To our fellow Asian Canadians,
It has undoubtedly been a significant few weeks, filled with pain, compassion, learning, confusion, exhaustion, and so much more. The black community has been fighting for their rights and their lives for a long time, using their voices in response to far too many injustices committed against their friends and families. You may feel like it’s not your place to be involved, or that you aren’t educated enough to speak up. However, we would like to remind you that now is the time to take action: remaining silent harms our black brothers and sisters, and further perpetuates the inequalities that are so intricately weaved into our lives as people of colour. It is more important than ever to stand in solidarity with the black community and to back them in their fight against anti-black racism. Here, we want to talk about some ways you can get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Actively and continuously educate ourselves on anti-black issues
We cannot be effective allies without understanding the obstacles faced by the black community. The first step we can take is to acknowledge our own ignorance, and then work towards improving our understanding of the issue at hand. To stand in solidarity with the black community, it is crucial that we educate ourselves by seeking news from credible sources and listening to the stories of black people, without inserting ourselves into their narrative. Systemic racism against the black community has a long history, which means there are numerous resources for us to access and learn from. Additionally, it is important that we follow black leaders and activists online to listen to them directly; let them lead the conversation.
Ask ourselves if we perpetuate anti-black microaggressions without realizing
Here are some questions we should start asking ourselves:
- Do I play into the “model minority” myth that gives Asians a sense of honourary whiteness?
- Do I subconsciously surround myself only with people who look like me?
- Do I understand the consequences of appropriating black culture, for example, using African American Vernacular English (AAVE)?
- Am I prone to acting on internalized anti-blackness?
For more information on microaggressions and other ways that we may perpetuate anti-black racism, whether consciously or not, check out this article:
Start the conversation with our families
To address issues of anti-black racism, it is important that we start by addressing the issues within our own homes. This may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, especially if family members harbour prejudices, but it is absolutely necessary. Here are some tips on how to approach the task:
- Educate yourself on the history of what your parents/family experienced
- Use emotion and have empathy; help your family understand today’s issues in the context of their own experiences
- Make sure that you aren’t devaluing their struggles; it is important to emphasize that the #BlackLivesMatter movement does not act to undermine their own struggles as Asian-Canadians
- Stay committed to continuing and furthering the conversation, even (and especially) if it is uncomfortable
- In the case that a language barrier makes it difficult to communicate your thoughts, here’s a helpful tool for discussing the importance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in different languages: https://lettersforblacklives.com/about-the-letter-ed27ea67eb2e
This article outlines more detailed tips on approaching this conversation:
Acknowledge our privilege as Asian-Canadians
As a minority group ourselves, we may tend to generalize and think that we understand the struggles of marginalized groups. However, even within different minorities, it is important to realize that there are varying levels and types of privilege that we experience. We must realize that we will never truly understand the struggle of the black community since we do not share the same level of privilege and lack the experiences specific to them as a marginalized group. Furthermore, we have to take steps to utilize our own privilege by spreading awareness and taking steps to bring about change.
Be an active ally, not a performative ally to black people
Being an effective ally means participating in the movement in ways that are substantial, not shallow. In supporting the black community, we need to ensure that we avoid performative activism, which is superficial activism lacking commitment that is more for personal gain than anything productive. Instead, we should be doing our best to further the movement for the benefit of the black community. We can do that in many ways, not limited to signing petitions and donating, including:
- Reaching out to black friends and providing support for them in this difficult time
- Being intentional with our platform, if that’s how we choose to spread awareness
- Supporting black businesses and the community in our daily lives
We hope that these starting points help you to show up and stand behind the black community; remember, this is not a time for division between our minority groups. Our black brothers and sisters have been suffering way too much, for way too long. Ask yourselves, wouldn’t you want the support of other minorities in our common fight against racial inequality? Let us not remain silent and ‘neutral’ in this historical movement. Together, we are stronger.
Western University’s Chinese Students’ Association