“Say his name! Say his name! / won’t you say his name?”

“Say his name! Say his name! / won’t you say his name?”

Since my last post, more and more disturbing violence has indeed erupted — in ways both predictable and still, somehow, shocking.

I’ve been struggling pretty openly with how to best fit myself into the work of anti-racism, feeling both alienated from the work of white allies and as though I am an interloper in black spaces. What I have yearned for is a space that feels appropriate, i.e. a space in which I am able to do more of the heavy lifting to alleviate the struggles of the black community as they fight back against the daily injustices and dehumanization of genocide. And don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s anything but — our police force has our black citizenship held hostage, fearful to leave their homes, drive down their streets, to let their children outside to play.

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

Delrawn Small.

We need to remember their names. We need to remember their lives. They are survived by families who loved them deeply and communities who will never be the same without them.

My time for inaction is over. My time to wonder where my place is as a non-black person of color is over. And though I still struggle with it, my place is certainly never to downplay what is happening to black people in my community, or to claim that my own struggles are more important. To do so only reinforces white supremacy and anti-blackness. My place is definitely to call out anti-blackness when I see it not just white folks, but my fellow POC who are not black, and who will use their places of relative privilege to suppress the dignity and vitality of black lives.

Case in point number one:

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What has been happening in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Bangladesh is unquestionably horrible. The Arab world and East Asia have undoubtedly been experiencing more than their fair share of bloodshed, and it is worth recognizing. Muslim people the world over do fear for their lives and safety, perhaps in much the same way as non-Muslim black folks, but here are two key points to ponder:

  1. Many Muslim people are black, and are impacted just as deeply when either of their communities face tragedy.
  2. Honoring the lives of one group of people does not mean you ignore the plight of others. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter do not insist we only care about black lives, but asks that we highlight and acknowledge the very real problem of anti-black prejudice and violence. It does not diminish one group’s struggle to discuss the other’s.

Additionally, it’s not okay to flatten the struggles of “people of color” into a singularity without recognizing that each of us is impacted differently as we move through the world. I am often mistaken for Latinx and have faced anti-Latinx hostility as a result. However, I am not Latinx, and I did not grow up with those traditions. What I have experienced insofar as racial prejudice is not the same as what black folks have experienced, nor is it the same as, say, what a Korean person has experienced, or First Nation/Indian folks have experienced. Class can’t be ignored here, either, or any of the other dimensions of identity, but no matter your culture or country of origin, the darker your skin, the worse you are likely to fare in your society.

So, sorry, Love Live of an Asian Guy, “people of color” is hardly a discrete or exhaustive category. There are nuances within and between these groups that are important to highlight. There are times when, for tactical reasons, it’s absolutely important for us to unite — but it’s in poor taste to do so during a time when black people are being disproportionately murdered by police. We share common history in many ways that is quite fruitful to understand, but our current sociopolitical systems of crime, punishment, and achievement do not unilaterally treat all people of color the same way.

This also completely lets us non-black POC off the hook on examining our own prejudices. Both my Southeast Asian and white family members taught me anti-black racism and shadeism. My mom bought me skin lightening creams as a teenager, and my white family members encouraged me to lock the van doors as we drove through black neighborhoods in Washington, DC on family vacation. The people who loved me the most also taught me to hate my skin, and to hate the very notion of blackness, and that is an inescapable fact. (If you are a member of my family and are reading this and you wish to take me to task, have at it, but I know what my truth is and how hard I’ve worked to overcome the racism I grew up with in my home and my school. I continue to dismantle and challenge it within myself to this day.)

Instead of playing Oppression Olympics, we need to acknowledge that sometimes our boat simply isn’t leaking as much as someone else’s. As this letter penned by Asian Americans in support of #BlackLivesMatter delineates, “It’s true that we face discrimination for being Asian in this country. Sometimes people are rude to us about our accents, or withhold promotions because they don’t think of us as ‘leadership material.’ Some of us are told we’re terrorists. But for the most part, nobody thinks ‘dangerous criminal’ when we are walking down the street. The police do not gun down our children and parents for simply existing.” The letter goes on to say that we as non-black POC benefit from much of the work that has been done by black activists; we need to acknowledge black contributions to all of our lives.

