We’re just asking you not to kill us.
— Akosua Boadi-Agyemang
Once again, I would like to thank Akosua, Alexis, Ayobami, Charles, Eleisse, and Agang for sharing their raw and unfiltered reflections with me and many others at The Lunch Break: Share Black Voices (watch here). In Part 1: The Broken System, I wrote about Alexis and Charles’ challenges in the education system, Ayobami and Eleisse’s harsh realizations that came with their skin colour, and Agang’s perspectives on the “good black” and “bad black” binary. I also touched on some controversial facts about the prison system from the Netflix documentary, 13TH. In Part 2, I will discuss what it really means to declare #AllLivesMatter or to claim that you “don’t see colour” as well as how the model minority myth can perpetuate anti-blackness.
Minorities will never be able to unlearn their trauma.
— Alexis Harmon
People may think that saying “I don’t see colour” suggests that they are not racist against people of colour, but this statement has much deeper implications. From Alexis’ perspective, these four words mean that you don’t see the differences of the life experiences that minorities live. Growing up black is different from growing up without colour; children are taught to assimilate and fit the “good black” persona because the slightest mistakes could get you into the most trouble. These experiences cannot—and should not—be compared or made insignificant. As Akosua states, you cannot be an ally and say “I don’t see colour” because it is a complete erasure of the pain and trauma that black people have experienced.
Why are people so threatened by #BlackLivesMatter?
— Akosua Boadi-Agyemang
Those who declare #AllLivesMatter in response to the #BlackLivesMatter are not getting the message. Eleisse provides an example about a burning house on fire; but when the ambulance arrives with a water hose, someone else is shouting “but all houses matter, why are you just watering that house?”. Surely, you see how ridiculous the situation is because the house on fire is the one that needs the water. This movement is not about asking for any special treatment—black people are simply asking to be treated normally.
The “Model Minority” Myth
Before attending an internal event between the Asians in Microsoft and Blacklight community, I did not know about the “Model Minority” persona. Sarah Soon Ling Blackburn and Dr. Myra Washington defined and discussed “structural racism”, which is a belief that puts whiteness in a dominant position and casts people of colour as disadvantageous. Whether we intend to or not, we all say and do things that uphold structural racism.
Myra gives the example of her half-black and half-korean childhood. Her Korean mother did not want Myra and her siblings to turn “dark” during the summertime because she saw dark skin colour as undesirable. Myra’s father had to remind his wife that the kids would always be some shade of brown because he was black.
Essentially, the “model minority” refers to a non-dominant group deemed to have greater success than other minority groups, and is used as a standard to judge other minority groups. Typically, this persona refers to Chinese Asians, who are stereotyped as smart, hardworking, and polite. These stereotypes actually perpetuate anti-blackness by contrasting “asian discipline” with “black laziness” or “asian correctness” with “black criminality”. Sarah and Myra discussed a lot more, but the main point is that we need to acknowledge that the ‘Model Minority’ Myth is used as a racial wedge between Asians and Blacks and needs to be dismantled alongside other forms of oppression and discrimination. To do this, Myra suggests evolving from being an “ally” to becoming an “accomplice” (read this article to learn more).
By the end of Part 2, I hope that you have become more aware of what it really means to say “I don’t see colour” and #AllLivesMatter in response to this movement. You have read some perspectives that clarify the negative implications and you have also learned about the “Model Minority” persona and how it perpetuates anti-blackness. I know that I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg in these 2 blog posts, and that we still have a lot more to learn and do when it comes to dismantling structural racism.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now
- Realize how ill-informed the general public — including yourself — is when it comes to understanding the history behind #BlackLivesMatter
- Educate yourselfthrough research and awareness (check out linktr.ee/sgdmstt for resources) and watch documentaries like 13TH
- Provide your support while being safe, smart, and sensible to everything that is going on right now (donate, sign petitions, post on social media, protest, #BuyBlack, etc…)
Please note that my intentions with donating $5 on behalf of each person who shares Part 1 or 2 of my blog posts are to help with raising further awareness. Although I originally thought of donating $100 right away, I did not think that it would make as much of an impact in getting people to take action instead of hiding behind the hashtag. Inspired by those who matched donations, I also wanted to find a way to acknowledge those who want to donate, but may not have the means to do so at this moment. I will also be extending this donation to those who take the time to sign a petition.
If you want to take part in this, please send a screenshot of your shared post or signed petition to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 28, 2020 (I will be making the donation on June 29, 2020).