Ashes to Ashes: On What We Owe to Each Other

Hello folks, I’m sort of at a loss for words for my column this week. There’s so much going on in the world right now — so many heavy but important things unfolding across our country that I’m sure everyone is trying to digest.

It feels wrong to be writing this without spending at least a little time addressing some of these events, even though I’ve been trying to keep my columns on the lighter side. If you’re like me, you’ve been glued to your phone or television watching the protests that have been organized in response to the many unjustified murders of black Americans.

I’ve struggled to find the words to properly express myself and the horror I’ve felt in the face of these tragedies. I also haven’t been sure how I could contribute to the conversation surrounding racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement in a productive and meaningful way.

This moment has given me pause and made me consider ways I’ve contributed to the oppression of others, ways that, as an Asian American, I have benefited from my proximity to whiteness and other privileges I have been afforded.

I’m thinking more often about the myth of the “model minority,” a lie that those of my parents’ generation have bought into, a lie that has often encouraged Asian Americans to stay quiet in the face of racial discrimination, not only against ourselves but those of others. I don’t fault these older Asian Americans for falling for it — the myth was painted as an avenue through which to achieve success, build the lives they wanted for their families and provide opportunities for their children.

But as the next generation of Asian Americans, it’s our duty to educate our parents and those who have come before us on the true consequences of continuing to be complicit in the oppression of ourselves and of other people of color. This moment isn’t about Asian America, but it has shone a light on how important it is for our community to step up and be good allies.

I’m still figuring it all out but I know there’s room for me to learn and grow. I hope that’s what others are also taking away from current events. It’s often difficult and uncomfortable to talk about racism, but if nothing else, this moment has shown it’s a necessary conversation to have.

And quite honestly, I’m not completely sure where these conversations will lead — I only hope that it’s something better than what we have now, something that doesn’t allow senseless violence to continue to be committed against people of color. I like to think we all deserve at least that much.