Should Black People Stand for Those Who Don’t See Us?
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Lilla Watson
If there’s one thing I share with pride, it’s that I’m a Gemini. I’m actually a Gemini sun and Gemini rising, which basically means I’m four people in one.
Gemini’s tend to get a bad rap from the other signs with labels such as “crazy” because of our multiple identities. But, the way I see it, we’re able to see and understand issues from all angles because of our varying perspectives.
Problems are never black and white for a Gemini, and this varied way of thinking, I believe, has its benefits and allows me to study issues around justice and equity through a unique lens.
When the film Crazy, Rich, Asians made promo rounds in 2018, I remember the excitement around Hollywood finally getting it together (even for the moment) and creating a movie with a cast of Asians navigating life in a way the general public was yet to see.
The Asian community was able to see themselves, their families, and people who look like them on the big screen. They were not painted as the model minority but simply, complex human beings navigating family, love, and friendships.
I noticed praise from Black people and people of color celebrating the release of the film and encouraging everyone to support so that more stories like it could be made, to increase inclusion that was vacant within Hollywood movies.
I also noticed the critics — Black people who resented being told to go and support a film about Asians despite the Asian community holding deep-seated anti-blackness attitudes.
I 100% understood their reluctance to support a community that doesn’t see our humanity, but only our dollars.
Yes, Asia is a continent with people from varying countries and ethnicities. Still, it is no secret to us in the Black community that anti-Blackness is indeed within Asian communities.
We see this in the way we’re treated with contempt when we step into their convenience stores and nail salons within our neighborhoods, and I’ve experienced rampant racial discrimination traveling throughout Southeast Asia and India in airports and restaurants.
Anti-Black attitudes are not only in the Asian community but also within the Latino community as well. I recall a story a friend from the Dominican Republic told me about her mother becoming extremely upset that Jennifer Lopez was dating P. Diddy because he was a Black man.
Her disdain, along with some family members, was not exclusive to P. Diddy but also for the Black man my friend was dating at the time.
Last summer, as I watched in rage and sadness from afar as the U.S. government locked brown children in cages, I also listened as some Black people said we shouldn’t take on the struggles of other communities.
That the same energy we give to the causes of others should be given to our own injustices.
The same argument has been said about the Black Lives Matter movement and how brown communities should refrain from supporting it without pause and instead focus on the issues within their own communities.
Again, I get it.
I understand the sentiments of some people in the Black community who believe we need to stop being so gracious with our eloquent rage.
It seems like we always show up for other marginalized groups only for them to never show up for us.
Our eloquent rage is never reciprocated. But, here’s what I’ve learned to be true: none of us are free unless we’re all free.
I learned this from one of my favorite activists and educators, Brittany Packnett, and continue to practice it daily, even when I’m feeling discouraged.
There are days that I want to focus on the issues that directly affect people who look like me rather than extend my rage to other groups because I don’t see other groups taking action for me.
Some days I want to be selfish. But, I couldn’t, even if I tried.
I don’t believe those in the Black community who are critical about our readiness to highlight and support the causes of other marginalized groups is selfish because their concerns and experiences are valid.
They are not making up the anti-Blackness they’ve experienced from people of color, and it can cause the most “woke” person to be hesitant in lending support.
I believe those who are reluctant deserve the space to get there.
Packnett said on Twitter about the proposed law that would make it possible for employers to fire LGBTQ people:
“None of us are free until all of us are free. Employers being free to fire people for being LGBTQ is a problem for us ALL. Not just because it creeps on our freedoms, too — it because we shouldn’t stand for a country that allows such injustice. Period.”
We should all strive to live in a world that is fair and equitable for everyone.
Not because one day we might lose a freedom but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not easy, but we will be better people for it.