It’s also quite possible to validate the hurt we experience without stepping on the toes of those who are hurting more. As this article points out, four Latinx people have been killed by police in the last week, including Pedro Villanueva, who was shot by plain clothes cops as they chased him in an unmarked car. The article states, “While statistics clearly show that Black people are disproportionately killed by police, few numbers exist for Latinos, who can occupy several demographic categories… To explain the discrepancy between Latino and Black victims, some point to the more explicit history of law enforcement and Black slaves or to the high representation of Latinos in police departments.” In other words, we understand that both groups face discrimination, yet we also respect that our black siblings are disproportionately targeted. It does not erase the memories of Melissa Ventura, Anthony Nuñez, Raul Saavedra-Vargas, or Villanueva — and yes, we should say their names, too.

If you are a non-black POC like me and you want to know how to support your black neighbors, there are a ton of great resources going around on social media. Here are a couple of them I’ve liked especially:

15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality

Concrete Ways to Be an Actual Ally to Black People

Some other things black friends and activists have said:

  1. Show up in the streets. Use your physical presence and don’t just hang out on the internet.
  2. When you do attend that rally or march, move to the periphery and act as a buffer between the cops and black protesters. (This definitely is primarily for light skinned and white cisgender folks; if you do not feel safe around police because you are trans, Latinx, or part of another group likely to be targeted by police, then do keep yourself safe.)
  3. Don’t make it about you. Center black people and their experiences. If the media asks you for a quote, defer to black movement leaders.

And my personal addenda, for all non-black POC who enter into these spaces:

  1. When you do show up, it’s not your job to hold white people’s hands or to put up with their racism. Keep yourself safe and leave if you absolutely need to
  2. Get together with other non-black people of color and work on your internalized anti-black/shadeist views together without white people around. Find orgs and people in your communities doing this work together.

And please be sure to take care of yourself. This work is hard and you will likely feel like many parts of yourself are fighting with themselves at once. I hope to see you in the streets alongside me. We have nothing to lose but our chains.


photo credit: ABC News

“What a sad parade…”

“What a sad parade…”

CW: Murder, suicide, racism, transphobia


On July 19th Sam Dubose was shot to death inside his car in Cincinnati, OH by University of Cincinnati ex-officer Ray Tensing. Unlike many of the other illegal deaths of black people at the hands of police which have surfaced over the past few years, Tensing was fired from the force and indicted almost immediately, and as of 10am this morning, arraigned on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. I sat glued to the FOX 19 local streaming news, watching him file into the court room in a striped black and grey V-neck uniform, and stand before the judge and enter a plea of “Not guilty” — a plea entered in spite of the fact that he had turned himself in, in spite of the now viral body cam footage of the shooting. His attorney spoke of his client’s background, casually mentioning he was a graduate of Colerain High school. I stopped the footage and backed it up to make sure I’d heard it properly, and, in fact, Tensing and I graduated from the same school — only four years apart.

I grew up in Cincinnati and spent nearly 25 years there. I know it to be a place brimming with racial inequality, homophobia, and transphobia. An assault suffered by an ex of mine was the impetus which drove me to move to Maine a few years back, and while much time and space separates me from my hometown, my heart bleeds now for what is happening in what feels like my own back yard.

I felt just as lost and hopeless as when Leelah Alcorn’s suicide was all over the news last December. She lived a mere 20 minute drive away from my father’s front door. I felt just as disgusted when I learned of the murder of Bri Golec, the young trans woman who was killed by her own father in Akron back in February. And last August when John Crawford III was shot to death by police in a Wal-Mart parking lot by police for carrying a toy gun. And back in 2001, the year police killed Timothy Thomas and tipped off the “riots” in downtown Cincinnati that would in turn inspire a boycott from several black entertainers, and, in my mind anyhow, mirrored what I think of as the sister protests in Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death.

What is it about Ohio? I can’t help but connect the dots.

Whenever I travel back to my hometown, I am reminded all at once that it was never my home. I love many people there. I am forever and indelibly shaped by everything that happened to me while I lived there. But I know I can never really call it home.

Like the rest of the country and perhaps the world, I am watching with keen eyes to see what will taken place in Cincinnati once Ray Tensing is either convicted or acquitted. A woman holding a photo of Dubose (I believe his sister) shook as she told reporters that if his shooter is not brought to justice, the police will need to shoot her, too because she won’t be able to control herself. His trial is set to begin August 19th, and I hope for her sake and the rest of Cincinnati’s justice will finally be served.

Photo credit: WLWT Cincinnati