Pinay’Merican: AAPI Solidarity and Race Relations

Pinay’Merican is a series of personal entries about exploring identity, as a Filipino-American, an aspiring writer, and a millennial. This is also kinda sorta for my final project in Asian American Media this semester.

Recent events on the injustice done to Eric Garner and Michael Brown and their families have caused a national uproar, leading to protests and demonstrations in major cities and local communities. For many, this is seen as a black-and-white problem, but it should also be considered an issue relating to other racial and ethnic minorities. So instead of repeating what other Asian Americans have said on this issue (see the links below), I will discuss my take on Asian American/Pacific Islander solidarity.

Asian Americans are in the gray area of the black-white spectrum. Thanks to the model minority myth, we are viewed as a race of people who are hard working and serve as examples to other races and ethnicities. But where does that leave us in the spectrum? Are we more inclined to “the white side” because of our positions in the professional fields and dissociation from things considered “non-white”? Or are we more inclined to “the black side” because despite our achievements, we are still considered non-white in our skin color and in our attitudes? It’s like a metronome, ticking back and forth between the two ends until we stop the needle from moving and settle it in the middle.

As an Asian American, I have experienced being a metronome in situations where I wasn’t sure where I fit in. In the first four years of elementary school, I attended a Catholic school and was one of very few POC students in my class of pre-dominantly White children. At that age, I didn’t feel like I was racially different from my peers. It wasn’t until I transferred to a public school in my district that I became aware of my racial identity, when confronted by students in my new school were either Black or Latino. (There were also very few Asians, mostly of Filipino and Indian descent.) Why was it that I only became conscious of my identity when noticing the shift in shade?

My awareness of racial and ethnic differences grew as I progressed in grade school, particularly when I attended religion night classes and took ballet classes. In those places, I was once again a minority, given special attention by the teachers who made sure I had my spotlight moment. Whether I was asked to read a passage from the Bible or to demonstrate a pirouette “because you do it properly,” I felt uneasy by the stares I received from my peers. But I assumed it was because I was quiet and waited patiently for the lessons to start.

So how does this relate to AAPI solidarity? When it comes to racial and ethnic minorities, we are used as “examples” for different agendas and issues. The media places us on a pedestal, on issues regarding race, having certain aspects of our lives highlighted and contextualized for the purpose of a news story. But often, we are never given the proper agency to tell our own narratives for the mass audience to hear. Thanks to the Internet, we are able to share our experiences to others, in hopes that we can provide a clear picture of who we are and what can be done to make sure that another tragedy does not happen. But that is a long shot to take, but it is worth taking.

As an Asian American, I believe it is important to think of these events as relevant to Asian Americans. From a Filipino American perspective, we have a history of racially-motivated violence in the United States, dating back to the first wave of Fil-Ams. The manongs experiened the repercussions of anti-miscegenation laws, police raids, and lynchings by white supremacists. Because of US relations with the Philippines, Filipinos believed that they could have better lives in America as “nationals,” but it would take decades until their status would be legitimized. Even by then, it was too late because of the unfair treatment given to Fil-Ams when they immigrated to the States.

Race is a difficult topic to discuss, even for racial and ethnic minorities. But it is important to look into the history of our relations with the US and the current events that affect us as individuals and as a community. For AAPIs, we are no different from our Black and Latino counterparts because of similar experiences with race relations in the United States. If we are cannot attain a voice in the mainstream media, then we must take it upon ourselves to bring this discourse to the public eye through any means necessary.

List of articles regarding Ferguson and AAPI solidarity/community-organizing

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