The international Black Lives Matter protests have been ongoing for months. The killing of George Floyd has revealed the country’s legacy of slavery and has exposed the world’s ingrained displays of colorism and systemic racism towards African Americans.
In East Asia, colorism is a seldom discussed issue, and the ideology of anti-blackness continues to infiltrate into many societies. We are often told to avoid getting darker under the sunlight and making friends with people of Black descent.
My personal experience growing up in a society with some ideology of anti-blackness compelled me to search for an answer: How can I help build the missing connection between Asians and the African American community? Recently, with the significant increase of hate crimes against Asians due to the global pandemic COVID-19, has seemingly intertwined itself with the prejudice towards African Americans. The matter of unifying these communities has become more urgent in dealing with racism.
This portrait project features some Asian protestors, along with their reasons for supporting the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Twenty-four-year-old Kai says that being part of the protests provides him an opportunity to examine his own biases towards African Americans. Matt Chan expresses that “As Martin Luther King Jr. said that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’, so it is important to show our support as a member of the Asian community”. Chinese American, Jamie Wan, says “Black Americans have been fighting for civil rights for not just themselves but for everyone in this country, we benefit from everything that they have done” and Elissa Trieu emphasizes that “Me and a lot of my brothers and cousins have been trying to start conversations from home to emphasize the importance of having a political voice”. These testimonials provide powerful messages that are increasing the bond between these two communities and reveal that younger Asian generations are waking up from their previous generations’ deeply rooted stereotypes.