Black Lives Matter – Perspective from an Asian Calligrapher
This microscopic, non-discriminatory virus has—ironically—reminded me of what discrimination feels like. Asians across the globe are experiencing higher levels of hate and judgment due to the coronavirus being Chinese origin. I have never been so hyper aware of my racial exterior in my entire life. Not bad for the other 30+ years of my existence, honestly. Of course, I know that I look different; however, the narrative in my head was that I was part of an embracing, multicultural community in the 21st century. Covid-19 knocked those rosy colored glasses off of me.
I have never felt so targeted and marginalized. Yeah, I’ve gotten the “Go back to your country” rhetoric in the past but this just feels bigger. And honestly, the “Go back to where you came from” attacks never really affected me personally (maybe because I’ve heard worse from my own mom so I grew a thick skin). I felt scrutinizing eyes wherever I went. It’s been uncomfortable and challenging for sure. I even felt awkward promoting Chinese calligraphy and Asian culture.
But then it really hit me. I am finally getting a glimpse of what our Black friends must feel every single day—for the past hundreds of years, in fact. What I have been feeling for just a few months is only a tiny ounce of what our Black friends have been going through. This feeling was so out of my realm of existence. I have been ignorantly basking in my privileges that I never really had to think about what racism felt like.
And I have to make the distinction that the racism Asians have endured isn’t even the same racism that they are facing. Yes, it sucks to be labeled the virus. But this label still isn’t going to disqualify me from getting basic American citizen liberties; things like housing, loans, and education opportunities will still be readily available to me. It’s still the land of the free for me.
We were just a small derailment in where racism was directed. Now we are back to the original playbook. Innocent Black people are unjustly losing their lives and Asians are knocked out of the spotlight simply because coronavirus wasn’t in the news as much. Don’t get me wrong, however; this doesn’t mean that Asians aren’t experiencing prejudice and unnecessary hate. For us, it just rarely makes the news.
We are back to our news media promoting fear that feeds peoples’ implicit bias towards people of color. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Rayshard Brooks. Elijah McClain. Dominique Fells. Riah Milton. There is not enough space in the world to list out all the lives lost at the hands of white supremacy and abuse of power; lives that were lost while insidiously perpetuating negative stereotypes about them.
This is the Asian privilege. To not have to endure long-term, systemic racism. The racism against Asians isn’t a permanent disadvantage that is built into the laws of our society. For Blacks, it is. Redlining, for example. It is the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private either directly or through the selective raising of prices. Simply put, our laws have rigged the system against them.
I cannot write this post without mentioning the Chinese Exclusion Act or the Japanese Internment Camps. Yes, we have had our share of systemic racism. But we have seen more reparations and opportunities compared to our Black counterparts.
Here is another example of how much we have taken away from our Black friends, from the eyes of an Asian calligrapher. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to explore my Taiwanese heritage peacefully here in America. I can easily trace back my culture and teach you the history of my language. Do you know who will never have this opportunity? Black people.
They have been robbed of their cultural identity when their ancestors were brought over as slaves. They have been reduced down to the color of their skin as the only identifier. How would you feel if your history was erased and you couldn’t identify your ancestors’ home country? To not know what type of Asian you are? For me, I would feel forever incomplete. And since they were coercively brought to this stolen land, our laws and practices are still treating them as incomplete.
Today is Juneteenth and I just have so much on my mind regarding Black Lives Matter. It’s time to make some serious changes and it starts with us acknowledging how we have unfairly benefited from this system. I hope we all take the time to understand the roots of racial inequality. I hope we all seek to understand.