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How Queer Asians Can Be Good Allies to Black Brothers and Sisters

Courtesy Roberta Sklar
Courtesy Roberta Sklar

A plea for LGBTQ Asians to stand in solidarity with the queer Black community.

As we close Black Hxstory Month, a common time to celebrate and uplift Black people and their historical contributions, it is imperative for all of us to see this time as a call for solidarity. Black activism has shaped the liberties that Asian Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders (APIs) enjoy today -- from our ability to immigrate to the United States to modeling effective organizing strategies.

It is crucial for us to recognize the Black activists who do this work and heed their call to solidarity. But as non-Black APIs, what does solidarity look like? To address this question, we must grapple with the reality of anti-Blackness in our communities.

In Asian and Pacific Islander communities, anti-Blackness often manifests itself in two ways. The first way relates to the "model minority" myth. Through the glorification of whiteness and allyship with white people in our communities, anti-Blackness is perpetuated. For example, when our families support cops like Peter Liang that uphold white supremacy and murder Black people, they are displaying the debasement and denial of Black humanity. The second way is through the appropriation and co-opting of Blackness. This is the robbery of Black people's culture and work. The use of the n word and the lack of acknowledgement of Black people and Black struggle, are all examples. There is so much work that we can do in API communities to keep each other accountable.

We are members of the Youth Working Committee of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance ( NQAPIA). We recently facilitated workshops about this topic at NQAPIA's National Growing Home Conference in 2018 and the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change Conference in 2019. The sessions went well. As attendees reflected on anti-Blackness, we felt the gravity, seriousness, difficulty, and necessity of the conversations that were unfolding. We witnessed their anger and frustration when they learned about Peter Liang brutally murdering Akai Gurley, Rich Brian grossly co-opting trap music, and Asian-Americans in New York City opposing affirmative action. Yet this anger and frustration can turn into actionable and intentional solidarity.

As we watched and heard of the killings of unarmed Black men and boys at the hands of the police, we also reflected on our own experiences with the police. We recognized that, while anti-Asian and anti-Black police misconduct and brutality have led us to shared struggle and common cause, the two are not the same. Anti-Black racism was the foundation that created the carceral police state. We must support Black Lives Matter and that we must show up in solidarity to combat police brutality. API activists created #QAPIs4BlackLives and #Asians4BlackLives so our community could support local Black organizing.

We must confront anti-Blackness in all settings. Addressing anti-Blackness in interpersonal settings is only the first step. As non-Black API people, we can be in solidarity with Black folks by addressing the grievances delivered unto them by the state. We can call for the abolition of unfair imprisonment and the accountability of renegade racist cops, advocate for reparations, show up for Black liberation, fight for Black undocumented immigrants and refugees, support Black owned businesses, and more.

Black people are not responsible for solving anti-Blackness alone-- we must do the work ourselves while learning from Black writers, journalists, and activists already speaking out on these issues. As non-Black Asians and Pacific Islanders, we must ensure that we keep each other accountable, align ourselves with the Black community, and actively work in solidarity with the movement for Black liberation.

THOMAS CHUNG (he/they) and KAI SONG (xie/xyr/xem) are leading the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)'s Youth Working Group and have presented workshops addressing anti-blackness in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

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