Undoing My Anti-Blackness, revisited

Artwork by Rommy Torrico, Amplifer Art. Child wearing a red shirt with New York printed on it, staring upward, holding an open jar with gold light swirling out of it. Behind a cityscape, a building with banner saying Dignitiy & Hope logo, POCs looking up. Words: Communities Rise Up

February is Black History Month. It is an important time to reflect on and to deepen my anti-Blackness and to hopefully invite many of my non-Black colleagues along with me, maybe some of you will even lead the way for me and others.

A few years ago I wrote about undoing my anti-Blackness. It was during the never-ending middle of COVID lockdowns and so much unknown about the disease. It was also during the murder of George Floyd and too many other Black people dying because of state-sanctioned violence (aka law enforcement caused violence). During that time I, and many others, had to face ourselves and ask how did we allow another Black man to be killed by everyday brutality? How were we complicity in this modern American Black history being made.

Several years later, I need to reflect and continue to work on my anti-Blackness. A few weeks ago a Black friend pointedly and gently called me out for acting in a way that didn’t make Black girls visible. I was working on a volunteer project that had a lot of complicated moving parts. It is a new project and a hard lift to get buy-in from a very heterogeneous American-normed group. We got to a point in the project where the group was comfortable using race as a factor in decision-making – a really big step. I sent out an email to the larger group explaining this shift. My friend wrote back and said unless we were specifically calling in Black girls it wasn’t enough — it was good, but I couldn’t call it anti-racist. Just acknowledging POCs, financial aid, and other factors did not account for Black girls who still faced huge challenges but did not fit those criteria. I read the email early in the morning and on the first pass didn’t understand it, but later in the day when I had the brain energy to read it deeply, I understood her call out to me. I wasn’t acting in a way that affirmed Black girls; it was a challenge to go deeper and to act in anti-Black ways.

Continuing to undo my anti-Blackness will take a lifetime. I know I still need to learn about the intersections of Blackness and Asianness. There are times our relations are kin and in solidarity, and there are many times where we perpetuate hate on each other for no reason other than hate and oppression.

Earlier tonight I was looking up Black and Asian people – Blasians to see who is out there. There are so many – tennis star Naomi Osaka, Vice President Kamala Harris, and many others. I hope we see and understand their identities as complex and as how they want to be seen, not reduced to either Asian or Black.

Undoing my anti-Blackness also means I have to understand other intersections of our shared movements. How does anti-Blackness, anti-Asian, and disabilities justice find solidarity and be true to our racial identities (the disability justice movement can be very white). Too often when a crime is committed and labeled anti-Asian hate or something happens to a Black person, people jump to labeling the behavior due to mental illness. Hate and racism aren’t mental illnesses. We also need to see where we can be allies to Black and Asian disabled kin.

The same for other intersections of identity – immigration, agism, language, and so on.

I’ll continue to work on my anti-Blackness, which also means understanding the depth and breadth of the Asian American experience.

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I am writing from the lands of the 29 federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in now Washington State, including the Coast Salish people — Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish, and Native American organizations that have treaty rights and have been here since time immemorial. I give my thanks to the elders, Native and Indigenous colleagues and relations, and the land itself. Fakequity pays “rent” to Native organizations in Washington and Hawai’i; a small act to repair and work to be in more justice-based relations.