An Open Letter To My Asian American Peers: We Cannot Be Silent Anymore

In the past month, the United States has witnessed a spread of outcry over the murder of George Floyd. Be it people in the streets protesting peacefully for justice or millennials taking charge on social media to raise awareness, everyone who participated let go of their differences to stand for one cause: Black Lives Matter.

There have been many discussions across the board within non-Black communities to inform how important it is for non-Black individuals to join the fight with our Black brothers and sisters in combating a system that is flawed from within. However, there is an increased wariness amongst outspoken Asian Americans that a lot of our Asian brothers and sisters have largely remained silent on the issue.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Model Minority. This term is disguised as a highly praised imagery of a social group that minorities should strive for because it entails hard work, stability, and that the American Dream is an arms length away. But after taking a step back, one can see that this term carries a veiled negative connotation and stereotype for Asians: that we are invisible, silent, and content under the bamboo ceiling. This is where the Asian American shyness and silence stems from: the fear that if we are anything other than that we will lose our footing, our stability in society. But it is actually the silence that perpetuates our continued invisibility within America; it is what keeps us in a bamboo box while our other minority brothers and sisters are fighting the hard fight to get their voices heard. This is our fight too. We have a voice and we need to be heard too.

I come from a unique cohort of Asian Americans. We call ourselves Third Culture Kids, meaning we are Americans raised in Asia. The minor discrepancy with our Asian American identity is that although we were taught western history and education, we still lived away from American soil, thus inviting possible disconnect in cultural trends and impactful historical moments. This doesn’t make us any less American, yet many of my transplanted peers settle for the idea that the macro issues of this country has nothing to do with them because they didn’t grow up here. If you have the right to vote, then you have a voice and responsibility to incite change.

Might I also add that the very idea that our families can send their children overseas to receive American education at some of the most prestigious colleges and universities means that we are privileged. Just being able to travel to another country is a privilege. Just because we were ushered and raised in incubation within a safe, privileged, private school bubble doesn’t make the world’s issue any less important to us—we’re living in this world right here, right now. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are real world problems that we need to learn, understand, and assert action for a better society, for our future, and for our children. Given our position and our education, we should do better to educate and help others. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it is a problem.

To my silent peers: Please understand that racism isn’t unique to America, it’s just more salient due to media coverage; please understand that police brutality cannot be tolerated because it promotes a corrupt system just like any corrupt government out there; please understand that this is a human rights issue and just because your skin color is different doesn’t mean this doesn’t affect you; please understand your position as an Asian American/Third Culture Kid means that you are more privileged than many of our Black brothers and sisters and silence is not an option.

Silence is selfish. Silence hurts our own narrative. Silence isn’t stability, silence is imprisonment.

It is understandable that everyone’s presence on social media differs and that some people may not feel comfortable broadcasting their opinions online and that’s okay. I implore every one of my Asian American/Third Culture peers to do better by taking time to read up on articles, sign petitions, donate to organizations, and email government officials to get our voices heard. Engage with your friends, get the conversation going, learn from each other. Please note this isn’t a one-time fight, this has been the fight for decades and it will continue to be an everyday fight.

We must not let silence define us.

About the author

I have a serious addiction to cereal.

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