By Nikhil Umesh:
To all South Asians living in the United States:
Let us remember their names.
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
The situation is urgent. We are late. We’ve been silent for far too long. Our diasporic communities have historically and presently been complicit in anti-Black racism. I’ve seen racist sentiments in my family, among friends, and within our broader communities, whether at the dinner table or school or community gatherings. The consequences for this are truly deadly: the recently uncovered manifesto of the white male killer praises Asians for being racists and in alliance with white supremacy. So, I have to ask: on what side of history do we want to find ourselves?
We must not let the white-controlled media, the government, and our internalized ideas of race manipulate or fog the narrative. Let’s not fall into the trap of referring to this merely as the “Charleston Shooting.” This was a massacre, an act of terrorism. Let’s not coddle narratives of mental health, how the shooter was a “quiet boy” and no one saw this coming. White terrorism is nothing new, but as old as America.
And let’s not pretend like this massacre was an aberration, a blip in the radar. The traditional U.S. liberal narrative is that racism that enables act of violence like this is pathological and out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, this massacre is actively being presented as an event, and not part of a larger structure. The truth is that racial domination is normal and historically enduring.
Our police and prison regime has roots in racial slavery, and is attendant to the logics of racial genocide rather than ensuring justice within our society. Consequently, the state-sanctioned apparatus of violence that is the police, prison, and courts is not where we must seek justice. Our “justice” system has been rigged to extinguish and control the lives of those living at the margins, and does not live up to its motto of “to protect and to serve.”
Rather, justice looks like an end to the killing of unarmed Black people at the hands of vigilantes and police officers. Justice looks like an end to America’s prison regime. Justice is a radical revisioning of society.
Many of us have acquired financially successful lives in this country, whether as doctors, engineers, or business people. Let’s not sidestep the reality that we have played into the “model minority” myth for far too long, internalizing its logic and taking up its mission of anti-Black racism. As non-Black people, we have built lives in this country off of wealth that was only made possible by racial slavery and the continued plundering of Black America. We cannot continue suffocating those among us.
Instead, let us challenge the American mythology which imagines Asians as docile, apolitical, and unwilling to challenge the status quo. From racialized mass incarceration, to racialized health disparities, to the racial wealth gap, there is no dearth of issues that will require our labor and toil. Anti-Black violence is not limited to police brutality, but orchestrated within a much larger structure that implicates all of our institutions.
Black lives have always mattered, but affirming this truth will require all of us. Let us take on this struggle, do the labor and be foot soldiers.
Liberation will only be the result of collective effort, diligent organizing, and a commitment to an emancipation that is yet to come.
A South Asian who will be silent no more.