Race has been an awkward, strained, and tumultuous issue for me.
I am an Asian-American born into a Buddhist, Asian-American family, fostered by White people from age 9 to 12, and adopted by a Christian, White family at the age of 14. It has been awkward because throughout my life there has been a struggle between two realities: being brown in poverty and struggle on the one hand and being brown in White working-class comfort and stability on the other. On top of that, I am gay.
So where do I fit in? What does it mean to be Brown when there's a Black movement?
Differences in how Whites view Asians, Blacks.
I am NOT saying that Asians are not discriminated against or that there isn't racism against Asians, but I think many can agree that there are different perceptions among Whites when it comes to Asians and Blacks.
At a wedding I attended a few years ago, a tall gentleman from Massachusetts approached me and asked me my nationality. He immediately followed with the statement, "Asians are hard working people. I remember one family moved into a neighborhood and next thing you know, they owned half the buildings. Their kids were great, too. Respectful and smart."
So while racism against Asians still exist, we have a slightly different history (Chinese rail workers during industrial age and Japanese detainees in WWII) and a different perception among Whites. Also, it is still a "Black Movement" not a "Black/Brown Movement."
What do we do, then? Answer: Be involved but take the back seat.
The Black Movement is a "Black" movement. The movement is about equating the scales that have, throughout American history, weighed heavily in favor of Whites and so heavily against Blacks. It is about equal treatment of Blacks before the Law. It is about legitimate Black Rage in the face of a history of dehumanization. It is about Black Dignity in the face of a history of slavery in chains and slavery to the conditions imposed and fueled by racism and hate.
This is their movement. This is their moment. It is their Dignity that has been crushed and is at issue. The rest of us can either help or hinder. We can help by spreading THEIR message and empowering, supporting, and standing in solidarity with our Black friends.
On the flip side, we run the risk of being paternalistic and too demeaning if we assume too much of the movement's mantle. Hence, while I have chosen to be involved, I will take a back seat and let Blacks lead the Black Movement.
Candidate for Portland City Council District 5.
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