Normally, I save these posts for travel-related, food-loving and relationship posts. I intended to write about my Smoky Mountains trip, but the Black Lives Matter movement is more important than any trivial trip. Today, I want to share with you my feelings on it, our need to change our biases and to purposely support Black people.
I’ve been aware that everyone has prejudices since high school. I had an amazing Psychology teacher, Mrs. Rosenthal, who really highlighted how our brain works. In that class, I learned everyone has prejudices/biases. There is way too much information to notate every difference, so our brain groups things together for our brain to simplify and process the world around us.
In certain cases like animal classification or fruits, that’s perfectly fine and beneficial to us. However, when it comes to generalizing people, it influences how you treat an individual. She then took the entire class to the computer room and we took a test. On the screen, it would have “Good” on the left and “Bad” on the right. A picture would flash on the screen and you would have to quickly select “Good” or “Bad”.
I’m very lucky to grow up in the more diverse neighborhood than our rival school, but it was predominantly white. A few people in the class started saying, “Man, I feel like a racist.” I knew what my teacher was trying to show. At home, I watched a YouTube video (video below) of children selecting between a white and black baby doll. The children, even the Black children, chose the white doll because they said it was “good” or “pretty.” With the knowledge of the purpose, I still had to slow down to select the one I really wanted.
Before then, I was one of those people that said, “I don’t see color.” I didn’t (or think) that I treated anyone better or worse based on his race, but because I wasn’t aware of my prejudices I probably did. It just didn’t register at the time.
Also, I grew up being complimented on my height, light complexion and my round (white-people) eyes. I don’t look like an average Vietnamese person. I would often be mistaken as biracial, Egyptian, Filipino or Hispanic; I am racially ambiguous. I used to be proud of that fact, because I thought it made me exotic-looking. However, now I know that I have an extra privilege that others do not.
Now that I’m older and have taken a few cultural studies courses, why do I want to look and act like my family’s oppressors? Why can’t we just be ourselves, and of course have a good personality, to get along with others? Mrs. Rosenthal also taught us a study that found “beautiful” people get more money, more opportunities and get away with a lot of bullsh**t. Our society is geared to white as our standard of beauty, and it all aligns with the white supremacist society.
Am I saying all white people are beautiful to society standards? No. Do all white people have money, tons of opportunities and get away with murder? No. What I am saying is that having white skin is a privilege. It is a type of privilege that others can see just by looking at you. There are other types of privileges too, but they aren’t as apparent as race. This video explains privilege, including other privileges besides race, very well.
Privelge/Prejudice/Racism is stemming from hundreds of years of history, since slavery in the USA. When you’re always being held back from society, it makes complete sense why people are protesting, even rioting. If you keep protesting peacefully and nothing changes, of course you are going to be angry and demand change. Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality and the president (and some Americans) made it about disrespecting the flag. Nothing changed.
Take this Quiz on How Privilege You Are: https://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/how-privileged-are-you
Although I can never feel the same level of frustration, I can clearly remember feeling angry and depress at one of my previous jobs. I was the only Asian in the entire company, and there were about 4 other minorities. The company is systemically white. I told a manager that my director is racist and that it was not just me that felt this way. It was like talking to a wall. She said, “Who is saying this? What did he say? I don’t know what you heard, but think of the other person’s motives.” My director didn’t say anything overtly racist about minorities, but he set up a departmental culture that allowed minorities to feel like crap. Nothing changed.
I’m fortunate, because I could leave my job if I don’t like it and have a better chance of finding an open-minded company. I only had to deal with that for a year. Black people have a smaller chance for that. It’s not also in the job, but walking on the streets and into stores. Associates sometimes follow them around the store with suspicion. So when people can’t understand why people are angry, try to put yourself in Black people’s shoes.
It’s important to differentiate rioters and protesters. Some people are rioters to give a bad name to Black people, like that white man wearing a black man mask as he is bashing windows. Others are for the BLM movement, but they are rioting because they are angry. There is a third group, opportunists. These opportunists are only in it for themselves to take material items and use the BLM movement as a cover. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to destroy your own community, but I can empathize with the anger.
