For the past few weeks I have felt discouraged about ongoing local, national, and global violence. I felt powerless to do anything—including write—to help make things better. I could not find the words to express my sorrow.
So I turned to Buzzfeed.
I came across an article describing the efforts of Asian-Americans who were writing letters in their respective Asian languages to their parents about Black Lives Matter. My father and I hadn’t discussed the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. However, the topic of race in America comes up in our conversations every few months.
Several months earlier, while discussing experiences of racism in his life, my father commented, “The Chinese should not be surprised to experience racism. We made the choice to come to America. It was voluntary. Black people didn’t have a choice. They were forced to come here.”
It was a perspective that I hadn’t considered before. And while I understood his point, I wondered what degree of racism any person should experience without feeling “surprise”.
It was only recently that I understood that some people who hear “Black Lives Matter” interpret that to mean “Only Black Lives Matter”. Thus, the rebuttal “All Lives Matter” came into being.
Of course All Lives Matter, I thought. That’s the whole point. Perhaps it would be more precise to say Black Lives Matter, Too.
I asked my dad if Black Lives Matter was receiving as much media attention in Taiwan and China as it was here in the US. I also expressed my surprise about the rebuttal of “All Lives Matter”.
“The Chinese media talk about it in a different way,” he said. “It’s not ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s ‘Black Lives are Also Lives.’ It’s more clear.”
Indeed! There is no pithy retort to that. The clear implication is that we, as a society, value lives. The death of a Black life should disturb us as much as the death of any other life.
For all of us who are ever considered The Other—and everyone, at some point, is considered The Other—we must support the other Others.[1. We support other Others if their causes are noble and just. Make no mistake: I am not saying that we should support The Others who advocate for genocide, torture, etc.] There was a time in the US when The Majority were fearful of the Chinese, which resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was the first law that explicitly stated that a specific ethnic group could not immigrate to the United States. Though this law was ultimately overturned in 1943 (not even 100 years ago!), the Chinese are still the only ethic group specifically named for exclusion in the United States Code.
People who were not of Chinese descent disagreed with this law before, during, and after its implementation. They also supported its repeal.[2. I understand that some people opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act solely for commercial reasons. They did not care about equality. I’m not talking about those people.] I am grateful that they spoke up. Had they not, my parents would not have been able to immigrate to the US, contribute to this society, enjoy what America has to offer, and raise a daughter who now writes this blog.
We all speak up in our own ways: Some people participate in protests; others write words for others to read; still others have quiet conversations about it. Advocacy takes many forms. Choose what works best for you.