do not identify as Black person.

“To speak about racism critically with your kins and community is incredibly difficult because you need to begin by admitting your own racism, privilege, and complicity. Without recognizing your position, the conversation can only go so far. It’s difficult to hold a deep conversation because the narratives should not center around you, your identity, and your lived experiences. The core message of the Black Lives Matter Movement — that a Black person’s life is worth living, that their dignity must be honored and their body and mind must be protected from police violence— is not about you. However, you need to care about it with compassion and commitment as if it is about your own life because you are part of a racist society. Racism works like a beam of light hitting a fractured glass in a dusty room full of mirrors. As a non-White person, you are likely to be on the receiving end of racial discrimination at one point in your life. To have a meaningful conversation, you need to decenter yourself from the narrative. It’s not a good idea to recenter the conversation back to you by bringing up other discriminations you experienced, either because of your gender, social class, or other factors. You also need to call out other people, your kins, friends, coworkers and community, when they are behaving with anti-blackness or white supremacy. This needs to be done with extra care, confidence, and diligence. They may disengage or be defensive to avoid conflict. You may need to challenge them and work together to unlearn racism. If you are doing it right, it will take a lot out of you, it will be painful and slow. Important changes will be painful and slow, but they are necessary and beautiful. Grace Lee-Boggs said “If we want to see change in our lives, we have to change things ourselves.” It’s our time to change.


Seoul 8/6/2020

Hand written notes. Seek nuance, search for subtlety

immigrant. art. tech. learning. accessibility. inclusion. Co-founder @sfpc. fellow @datasociety. artist