Overcoming Your Fear to Be a Better Ally A Plea to Fellow Asians to Unlearn Our Anti-Black Cultural Biases and to Speak Up for Black Lives by Billy Gozum - Irvine Moms



From a young age, I was told to express my dissent tactfully (to a fault) and to voice my disapproval quietly, because conflict incites negativity. So when I recently voiced my opinion on white privilege and fragility to an All Lives Matter defender, I felt vulnerable, anxious, and afraid of retaliation. I almost deleted my comment as soon as I posted it.



I and a lot of Asians are feeling uncomfortable right now about speaking up because we’re in a unique category of both having more privilege than other minorities but also being categorized as second-class citizens in most other aspects. 



Until several years ago, I’ve been quiet for so long, too, empathizing with the black Americans’ plight but stopping shy of speaking up against the systemic racism blanketing this country.

I’ve painfully had to come to terms with my own ignorance, as well. My sister-in-law and I were walking through a beach town one day and she noted how it might feel weird to live there because all of the people in the town that we’ve come across with were white. I told her, “isn’t that an odd form of reverse-racism when you pre-judge a place just because it’s predominantly white?”



What I failed to see was that reverse racism is a flawed construct, purely because racism means “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”



So reversing that belief actually talks about abolishing thoughts of superiority based on race. You can’t be a reverse racist because as a person of color, you have already been deemed by the system as inferior and have no superiority over anyone.



It’s our differences in race, culture, and heritage that make the world a better place; they are not what should tear the world apart.



Because we’ve been taught for so many generations to avoid conflict–so that we can advance, so we don’t lose our proximity to whiteness, so we don’t lose our model minority status–we’ve chosen to stay mum in exchange for a perceived seat at the table that we know can be revoked at any time.



By and large, Asians have been meeker on the subject of racism because confrontation has historically been perceived as a negative trait. Better we avoid conflict and resolve things quietly. Worse yet, if we stay quiet on the matter, maybe we won’t get involved.



Now I’m learning to act on my empathy, to learn to be actively antiracist, and to learn from my own internal and external biases that may be causing my inaction. This is what I’m prevailing on my Asian brothers and sisters to do, too.



We have to own up to our own shortcomings, too. Yes, Asians experience racism, but it’s also perpetuated within the community when we pit ourselves against other Asians and against black people.



We have to–however uncomfortably–confront our own shortcomings in either condoning or even participating in acts of racism or microaggressions. We need to understand how we can overcome our biases, to learn from our mistakes, and to teach our children by our own example. 





So while it’s so easy for us to keep quiet because we perceive it to be not our problem, because we’re afraid of blowback, or because we don’t want to be caught in the crossfire, I’m humbly asking you to join me in using your voices, however muted or less impactful you think it may be, because this message needs to be amplified–black lives matter. 



I’ve been told they don’t know where to start. They’re not sure what to say.

What we shouldn’t do is to pass our guilt to our black friends; they are triggered enough.

We shouldn’t look to them for guidance; we can do our own research to be stronger and more informed allies.

We shouldn’t tell them how to mourn or how to protest; we should listen to them and work on supporting them better.

We should acknowledge the anti-blackness that seeped into our culture and work towards changing it, starting with us, and then working with our children.



We should talk to our elders and not excuse their age for any racist actions and words. We need to start a genuine conversation with them about why we all need to do our part to fight systemic racism, and we need to be ready with counterarguments when relatives defend their stance.



The road to healing and change is long and arduous, and they cannot do it alone. Yes, we have our own battles, but that shouldn’t stop us from helping them with theirs. In fact, our own battles should spur us on to help them. Our silence is the shroud that stifles their voices all the more.

It’s our differences in race, culture, and heritage that make the world a better place; they are not what should tear the world apart.

There are so many resources, books, and leaders from whom we can learn about how we can be a better ally to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to the fight against systemic racial injustice.

The Smithsonian: Being Antiracist

Obama.org: Anguish and Action

Michelle Kim: 20+ Allyship Actions for Asians to Show Up for the Black Community Right Now

How You Can Be An Ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement

Guide to Allyship

Brené with Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist

First, Listen. Then, Learn: Anti-Racism Resources For White People (also highly applicable to allies)



Billy Gozum is the Founder and CEO of Urban Tykes, a community of parents helping other parents stress less and smile more, starting with family travel and budgeting. Billy encourages practicing conscious parenting not just at home, but more so when traveling. Billy has flown over 100,000 miles with her kids and shares her tips and advice to parents who have travel anxiety in her Ultimate Guide to Flying with Kids.

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