Antiblack Racism: The Overview, Current Realities, and Moving Forward

Protestors on behalf of Peter Liang. Photo by  Liance

Protestors on behalf of Peter Liang. Photo by Liance

Anti-blackness has always been and continues to be a prevalent issue within the Asian American community. Despite many available educational resources, anti-blackness is both actively and passively upheld by Asian Americans. From “preferences” against black people in interracial dating to cultural appropriation to colorism in our own communities, Asian Americans continually contribute to anti-blackness.

There are many ways that the Asian American community has a stake in the fight against anti-blackness. For one, the model minority myth is a constructed image that pits Asians (with a focus on East Asians) against other people of color, resulting in the further policing of Black and Brown communities. In addition, Asian Americans have greatly benefited from the labor and energy of Black communities in the fight for civil rights, for race and ethnic studies, and even for the rise of “Asian American” as a term during the San Francisco State protests of 1968.

There is constant colorism within our Asian communities, permeating every facet of our lives. South and Southeast Asians are continually overlooked in political conversations and community spaces that claim to be for the entire Asian community, but in reality are catered towards East Asians.

There are Afro-Asians who are constantly marginalized and othered as “not Asian enough” and Afro-Asian history is often erased. To prioritize the more privileged community and not care about anti-blackness is to ignore the fact that the Asian community has contributed to the oppression of Black and Brown communities. Apathy regarding these issues is to maintain the status quo— to side with the oppressor. If we dream for a world where Asians do not experience injustice, we must fight for all identities, for all peoples, and for all communities.

We are not free until all of us are free.

In order to fight anti-blackness, it is crucial that we first recognize and acknowledge how we personally benefit from anti-blackness while maintaining the system itself by perpetuating anti-blackness. We must be proactive in our self-education, in learning about how our Asian history and experiences intertwine with anti-blackness— we cannot ask Black and Brown folks to simultaneously put in the emotional labor to educate us while also being benefiting from anti-blackness.  

A day-to-day example common today is the appropriation of AAVE in Asian communities as a way to push back against the model minority myth - of course, there are many overlapping issues here, but uplifting Asian voices should not come from appropriating Black culture. Thus, when Black folks do choose to speak up, we must project and uplift their voices. Looking inwards, we need to prioritize the Afro-Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, and Southeast Asian voices in our communities.

Within our circles, we have access to people that others may not. We must make the effort to combat anti-blackness within ourselves and in our daily interactions— during conversations with friends and family, with our classmates, on our campuses, in our workplaces, even with complete strangers. This includes calling out appropriation of Black culture and language, as well as pointing out biased comments or behaviors if and when they do occur. We need to contribute in the labors to educate non-black Asian folks on why their actions perpetuate antiblackness.

The education needs to come from the place of compassion and empowering the voices for black folks instead of speaking up on their behalves. Moreover, this is often overlooked but if you are able, contribute resources and money to support those organizations that help with future reparations for black folks, fight for anti-blackness, and support policy changes that could help combat structural racism.

Just as we must do work in our immediate surroundings, there is also so much that we can contribute to on the organizational level. We must support policy changes that combat structural racism, like the prison industrial complex, the criminalization of marijuana, the arming of police with military-grade arms, and redlining.

We must resist movements that are inherently anti-black, such as the support for Peter Liang, the cop that murdered Akai Gurley, and arguments against affirmative action. We need to support organizations and activists that fight anti-blackness with our money and labor. And when called upon, we must mobilize in support of Black communities, put our bodies where our mouth is, where it makes the most impact.

At the end of the day, it is important to realize that this country and most (if not all) of its systems are entrenched in and built upon anti-black racism. Even as we do the work to take apart our own biases, and even as we challenge and call in our family and friends, we need to recognize that these systems are fundamentally broken.

If we are to work within or through these systems, we must constantly re-evaluate the ways in which we are always complicit in anti-black racism and re-examine ways to rebuild these systems.