CW: discussion of anti-Blackness
For my fellow Asians or South Asians, you can check out this link here for recommendations on some actions you could take and some letters here for guidelines on how we can have tough conversations with our family.
As a queer person of fluid gender expression and an Indian-American, one with caste privilege and consistent class access, I feel vulnerable but also responsible, and also uniquely positioned as an outsider. For me, this is a gift. It allows me greater access to empathy and critical engagement, by feeling like I'm on the outside looking in.
There are many resources, including the ones above, about what Asians and South Asians can do right now and incisive and real analysis about the ways we owe Black communities for our safety now and how we continue to benefit from white supremacy and perpetuate the oppression of Black people.
Protesting and social medial activism is important. It is important to show up to be visible, have Asian bodies and faces in the streets and online, and demonstrate solidarity. There is a very real phenomenon that non-Black bodies in the crowds might mean less state violence perpetuated by cops towards protestors.
"Inaction" and silence are unacceptable.
But in this moment, right now, I am paused. I'm reflective. I feel the overwhelming calls to jump in but something deep inside tells me to take a step back right now. And that dissonance is hard; I feel bad about it.
Am I being avoidant? Is this a form of complicity born of convenience and privilege, ie, the issue doesn't directly affect me so I'm leaning out?
I have been to the marches. I remember the feeling of being there. There is nothing else like being in the streets and proclaiming to the oppressive voices within and without that you will not be silenced or ignored. Protests also overwhelm me. I can be very sensitive. Sometimes, I cannot shut the vigilance off. The chaos of protesting and heightened precarity can be excruciating for me.
How can I participate and be active while also aligning with my needs and continued purpose, gifts, or values rather than just trying to appear to be good?
The same goes for digital activism. If I am feverishly posting content, am I contributing to frenzy, to a trend, to a fetishizing of a moment, to "trauma porn," to anxiously sensationalizing and furthering trauma? Is it activism with political or social gain or am I just performing for social capital to appear to be good?
For those who are gifted at social media who have large followings (I don't), this is an opportunity, absolutely. And I still think it's important for me to ask myself: What is the purpose of my actions or words?
Now I'm not here to proverbially gaze at my own navel. So here are some intentions (I'm still actively trying to practice this and it's hard!!!)
I avoid reacting.
I try to deepen my analysis by reading, listening and watching. I learn from history and prioritize content created by those most affected. I give money to those people and to organizations who are doing the work. And most importantly, I attempt to take time to pause and reflect and not just react. I think we get to a lot of places of harm by reacting and escalating.
I seek connection with others.
Intimacy and vulnerability are key here for me.
I enjoy connecting with my friends, family, and strangers who feel impacted or just need human connection.
I enjoy having tough conversations with family and peers and sharing and accepting care, resources, and information. Right now, that might be about why people are angry and why they're protesting. There's no one-size-fits-all script. I must speak to others like real people, responsive and from the heart not like an article. I try to remember to not just challenge phobic or violent mentalities but also open the door to liberatory thinking (ie, I don't want to say "don't be racist;" let's also show that supporting change is the more pleasurable and harmonious thing to do).
I wish to transform and build while I simultaneously destroy and dismantle.
I believe true human connection is both giving and accepting flows of energy and care, fostering ease and comfort and meeting people where they are at in their capacities. And I try to be self-reflective and avoid connecting if it's with the mindset of treating people like entities or causes. I loathe the feeling and idea of building relationships with people just to address a complicity or a guilt or culpability that feels so un-human. I would never want to interact with someone who is connecting with me because of that. That's a what a waste of time and energy.
I lean into my gifts and purpose.
Speaking of building, I double down on my creative practice and my craft. For me, that is music. And to the best of my ability, I divest from creating with monetization in mind. I create from my intuition, my heart. I attempt to be responsive to what came before and what's around me.
For me, I visualize someone putting on headphones and listening to my songs, entering a dream space for solace, introspection, and clarity.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor -Desmond Tutu
I understand, and am open to, the criticism that maybe I'm not doing enough, that my lack of activity amounts to complicity, that my priorities are all wrong, and that even, perhaps, I'm self-absorbed.
I also remind myself how we devalue art and invisibilize emotional labor.
Domestic workers' and caretakers' labor consistently is severely under compensated and undercounted.
Music plays constantly everywhere; it saves lives, lifts people up, and keeps them going, but creators are inadequately replenished.
More is expected of these caretakers and artists (sometimes one in the same) while the labor and contributions that people consume and benefit from is ignored or devalued, or, worse, exploited.
Art, images, words, music, poetry, dance and text messages, phone calls, tough conversations, hugs, care holds everything up; it gives life meaning and it's undergirds our way through and forward.
I can't exist in a world without fluidity and hybridity.
The implications of "you are this and must do this and be this or else" are dangerous to me, when I feel I'm consistently breaking rules by just being myself.
I guess instead of leaning out of anything; I'm really trying to lean into expansiveness.