Racism in America: Enough is Enough.
Like many Americans, I have spent the past week confronting the ugly truth that I've known for a long time: black Americans live in fear of their lives - and for good reason.
I have contributed to the fight against racism as I felt comfortable - signing petitions, making donations, calling legislators and elected officials, writing emails, sharing posts on social media - but I felt as though I didn't fully understand the gravity of what it means to be Black in America. And I don't. And I never will. And that is okay. However, using a platform such as this one exclusively for fashion, travel, theatre and other interests is not okay. Activism is ACTIVE, and I am done being passive on this platform.
The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have caused me to be more vocal in the fight against racism. This includes taking action in a way I have never felt brave enough to do before: confronting racist behavior as it exists in my own community. It's easy to hide behind the shield of a petition, a fundraiser, an email, or another person's words, but much scarier to call out people you know. People you went to school with. People you love. Your friends. Your family.
It's important to point out that calling people out does not mean instigating arguments for the sake of winning or proving a point. As an ally of the Black community, it's essential to present the opportunity for civil conversation, education, and change.
Unfortunately, some people deny the opportunity to learn and choose to live in ignorance. A Facebook interaction today reminded me of just this; it also allowed me to discover that I have something to contribute to the conversation.
The post which sparked a nasty interaction was in defense of George Floyd's murderer, Derek Chauvin, which claimed that the murderer was not racist because he was married to an Asian woman. The post continued to state that there was no race issue in America, stigmatizing and criminalizing the Black Lives Matter movement. The multiple racist claims of the post coupled with it being shared by a white woman (who I was formerly friends with) compelled me to speak up and offer a POC perspective.
My comments were met with resistance, dismissal, and anger. I was told that I am the problem in America - and it's not the first time I've been told that cruel statement. As a mixed race, first-generation American in an immigrant family, I have been reminded by "friends," acquaintances, coworkers, colleagues, bosses, teachers, and strangers that I am the singular problem in the midst of a broken America.
In response to those who are under the impression that racism is not an issue - not THE issue - in America, I have compiled some of my own personal encounters with racism in order to present this perspective: if you don't believe racism is an issue, you are privileged enough to have never experienced it.
Disclaimer: My experiences in no way speak to those of the Black community, nor do I intend to do that. I am sharing my personal testimony of racism in America in order to contribute to the anti-racism movement by justifying why it is essential.
Racism was alive and present in America...
... when I first realized I was not white. As a child, I would accompany my mom to the grocery store. My mom, who is white, would be stopped by complete strangers asking whose children were with her. I noticed this didn't happen with other families, and asked about it. I was in kindergarten.
... after I understood I was not white, and wished I would be because then I would look like the characters on my TV screen and the Barbies in my hands.
... as I was playing in a neighborhood park with my other non-white siblings and cousins. A stranger asked us about our nationality, which is Pakistani, before she screamed phrases such as: "Terrorists!" & "You're gonna bomb me!" & "Please don't bury me alive!"
My younger siblings were confused. I was angered because I understood. We ran home, told our parents, and locked the door in fear of our safety.
... when I went through a year-long phase in elementary in which I refused to show my knees after I was made fun of due to their dark color and ashiness.
... when I went through a phase in middle school where I showered obsessively (2-3 times/day) because I was afraid people would mistake my dark skin for dirtiness.
... when I spent the entirety of my childhood and teenage years avoiding the sun and wearing 100 SPF sunscreen in order to avoid becoming darker than I already am.
... on 9/11 every single year, as teachers and students alike expected me to add to the conversation (or even worse, exhibit guilt) about a terrorist attack that occurred when I was 2 years old.
... when Osama Bin Laden was assassinated and I was asked "what my people would do... because he's the president of Pakistan, right?"
... every single time I tried to speak up about racism and was told to "go back to my own country if I don't like it here!"
... when I quit by first job at the age of 15 due to racial discrimination in the workplace, enacted my a boss and co-owner of the business. (News flash - he's an elected official now!)
... when I watched the lead actors in West Side Story douse themselves in spray tans but ignore conversations about what it means to be racially oppressed.
... when I wasn't white enough to portray a Rogers & Hammerstein ingenue.
... when my acceptance to an Ivy League school was a result of Affirmative Action and not a reflection of my hard work and top of my class ranking.
... when teachers stood in front of classrooms of students, which I was a part of, and preached about the danger of Muslims.
... when students at my high school made explicit death threats - citing a time, weapon (AR-15s), and location (the local rental home which serves as a mosque) - and the administration and leadership took 0 protective measures and issued 0 punishments.
... when my schooling, K-12, included 0 instructors of color.
... when my university education included 0 professors of color.
... when I was too white for brown people's liking.
... when I was too brown for white people's liking.
... and the list goes on and on and on.
Keep in mind, I am mixed and often white-passing. I do not descend from slaves or suffer from the lasting effects of Jim Crowe laws. I do not fear for my life when I am pulled over by a cop. I have never lost a loved one due to a racially-motivated or police-initiated murder. I have never felt the same pain of the Black community, and I never will. My pain is not comparable in any way. But it IS real.
There is an unfortunate trend in the Desi (Southeast Asian) community and the larger immigrant community in America to display racism towards Black people. As I saw today on Facebook, there is a large population of Americans who deny the existence of racism because it does not affect them. If this testimony convinces anyone to reexamine their opinion on racism in America and the urgency for racial equality, then I consider it to be a worthy contribution to the conversation.
Ways to help the Black Lives Matter Movement:
Sign Petitions: BLM #DefundThePolice Petition, Raise the Degree, Mandatory Life Sentence for Police Brutality, #JusticeForFloyd, Color of Change's petition for George Floyd, Color of Change's petition for Breonna Taylor, Hands Up Act, NAACP #WeAreDoneDying Petition
Supporting Black Businesses: Official Black Wall Street, Buy From Black Woman, The Okra Project
Communicate with your local & state elected officials
V O T E!