How do you grieve for other people who are different from you?
How do you grieve for other people who are similar to you?
How do you grieve for other people who are eternally grieving for their own people?
How do you explain your grief to other people who may not understand why you should grieve for other people?
At one point in your life, you lose someone close. You experience the feelings that come from loss–the anger, the confusion, the depression, the anxiety, the pain that persists, even as you are on the path to healing. It doesn’t go away; it will come in intervals throughout your life. In between intervals, you are able to breathe and live life.
But even in between those intervals, you are shaken with fear, with rage, with hopelessness, because the losses of others pile on. When you hear about the deaths of others, you cannot help but feel for the families who are also experience loss. You know that they too will undergo the intense pain that comes from loss. You feel, but how do you show it? Should you even enter that space?
How do #BlackLivesMatter to a Filipino American?
to a Filipino American who claims to be ‘woke’ but is afraid to speak up?
to a Filipino American who is stuck between ‘stay silent and behave’ and ‘scream for those who cannot speak or be heard’?
It is difficult to address issues regarding police brutality, racial profiling, prejudice and discrimination, and other social injustices to family, friends, and social circles–especially when it involves people “outside of our community”. There are conflicting thoughts that arise, like, “Am I in a position to discuss these issues?”, “Do these issues even affect me?”, “Am I going to sound preachy and distance everyone if I speak?”, and sadly… “Should I care?”
Once you realize the reality of how society works–through deconstruction, history (collective, personal, “official”, unspoken, footnoted), and education–you have already signed off to be a social justice worker because internally, you feel a sense of duty. You want to help change the world. It’s not just you; there are others like you who feel the same way, and therefore you are not alone with this responsibility. But the only issue that stands in the way of addressing social injustice issues is your own fear–of letting go of your comfortable space (because you never had to deal with these issues before) and of people who may not understand why you choose to go down this path.
Those people will tell you to “not stress over these things” because “it doesn’t apply to us” since “we worked so hard to stay out of trouble”. Those people will regurgitate the language of people who believe that we are under the protection of those who have sworn to protect the community, even if there is evidence that shows otherwise. Those people will also repeat clichéd phrases that put down other people because of racial stereotypes that have been ingrained since the day they stepped into this new society. Those people will stay within the lines of their comfortable space because “it is safe” and “no one will bother us since we keep to ourselves”. Those people will remain silent.
How can you find support in those people who do or say such things? You have to remember–it’s not their fault for thinking that way. By adapting to the mentality of the new society, they found a way of surviving in this country, even if they were always going to be seen as an “Other”. They worked so hard to provide for their families (here and “back home”), that they’re too tired to deal with the anger, the rage, and the guilt over the deaths of other “Others”.
But in no way am I trying to excuse my own community for the lack of support or solidarity. Nor can I speak on behalf of my community; these thoughts are my own. And so it is up to people like me–a second generation Fil-Am who is too tired from being ‘woke’ but must remain so in order to help others become so–to educate, to speak, to fight and to hope, so that humanity sees justice and heals from perpetual wounds.
To the family and friends of Alton Sterling, I grieve for you.
To the family and friends of Philando Castile, I grieve for you.
To my Black brothers and sisters, I grieve with you… and I stand with you.
To my community, I ask you to do the same.