Lifting the veil on conditional whiteness: A wake-up call to Asian Americans still holding on to the Model Minority Myth

An image of Trump's notes at a press conference wherein the word "corona" is crossed out and replaced with the word "Chinese". (Photo credit: Getty)

By Guest Contributor: Dorothy He

Over the past few months, many non-Black Asian Americans across the country watched as our racial status began shifting, after years of living within and sometimes even openly accepting the confines of the Model Minority Myth. Several of these “positive” stereotypes have long been passively or even actively accepted by many in the Asian American community, such as the ones perpetuated by Andrew Yang during his presidential campaign — for instance, the idea that all Asians are doctors, are smart and like math, and won’t speak out or cause trouble. Such stereotypes have not only caused untold damage to the well-being of Asian Americans and stymied attempts at solidarity within our communities and in relation to other communities of color, but they never offered any genuine protection of our status or proof of our “Americanness” to begin with.

Those who trusted in the power of conditional whiteness to protect Asian Americans harbored a belief that a stable income, a respectable profession, and a low profile could somehow protect us from racist and completely unfounded attacks. They are wrong. Conditional whiteness is dangerous precisely because of its roots in white supremacy vis-à-vis capitalism; ultimately, it weaponizes people of color against their own communities by making individuals complicit in perpetuating racism and exhibiting dominance over other nonwhite bodies — in particular, Black and Brown bodies — in their journey to reach the American Dream.

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Hmong Americans Are Not Simply “Caught up” in America’s Racial Conflicts. We are Actively Engaged In It.

A protester holds up a sign that says "Hmong 4 Black Lives". (Photo credit: Melody Vaaj via BBC)

By Guest Contributor: Kong Pheng Pha

Conversations have proliferated on social media debating Hmong Americans’ position in the ongoing racial conflicts in the U.S. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, one of them a Hmong American, warrants a reflection on the place of Hmong Americans in the revolution.

A New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise attempted to examine the position of Hmong Americans in the murder of George Floyd. The article tried to present a balanced view of where Hmong Americans are situated in this ongoing revolution without fully putting Hmong Americans on either “side” of the conflict. However, this concerted effort to present ‘two sides’ fails to reflect where many Hmong Americans are: we want police to be held accountable for Floyd’s murder as much as any other community who possess any sense of equality and justice.

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Working people are uprising. Where are the institutions that are supposed to represent them?

Protesters at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, MN in 2015 in response to the shooting of 18-year-old Tania Harris. (Photo credit: Flickr / Fibonacci Blue)

By Guest Contributor: Gregory A. Cendana

Working class people, particularly femmes, queers and non-binary folks, impacted disproportionately by a global pandemic and health crisis are leading the largest uprisings in United States history in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Our country is in a moment of reckoning as it navigates two viruses: COVID-19 and racism. A pandemic within an endemic. 

Through the turmoil, Black organizers are helping us reimagine safety in our communities without police, and a world that centers humanity and joy — not profits, corporations and property. Being raised in a union household and after spending a decade of my life working with organizations advancing worker, immigrant and civil rights, I learned these values were also shared by many rank and file workers and more and more people across the country. 

From being a part of the Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice to serving as the immediate past Executive Director for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, my experience is grounded in years of organizing with working people across the country and addressing anti-Black racism and anti-Blackness in my family and the broader Asian American community.

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Talking to my non-Black Asian Mom About Property Destruction

(Photo Credit: Donovan Valdiva)

By Guest Contributor: Kim Tran

This post is cross-posted from Medium, where it originally appeared.

My mom is livid. We’ve been talking for twenty minutes. Helicopters circle overhead, preparing to needlessly surveil a group of high school students in broad daylight as they march to protest the state sanctioned murder of Black people. I’m tired. Sirens kept me up last night. Around midnight, my partner and I heard at least ten consecutive minutes of police speeding to a location a few blocks away. They’ll say it was to keep the peace; we’ll know it was to brutalize agents of necessary change. Flash bangs have kept our dog on pins and needles for the past couple days. In other words, my mother is not catching me at my best.

I awoke this morning to cleanup efforts across the country. As neighborhoods begin to clear shards of broken glass, doorways and singed dumpsters off of our well-tread streets, my mom is demanding I explain how such destruction is justified. I sigh. I haven’t marched these last few days (a childhood respiratory illness has kept me homebound) but this a conversation I’ve had countless times with countless people since 2016.

In my experience, many non-Black Asian Americans chafe at the thought of “vandalism” or “looting.” People in my family often see it as delinquent and sometimes even violent. This coupled with anti-Blackness often sets the stage for frustration, anger and a call out. While I’ve written a lot both publicly and academically about how to challenge anti-Blackness in non-Black Asian American communities, I haven’t unpacked property destruction in relationship to Black Lives Matter protests. So here are some strategies I’ve used. This list isn’t exhaustive, it’s not even particularly nuanced, but as we all invite our families, friends and communities to join the struggle to ensure that all #BlackLivesMatter, I hope it can give you a couple tools.

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Navigating Intergenerational Trauma Amidst Quarantine

A woman looks out the window, with her back against a bed.

By Guest Contributor: Jenny Lee

My family and I do not agree on much — whether that is what food tastes good, how good of a daughter I am, or if I intend for my words to carry so much bitterness as they escape through my lips.

I have always sought a justification for this dissonance — a quick and easy answer as to why our family feels so divided. I blamed our immigration, the cultural and experiential gap that it has created between mother and daughter. I blamed Korean society, whose standards and expectations entrap me when I stray away from its conventions. I blamed White American society, which has upheld these systems of power and has thrust such an inferiority complex onto this family — both as a collective and as individuals — that it has pushed us from assimilation to preservation, from love to hate.

There is both love and hate in this family.

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