Editor’s Note: Last week we published Part I of this anonymous blog post. This is the second part. A special thanks to our colleague for this series.
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Dr. David Dao refused to give up his seat so that he could return home to his family and his patients. His strength and the violent response to it set off a chain reaction of news events and associated emotions within me. I’ve been Dr.Dao. I’ve been asked to give up what I believe is mine. To work extra hours. To accept less or nothing. I’ve looked around to see who else. Who else received this treatment? Who else is getting exploited? Who else can play the sucker? And does anyone else even notice? Does anyone else even care? For me this is part of what it means to be a Person of Color in the US and especially an Asian in America.
Reactions were quick and varied. As the videos began to spread, first came the non-apology. Then the woke jokes started calling out United Airlines and the Chicago Police Department. Then the “international,” “Chinese,” or “some minorities” responses swelled to the point that stock prices broke, more apologies were issued, and amends were self-interestedly made. Was this justice? Sort of. Did we get attention? Briefly, but it was better than nothing. Did we see Asians and allies mobilize into activism? YES. I am thankful for this. And I was surprised. And if I’m really honest, I even felt a bit guilty. Why?
Because even before Dr. Dao I lived with the tensions that 18% of our Asians still voted for 45 [Trump], and more of us need to be at the next #BLM [Black Lives Matter], #NoBanNoWall, and #WaterIsLife meetings. Because solidarity, right? And this is real. And this is our work. And this is White Supremacy. And thus this hurts. And then there’s this …
In several different spaces – on social media, in PoC gatherings, and in one-on-one conversations – non-Asian PoC have said something to the effect of “What happened to Dao was racist, BUT if he wasn’t Asian but another PoC he’d be dead.” Or “It’s good that Dao’s getting paid, BUT if he wasn’t Asian but another PoC he’d be getting less if anything at all.” And. I. Flipped. Out.
I could take you through the blow-by-blow here, but PoC – you know how this went down, and white people, I’m not going to put any more of our internal business out there. In fact, I know some PoC are going to push me about why I’m even putting this out there. Here’s why.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. This won’t be the last time this happened. This is how white supremacy is upheld in 2017.
Racism is real. Settler-colonialism is real. Anti-blackness and colorism are real. Islamophobia and White-Judeo-Christian dominance are real. Xenophobia and nativism are real. Orientalism and its grandchildren the model minority and perpetual foreigner myths are real. Many of us, Dr. Dao and myself, wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for trillions of US dollars spent on decades of war and dictatorship on the Asian continent. And for us this is where the lateral violence began, when the faces and fingers behind those triggers were disproportionately other folks of color.
This is how we’ve been set up against one another. None of our issues get enough attention. We all want to be heard and even more, we all need and deserve justice. With the weight of the pain and oppression we are holding, when our people, our struggles, and our work aren’t recognized, we get triggered. And when it’s other folks of color who get the attention, who rise up with power, and who get a glimmer of justice, we get triggered. And when the oppression of my group triggers someone because of the oppression of their group, I get triggered. Right back at them.
Over the last month of living this dynamic, I’ve stayed up way too late, eaten way too many fries, and written and deleted too many emails, text messages, and social media posts to be healthy, my whole self, and in just relationship with others because of this cycle of triggering. It’s part Oppression Olympics and part Woke Off. I’ve tried to squeeze the entirety of anti-Asian oppression into 140 characters even though I know that you can’t even start the conversation without reading all 368 pages of Edward Said. And I’ve had it all come back at me from other voices and other experiences. It’s just not possible.
And this is why it can feel like we can’t have real solidarity.
And I have had to repeatedly remind and recenter myself – that this is all because of white supremacy. White supremacy started the Crusades and dropped the bombs and funded the dictators and modeled all of us as minorities. White supremacy planted the flags, sailed the slave ships, wrote the Constitution, and constructed the sweatshops, ghettos, reservations, and “third world.” White supremacy built all this and then remodels itself when we go after each other in trying to compare our oppression. We take turns fighting for the spotlight by claiming the ways and moments when our oppression is the worst of all time. We get incensed when our oppression isn’t named but other people’s are. And even when we are able to call for an end to the Oppression Olympics, white supremacy then cashes in by saying All Lives Matter and that all of us suffer in one way or another, so let’s just be equal. That’s what white supremacy does. That’s why white supremacy is white supremacy. We do the work. White supremacy reaps the rewards.
To the white folks reading this – I need your leadership within your communities to address the ways in which you have pitted peoples of color against one another. This is more than diversifying your musical tastes or even showing up at a protest and posting continuously on social media. This is about acknowledging that one reason white supremacy still reigns is because of the way it has categorized and contained folks of color into such different cages that not only can we not come together in solidarity but we actually go at each other. And we’re still going. And you can just step back and watch us and pretend like it’s not because of you. What we need instead is for you to recognize how deep this oppression goes, how what you started is now beyond you. We need you to use this to further motivate you to address each and all the mechanisms of white supremacy. This is your work. Do it.
As folks of color, we are so much more than white supremacy created and needs us to be. We need to know our own stories. We need to hear one another. We survived and thrived as a thousand unique and yet interconnected communities before white supremacy ever existed. We each have developed our own methods of resistance and resilience that have not always been perfect, and yet we are still here. We need to appreciate what each of us specifically needs, and commit to supporting the fulfillment of all of these needs. We need to acknowledge those moments where we’ve been complicit and where we’ve been complacent as others have been oppressed. There are times where I’ve wondered if this is too ambitious or unreasonable. And then moments like this happen, and I remember, inaction is a form in action. If we don’t take the time to tend to and repair our relationships, we will only continue to trigger one another continuously. We’re better than that. We deserve more. Let’s do this.
And so we need solidarity.