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This is what allies look like

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“This is what democracy looks like!” is the cry that is echoed in front of Sayles at the Black Lives Matters rally that occurred. A large crowd surrounded the entrance, holding signs and standing together. “When did breaking windows become worse than breaking spines?” “Racism is still alive” “#BlackLivesMatter”. The crowd was not one shade. It was a spectrum. It reflected the spectrum of Carls that feel a sense of empathy, of commitment, and of solidarity to a movement that has engulfed the whole country. Standing in the crowd, I was both touched and inspired by the students who had come together in solidarity and ally-ship. But it also gave me pause. I thought of what it meant to be an ally, thought of how allies in the crowd were acting, thought of the role that allies had as the supporters in the movement.

Being a person of color ally, a Southeast Asian one specifically, I feel much the way that the small diamond shaped part of the Venn diagram must feel – part of both spheres but never completely belonging to either. On the one hand, you’re a person of color, which gives you the “right” to speak on racism, racial history, and the oppressive nature of the system. Yet you are still on the sidelines, because you can never (and shouldn’t) completely understand or experience the degree of the struggle that African-Americans face. It made me feel confused – What was my place in the movement? Maybe it was because I was Asian that I was asking this question. I am part of a minority that has historically been used as wedge to divide people of color. I am part of the monolithic buffer zone that is between the binary of whites and blacks. While I surely bear the brunt of a racist society and am a marginalized minority person within the ‘people of color’ designation, I often straddle the line between racial oppression and privilege and am not immune to using anti-Blackness to navigate white supremacy.

This played out on social media during the last couple of weeks. Navigating the walls of Facebook, I started noticing something. A lot of my Asian friends from back home were posting statuses along the lines of “#AllLivesMatter” and expressing their anger about how no one seemed to be highlighting events that affected Asians abroad. And perhaps the most significant revelation of my Facebook surfing was the silence. There was post after post from my African-American and Hispanic friends about the movement, yet little to none of my Asian friends used Facebook as a platform to discuss the movement. While this is a gross generalization and reflective of my own personal experience, it was still a disturbing trend. My Facebook friends may not have realized that the oppressed are capable of being oppressors. They may not have understood that the oppression of not being white did not cancel out the privilege of not being Black. They may not have realized that choosing to remain silent or to magnify their own oppression led them to be an accomplice.

So, then, how can we remain accountable? How do we move forward in creating a conversation that doesn’t reinforce white supremacy? How can “people of color” allies remain accountable? “People of color” is an appealing term because it implies a coalition of non-white people –which can easily become a romantic fantasy. Although all visible people of color suffer under white supremacy, this does not mean that non-Black people of color can blame all our offenses against Black people on white supremacy. We’re all susceptible to internalizing anti-Blackness, and we are not holding ourselves accountable when we pretend that white supremacy is the sole reason for our faults. In spite of this, the Asian identity is not wholly independent of the Black identity. The Asian racial category is its own spectrum: a spectrum of backgrounds, experiences and characteristics that are all interrelated. The same goes for all racial identities. Racial identities are not as separate from one another as we want to presume. Anti-Blackness, too, is a subject of intra-racial discussion and all groups have a stake in deconstructing anti-blackness.

This leads me to my final thoughts on what solidarity truly means in this movement for allies. It means fighting anti-Blackness. It means fighting it unconditionally. We must be willing to question and be ready to hold ourselves accountable, as we are equally capable of being both oppressors and allies. We must be ready to redirect our privilege to prioritize Black voices. We have to recognize the revolutionary potential in a coalition committed to centering Black lives because out of the countless reasons that Asians and other allies should be fighting anti-Blackness, none is more important than the fact that Black lives matter. Black lives matter, as a hash tag, as a political statement, as a fact, is enough to fight. It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other, because we have nothing to lose but our chains.

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