Asian Americans & Black Lives Matter
June 13, 2020 8:30 AM   Subscribe

A new edition of Letters for Black Lives has been published. It is a letter translated into 26 languages, explaining and providing context of the Black Lives Matters movement for mostly Asian-Americans to give to their parents. 65 Harvard college graduates on the Chinese American site wrote a heartfelt open letter to their parents, explaining why standing up for the Black community is also their fight. Asian Americans need to go beyond apologizing for anti-black racism.
posted by toastyk (20 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this post, toastyk! Letters for Black Lives sounds amazing. Like so many things, this was news to me. It is wonderful to discover reasons to feel hopeful during these dark days. This is one of those reasons.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2020

I thought this was a nice story about young Chinese people doing BLM outreach to local stores in (Manhattan's) Chinatown, especially stressing the importance of having people within the community do the outreach for more effectiveness.
posted by praemunire at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

From the Teen Vogue piece, this is an important complexity that is often erased in conversations about "Asian-Americans":
The myth of Asian American success is as fraught as it is malicious, benefiting some and erasing others. According to the same 2017 Pew report, Indian Americans have a median annual household income of $100,000 — well above the American average — with Filipino and Japanese Americans not too far behind. On the other end are four groups well below the average: Bangladeshi, Burmese, Nepalese, and Hmong Americans, the ethnic group to which Tou Thao belongs.

As writer Jay Caspian Kang argued in his May 28 Substack newsletter, it is always the “elite-educated, upwardly mobile East Asians” who try to act as the moral arbiters for other Asians. This is not to rescue Thao from condemnation, but more to criticize the tendency for wealthy, privileged Asians to use groups like the Hmongs to not “so much come out and confront anti-Blackness ‘in our community,’ but rather to disassociate oneself from the racist in the video.”
It is important for all races to come together in the fight against white supremacy, but as that piece discusses elsewhere, it requires material action, not self-aggrandizing apologia.
posted by Ouverture at 1:47 PM on June 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Eater SF had an article by Luke Tsai yesterday about how the Oakland Chinatown community is responding to the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests: Oakland Chinatown Food Businesses Stand in Solidarity With Protesters: A new generation of activists and business owners in Chinatown are working to bridge the gap between the Black and Asian-American communities
posted by Lexica at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Thank you Lexica! I was aware of a cleanup effort in Oakland Chinatown, but was not aware of the groups behind it. That's really awesome and I'm glad the business owners are really looking beyond the immediate events.
posted by toastyk at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2020

Korean American Federation of Los Angeles just started a fundraiser to create scholarships for Black students.

Additionally, I came across this story today: on the real, tragic story behind the "rooftop Korean" meme, which features Koreans taking up arms to protect their businesses during the LA riots in 1992.
posted by toastyk at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2020

[One problematically racist comment deleted, and several responses; I am e-mailing the responders with the text of their comments and we'll speak with the original commenter as a mod team.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:51 PM on June 13, 2020

I appreciated the deletion of the problematic comment. However, I’d like to ask that the pushback comments in response to that comment be allowed to stand. We’ve had discussions about letting pushback comments stand (even when the original racist comment is deleted) in other areas of this site and it’s a good policy.

The problematic comment was emblematic of some of the racist apologia that shows up whenever anti black racism gets discussed in the open. It’s not just limited to predominantly white conservative spaces, this also shows up in other spaces (eg discussions like this about Asian American support of BLM) as well. And since there are common threads in the way this type of defense of racist behavior and beliefs shows up in different arenas, it’s especially important to allow specific arguments against them stand. There’s specific ways that liberal spaces tend to excuse anti black racism, there’s specific ways metafilter is prone to excusing micro-aggressions and othering/racist behavior, and there are specific ways that asian americans will excuse not standing against anti black racism. Since the latter is the topic of this thread, and was illustrated in the problematic comment, the deleted pushback comments by anem0ne were very relevant to the conversation.
posted by photoelectric at 9:32 PM on June 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

(& since the pushback comments were deleted so quickly, other members may have also made valuable pushback comments that I missed and didn’t specifically mention above. So to clarify, my comment was not only about the deletion of anem0ne’s comments in this specific instance but also about asking for some consideration in the way mods handle this type of situation to avoid erasing the contributions of metafilter members who are pushing back against racism.)
posted by photoelectric at 9:57 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I feel like the Canadian letter glosses over a major point of contention on whether hurtness is intended to explain, or to justify, the use of activism. The letter claims that people protesting in the middle of a pandemic is because they are too hurt. I don't think that's a rationale that the letters' audience would accept. Further, Dr. Henry this week was said to express disappointment that people did not use the available safer ways to demonstrate. But I do think it's possible to accept that racism has been a pandemic, and to recognize the two kinds of pandemic as an intersectionality (rather than an either-or choice between protesting or staying in), and thus approach activism in a way that tries to integrate and synthesize both massive social challenges. For a moment I thought that maybe one way to edit the letter is to emphasize that the letter only a part of a conversation; it's not trying to win ideologically using talking points and simplified explanations. Then again, traditional Asian parents are known to be conversationally reticent anyways...
posted by polymodus at 10:12 PM on June 13, 2020

[After some consideration I've undeleted anem0ne's comments above. For any future readers who're confused - those are replies to a now-deleted comment.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:27 PM on June 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thank you for this post. When my aunt posted an awful "why isn't anyone saying asian lives matter" type meme on facebook today, instead of just closing the tab and saying "YIKES" to my cousins I was able to share some of these tools to hopefully start a conversation.
posted by btfreek at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I liked this video from a Chinese-American woman about anti-Blackness (Cantonese audio, English and Chinese subs.)
posted by invokeuse at 1:48 PM on June 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Hasan Minhaj gave a pretty powerful commentary on Asian accountability on his show Patriot Act. I highly recommend giving it a watch.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 2:49 PM on June 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

From the first Letters for Black Lives link, is there a letter written in English? Or is it explicitly for non-English speakers?
posted by bluefly at 3:09 PM on June 15, 2020

They're listed on the "About" page, under "Starter Letters".

I've seen these shared on Facebook and they are a series of images, typically, with a paragraph in English and the corresponding translation.
posted by invokeuse at 3:13 PM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the additional videos and links, everyone. Hasan Minhaj's commentary was pretty incredible.
posted by toastyk at 8:33 PM on June 15, 2020

If anyone has need of Japanese language material, cocoalizzy on Instagram has some fantastic videos explaining BLM, police brutality, and white privilege in the US to a Japanese audience.
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:24 PM on June 15, 2020

A non-racist critique of the letters from Andy Liu. Worth considering.
posted by toastyk at 9:18 AM on June 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Andy Liu essay is interesting, but I wonder if he bothered to read any of the links at the bottom of the letters which make some of the same points.
posted by bluefly at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2020

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