Asian Americans, Here's How We Can Be Better Allies to the Black Community
When George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, Tou Thao, a Hmong-American officer, stood by with his back turned. Thao, along with three other officers, was later charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. For many Asian-Americans, this moment represented a level of complacency with anti-Blackness in our community, and sparked an important dialogue centered around deep-rooted anti-Blackness in Asian culture.
While a larger history of tensions between the Black and Asian-American communities exists, Asian-Americans have historically benefited from social justice movements led by Black activists. As POC who are inadvertently privileged as a byproduct of systemic racism, it is our duty to step up for the Black community and support the Black Lives Matter movement. As many of us are looking for ways we can be better allies to the Black community, it's also important to continue educating ourselves and putting in the effort to show solidarity beyond this week and this month. Read ahead to find out different ways you can support the BLM movement and the Black community.
Recognize your privilege
Understand that BLM is not meant to undermine the Asian-American experience. I've personally seen some members of our community skeptical of the movement because they are scarred by their own racist encounters, and while that pain is very real, it isn't productive to compare trauma. It's important to recognize first that Asian-Americans will never understand the type of racial profiling our Black and brown friends face for the color of their skin, and second, that we are complicit in systemic racism. Historically, the model minority myth not only discounts immigrant struggles, but has also been used as a tool to separate Asian-Americans from other minorities, allowing our community to reap the benefits of the system. As fellow POC, if you are upset with the system that oppresses Asian-Americans, it is crucial for you to also stand in solidarity with the Black community.
Reflect and undo your own anti-Blackness and racism
While it's difficult to acknowledge, anti-Blackness exists in many Asian cultures, and we cannot be selective about our anti-racism. Find your own blindspots and work toward wiping out those biases. Have you ever been guilty of racial profiling? Have you used slang words and phrases with origins rooted in Black culture? Have you appropriated Black culture in any way? It's easy to assume you're not racist, but be mindful of your internalized racism and anti-Blackness, and reflect on how you can change your thoughts to be anti-racist.
In addition, any anti-Blackness you may recognize in yourself could be rooted in the colorism prominent in Asian culture, as disdain for darker skin dates back to ancient history and often implies poverty. Dissect these ideas you might've been conditioned to believe, and encourage your friends and families to do the same. Check out this guide written by Kim Tran and learn about ways for Asian-Americans to tackle anti-racism within themselves and their families.
Speak up, but don't speak over
Publicize your support for BLM. Whether you're actively speaking up on Instagram and Twitter or standing up to your family, friends, and colleagues, vocalize your solidarity with the Black community. Share informative resources with fellow Asian-Americans and other non-Black friends. But remember that while we must speak up as thoughtful allies, it's counterproductive to speak over your Black friends; instead, amplify their voices and platforms.
Initiate difficult conversations with your friends and family
While these discussions might be uncomfortable or even unwelcome, it is so important to engage with your immediate circle. Talk to your parents and relatives about their own anti-Blackness, why BLM directly affects our community, and what you can do together. If there's a language barrier, Letters for Black Lives is a great resource where contributors have drafted letters in over 30 different Asian languages addressing anti-Blackness and police brutality, for you to share with the people in your life.
Reach out to officials and hold them accountable
Call and email your local, state, and national government officials — you can find their contact information on the USA.gov website. And if you're not sure exactly what to say, there are various templates to help you formulate your emails, like the constructive one created by Instagram user @maasaipg to Minnesota legislators regarding justice for George Floyd's death (head to Maasai's link in bio for the template). Allow templates and examples to inspire your own wording, but if you decide to use exact templates, be sure to change subject lines to avoid getting your emails filtered or go unnoticed.
But don't stop there — reach out to leaders and decision makers in all the communities that affect your life. Contact your alma mater's administrators or talk to the executives in your workplace to learn about what they're doing to commit to anti-racism. Hold them accountable for their promises and goals, and if they're haven't made any, urge them to do so. Here's a helpful example from Instagram user @nishastickles to get an idea for what you can say to your institutional leaders.
Actively look for information beyond what's shared by your friends on social media. All of us have room to learn more about Black history, culture, and different voices. Reading articles and books, watching movies and TV shows, and listening to podcasts about the Black experience are great places to start. Here's a list of books specifically about Black and Asian-American feminist solidarities, curated by Black Women Radicals and the Asian-American Feminist Collective. It is up to us to do the work to educate ourselves, instead of relying on our Black leaders and friends.
Shop Black-owned businesses
Discover and shop Black-owned businesses, and make sure to continue to do so in the future, not just during this moment. From fashion and beauty brands to restaurants and salons, there are so many different Black-owned establishments you can contribute to financially, so take the time to explore your options. If you don't have the means to purchase, follow them on social media and share with your friends and family.
Make a conscious effort to diversify your feeds
Elevate Black voices and faces on your Instagram and Twitter feeds. Depending on where your interests lie, check out and follow these different Black activists, artists, and fashion influencers to start.
Hire Black talent and elevate your Black colleagues
If you're in a position to do so, commit to hiring and promoting Black candidates, especially for leadership positions. And if you aren't in this position, actively support and advocate for your Black colleagues when it comes to pay disparities and concerns in the workplace.
There are a number of nonprofits and organizations you can contribute to that support racial justice efforts and BLM specifically, from donating to Floyd's memorial fund to financially contributing to bail funds for BLM protesters. If you have the extra cash, here's a list of nationwide and local organizations that can use your help.
Vote for BIPOC candidates
Vote for candidates committed to fighting against racial injustices, on both a local and national level. Go to the polls (or send in an absentee ballot) to let your voice be heard.