The Dividing Line
Updated: May 14, 2021
"Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother...We need to talk. You may not have many Black friends, colleagues, or acquaintances, but I do. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my neighbors, my family. I am scared for them,"(Letters for Black Lives).
The recent Black Lives Matter protests, the increase in awareness of police brutality, and the overall turmoil got me thinking, what is the current relationship between the Asian population and the Black Lives Matter movement? Aside from friends that are my age and my dad, I had never seen nor heard of true Asian support on just about any matter. The only things I truly knew was that Asians Americans have low voting percentages and almost half of them live in the West.
The first defining moment that came to mind was the 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins by Soon Ja Du, a Korean women who owned a liquor store in LA. Du accused Harlins of attempting to steal a bottle of orange juice. Witness states that while Harlins put the bottle of juice in her backpack, she had the $2 in her hand to pay for it. Du eventually shot Harlins in the back of the head. She was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, but evaded incarceration. A couple Koreans wondered, “Why doesn’t Korean life matter? When will the city mourn the lives lost and the American dreams dashed for these Korean store owners?” I assume that this is in reference to the lack of attention Korean store owners lives received when many were lost due to gang violence at that time. Others were angered as the murder went against the formation of recent grassroots movements to bring together the two communities. However, the general consensus was that it was a horrible event that occurred and Du should have received prison time. This event divided and angered an entire generation who had generally gotten along. To me, this changed everything.
The model minority myth became a stereotype after years of yellow peril propaganda from the United States. Primarily, during events such as Japanese internment, the two communities came together to fight for freedom. Additionally, in the 60s Asian American and Black students rallied for equal education opportunities. The rise of the model minority began at that same time, the Immigration Naturalization act of 1965 and other immigration policies aiding the idea. This stereotype shows Asian Americans as superior to other American minority groups, creating tension and negative feelings. It characterizes Asians-Americans as silent, law abiding, and hardworking; prioritizing East Asians in the American social structure. This eliminates individuality and sets other ethnicities in opposition, damaging their chances of success.
Improvements in the relationship between Asian Americans and the Black population have occurred in recent years but we still have a long way to go. Due to the prominence and normalization of the Model Minority Myth in modern day America, many Asian immigrants choose not to follow recent events, stay within their own circles, and abstain from voting. While this needs to change, my hope lies with the current generation of Asian Americans. I believe they have the power to change the social dynamic between Asian Americans and other American minority groups through the abolishment of the Model Minority Myth, the active support of the BLM movement (and other American minority peoples), and the education of older generations.
So, to everyone reading this, please reflect on where you stand on this matter. Take into consideration that it is likely that you (nor I) will ever be educated enough to fully comprehend and understand it. I have attached some articles, books, and other media that I truly hope you will read and share.
“Asian Americans.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 8 Sept. 2017, www.pewresearch.org/topics/asian-americans/.
“How the Killing of Latasha Harlins Changed South L.A., Long before Black Lives Matter.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Mar. 2016, www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0318-latasha-harlins-20160318-story.html.
Lives, Letters For Black. “Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother, Family:” Medium, Letters for Black Lives, 10 June 2020, lettersforblacklives.com/mom-dad-uncle-auntie-grandfather-grandmother-family-c7525176ed14.