I can’t count the number of times I’ve let anti-Black racist remarks from family members slide simply because I was afraid to confront them about their behavior. When I was finally able to muster the courage to explain how offensive their statements were, my words never seemed to be enough to help them understand their role in systemic racism. I grew up living a life of passivity, wrongfully accepting that my parents would never be able to embrace the Black community.
After witnessing the wave of Black Lives Matter protests, petitions and resources to aid the fight against anti-Black racism, I realized that in remaining silent, I was just as complicit as my parents. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and hundreds of other innocent Black victims should not have had to die for non-Black people of color (POC) to speak out and show their support. As non-Black POC, we must spread awareness about damaging anti-Black behavior and learn to relinquish personal biases against the Black community. To become true allies, we must stop the performativity that only serves to increase our social capital and instead educate ourselves and effect measurable change within our respective communities.
To become effective allies, we must understand how racism, sexism and classism all specifically compound upon Black livelihoods. Each minority group has unique experiences, and being non-Black, I will never understand the hardships Black people face. To be actively anti-racist, non-Black POC should recognize and study how we have individually upheld anti-Blackness and learn to uplift Black voices and experiences.
Social media is an excellent tool to educate ourselves; it provides a vast network of anti-racist resources and readings. Accounts like Black Lives Matter (official account for the Black Lives Matter Global Network), BlackVisions (a Black-led organization based in Minnesota), Black at Emory University (Black students’ experiences on campus), Ziwe Fumudoh (a Black political and racial commentator), Ijeoma Oluo (author of “So You Want To Talk About Race”), Rachel Cargle (Black academic, writer and lecturer), Black In The Ivory (Black academics’ experiences with racism) and South Asians 4 Black Lives (a page that explores anti-Blackness in South Asian communities) are all great starting places.
Books and movies on race that center Black voices and experiences are also key learning resources. But, we must avoid reducing Black art to just educational experiences. It’s important to remember that these art forms showcase the exceptional and undeniable merits of Black artists. By seriously engaging with these resources and sharing them among non-Black peers, we will be better equipped with the tools to dismantle insidious and entrenched forms of anti-Blackness and truly understand our role in sustaining this flawed system.
I have probed the sources of my own racist behaviors by taking several implicit bias tests. I would advise all individuals to take these tests and identify their own prejudices. Regardless of the score, I believe it’s important to identify inherently racist beliefs and points of education.
After reading an insightful article explaining the many ways Asians perpetuate anti-Black racism, I realized that my complacency was the root of my own personal biases. Skin lightening, a practice that runs rampant in South Asian culture, framed my view of darker-skinned individuals as inferior. I come from a family of light-skinned South Asians that have prided themselves on the color of their skin for far too long. For years, I was taught that our skin tone could help us further assimilate into a white-dominated society and distance ourselves from other South Asians around us. I never understood my active role in colorism, and I am horrified that something uncontrollable like skin color can dictate a person’s success and status, not only in Asian communities but throughout all cultures.
Additionally, my belief in the model minority myth has prevented me from becoming a true anti-racist. This phenomenon falsely promotes the idea that Asian individuals are superior to their other minority counterparts. Reporter Jeff Guo attributed this myth to the slow dismantling of discriminatory practices against Asian Americans, after which white Americans began to praise Asian individuals for their dedication and respect; Black Americans, on the other hand, continued to face systematic dehumanization. To directly compare the merits of either minority group is not just meaningless — it is also actively racist. To promote equality and growth in communities that have conventionally believed in these stereotypes, we must approach these conversations with an intersectional lens.
Beyond education, we must take action to measurably support the Black Lives Matter movement. Sign petitions that promote racial equality, such as those pushing to bring Breonna Taylor’s killer to justice and encourage national action against police brutality. Donate to organizations that raise money for Black individuals and communities of color, such as Atlanta Solidarity Fund, Protest and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, The Bail Project and the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Be an active supporter; participate in a way that is meaningful and feasible.
It’s important to realize that, while media reports of national protests have waned, the fight for equality is not over and activism is still alive and well in our communities. We must understand how our complacency and harmful biases facilitate anti-Black racism in the United States. While white Americans are largely responsible for the injustices faced by Black people today, non-Black people of color also perpetuate anti-Blackness within their own communities. We must learn from our mistakes and rectify our behaviors to eliminate racism within ourselves.
Sara Khan (23C) is from Fairfax, Virginia.