It’s Time We Address Anti-Black Mentality in the Asian American Community

Respect your elders, but also call them out on their racism


It’s been a few months since the protests started. With protesters and officers clashing in the peaceful marches and riots that have swept all 50 states, the statues of racist historical figures being vandalized and taken away both in America and overseas, and the constant stream of information being spread online on how to and why you should contribute to the cause, it seems as though we have sunk into a dystopian revolution. In light of the unjust deaths of people in the Black community, such as George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, from police brutality, people all over the nation have pushed a movement that calls for action to be taken against the systemic racism found in the system that was created to protect them all equally.

However, while you might find a massive mix of people in protests including white people using their privilege to protect Black protesters, people in the queer community standing behind the very people who supported their own movement, witches standing against and hexing officers, and even the amish speaking for the movement, you’ll find one particular voice missing in action. For many Asian American youth, this may be a hard pill to swallow:

It’s not enough to be non-racist anymore; we have to be anti-racist and that includes confronting your elders.

In Asian American households all over the United States, there is a certain amount of internalized anti-Black mentalities and microaggressions to be found. While many Asian American youths have taken part in removing these mentalities in themselves after realizing that they are more than a “cultural thing,” bringing them up in a conversation with elders could be agonizingly difficult. Asian culture is full of practices and beliefs that essentially raise younger generations to understand that silence and submission to elders means respect and acceptance. This means that even growing up in an Asian American household can mean quietly absorbing various microaggressions and eventually having to admit to being racist ourselves and wanting to solve the problem while knowing that we have the lower ground as, unfortunately, anti-Blackness has been part of the history of our community for decades.

Asian American culture is strewn with the “model minority mentality” that was utilized in the 1960s to essentially brainwash Asian immigrants into believing that being as white as possible makes you a better citizen. This has been spread and internalized in various ways throughout Asian culture including using whitening products to create a fairer complexion and often automatically believing that a majority of people in the Black community are rowdy, indecent thugs. We often deny the subject of “seeing color,” but often look to white characteristics to be the ideal while adopting prejudices against people with darker skin colors. Store owners and workers can often be seen treating white customers so much better than Black and even other Asian customers. Yet, when confronted Asians from older generations tend to shut down and get defensive, stating that they aren’t racist and that whatever problems exist in the Black community shouldn’t have to involve them. While some youth may take to social media and join protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, older Asians have a tendency to place blame on people in the Black community for being criminals in the first place and hating how these protests have resulted in civil unrest.

However, it is this exact “us-versus-them” mentality that allows white people in power to drive a division between people of color, making it seem as though Asians win brownie points for supporting them and maybe giving us some privilege from their pocket — as a treat. The elders who retain these mentalities are blinded by that acknowledgement of success and the washed down, knock-off white privilege they receive. It is a quiet deal that brings people in the Asian community into looking away from discriminatory acts made by the people who are basically the most perfect Americans even when during recent history and this current pandemic they are the exact same people who have been repeatedly racist toward people from Asian countries.

It is the Western influence found in our history that has forced us into believing that those with darker skin are inferior. It’s beliefs such as being a Filipina with a white partner will produce beautiful children as they will be mistizo/a — a word that actually means having a mixed ethnicity, but is more often used to describe Filipinos with more European features. It’s microaggressions that need to be taken apart brick-by-brick through “microinterventions” as these beliefs aren’t actually about being “good Americans” — they’re about being cheap imitations of the white culture that made themselves appear superior to us.

In an interview, Jesrill Velasco, a Filipino creator and activist, spoke about how immigrating family members had experienced culture shock upon essentially being introduced to the black community for the first time.

“How our family members learned about how to be a good american was through the media. They learned to want to be white. Even while experiencing racism themselves, they’d think to themselves ‘If I act more white, I won’t be seen as different.’”

Through this, Asian American immigrants tended to avoid and reject the black community — despite them being an integral part of us gaining our rights. However, this is where our culture then plays a part in hindering the movement that seeks to do better than the generations before us. Velasco best describes our role:

“Our fear of teaching our elders the exact knowledge that they came here to give us is what provides us the most confusion and fear. It is ancestral, it is ingrained in us. Our job isn’t to lose our culture and replace it with any “white American mindset.” Our job is to continue the work of the black leaders who gave us, as Asian Americans, the freedoms that we have in this country. And continue to fight for them, to fight for their justice in a country that has spent its entire existence trying to destroy them.”

Growing up as an Asian American has caused a clash between being silent and submissive to an older culture that has been brainwashed accepting white superiority and seeing the truth for what it is, facing a battle both inside and outside of your home. However, with the amount of youth — especially those in Generation Z — willing to go out and protest at the risk of being attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas, why should we ever be afraid to come back home and continue the fight from within it. Racism doesn’t stop until the very ideas of it are dismantled in cultures everywhere. We ourselves are people of color who can only experience a fraction of the oppression those in the Black community has received and to not support them now — when they call for our help the most — is to sit back and wait for the fires to reach us too.