Even with this understanding prior to Breonna Taylor’s, Ahmaud Arbery’s and George Floyd’s death, I didn’t consciously look into how I can help the Black community. This BLM movement has made me pause, let go of the small things in life and self-reflect. I took the time to research and understand systemic racism, and I’m compelled to do more. So what can we do now?
- Amplify Black Voices
I want to touch on this a bit. The BLM movement is an American movement. It’s a movement for Black people that need the support from other races. As a daughter of Vietnamese immigrant parents, we owe it to them. Black people made changes that not only benefited Blacks, but other minority races.
Furthermore, if you don’t want to use social media as a platform to amplify voices, that’s OK. I’ve seen some pretty gnarly Instagram posts that says, “If you’re not posting about BLM, then you’re not pro-black.” I don’t believe that at all. Social media is a powerful platform, but it doesn’t mean anything without the person’s intent. On the gram, there are people posting black squares as if it’s a trend, only to post their food photos and them lying on the beach a few seconds later. Another chick posed with some man cleaning the broken windows, and then she left in a car after the photo.
If you don’t want to support via social media, there are other ways to amplify Black voices. You can support Black creative artists, donate to charities related to BLM, etc. On the other hand, if you do feel compelled to voice your opinion on social media, please do so. I imagine some people worry of looking like hypocrites or bandwagon jumpers. I implore you to not think that way. You are neither of those things, you are only more self-aware. Like I said, the BLM movement needs support from all races, religions, sexuality, etc.
2. Speak Up at Ignorance
I’m at fault for this, especially at work. As I’m sure the same with most of you, we’re taught not to talk about politics, race or religion. We see those things as taboo and divisive topics. So when my old co-workers said something not exactly racist but pretty darn ignorant, I let it slide. I didn’t want to create disharmony on the team. I’m lucky at my current company we have open dialogue about race and nothing is taboo as long as you present it in a respectful manner.
For me, yes it’s easier when your whole work environment accepts diversity as a norm. In other work environments, it will take courage but challenge that person. Call them out right away, because correction works best if it’s immediate. If it escalates, then you’ll have to decide to keep pushing and risk your job, or to remain silent. I want to urge you to push, but I also know not everyone has the luxury to lose his job.
In regards to home, you have to call out your family too. Trust me, I’ve done it to my parents (my fianceé is Mexican). There were a lot of tears, yelling and anger. I also stopped speaking to my parents for months. It does become an uncomfortable situation, but it’s temporary. If your family loves you and you love your family, you will reach an understanding. You have to give your family a chance to change.
I still have a younger brother, who isn’t interested in any white girl as his girlfriend. I hope that I’ve knocked down some barriers and paved a little path for him to introduce his future girlfriend one day. My parents have changed, but they do need a reminder once in awhile. It’s a work in progress, and those biases do not change overnight.
3. Be More Conscious with Your Money
While some say money is the root of all evil, I believe poverty is the root of all evil. Money is just a tool. It’s neutral; It can be good or bad. So for every spent dollar, I need to be conscious and aware into what I am investing.
Again, I am at fault at this too. I don’t purposely go looking for white-owned companies, but I pour money into white-owned corporate business like a mindless robot. I go buy online or at a brick-and-mortar store mainly out of convenience. Most of them are white-owned due to what? Systemic racism. There’s a good YouTube video that explains Systemic Racism below.
If I find a minority-owned (including Black-owned) company that offers me the same quality as a corporate business, I should make an effort to redirect my money to those businesses. Entrepreneurship, if successful, is one of the best ways to build wealth. If collectively we can support those small, minority businesses, they can compete with some of those corporate businesses that stomp on minorities or fund white supremacist groups.
This post is long, but it doesn’t cover a hundredth of a percentage of the American history, the many Black lives lost and the stats. I’m sad that this has been happening to Blacks, and I’m also sad that I didn’t do more in the past. Taking the time to self-reflect has helped me look inward and articulate some actions that I can take today. I am by no means enlightened overnight, but I can acknowledge where I can improve my support with the Black community .
I wish you will take a serious look inside yourself and assess where you can change as well. We are all learning, and we can all evolve.