Monday, December 15, 2014

Confronting Antiblackness with Seattle APIs, and My 5-Year-Old

image from "Asian & Pacific Islanders Confronting Anti-Blackness," Seattle, Facebook event page

by Sharon H Chang

Yesterday, under the common hashtag #ModelMinorityMutiny, a national (ongoing) call was issued to Asian Americans for solidarity against police brutality disproportionately targeting the Black community. The hashtag and ideology behind it -- that Asians can value Black lives by pushing against a 'model minority' complicit existence -- emerged from grassroots organizations and incredible justice work by Scot Nakagawa and Soya Jung of Race Files with a nod to Sepia Mutiny (esp. read "What Does Model Minority Mutiny Deman?" by Soya Jung, live Dec 13, 2014). As part of this call to action, progressive Seattle Asian American Pacific Islanders (APIs) gathered together Sunday afternoon for a community dialogue, "Model Minority Mutiny: Asian Pacific Islanders Confronting Antiblackness," with leadership and input by Black organizers in the Pacific Northwest. And I really, really wanted to be there.

But I have a 5-year-old and my husband was working.

My response to the event's Facebook page went something like this:

Would really like to be there but is it family friendly? Is there childcare? And if not, can I bring my 5-year-old (with plenty of his own entertainment)?

It shows the very formidable challenges us parents face trying to be actively involved in change. We care. Of course we care. We're raising the next generation and many of us desperately want the world to be a good place for our children to live in. But we're caregivers which means we have dependents we're responsible for. Our lives are not mobile and our time not really our own. Our first priorities can seem basic to others but in truth are awesomely overwhelming. Someone has to work just to pay for basic needs. What will our children eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also multiple snacks in between? Is the laundry done? Kitchen clean enough to cook in? Does the floor need to be vacuumed? And on top of this how will we get our children the healthy stimulation they need outside, at school, classes, play dates, etc? We're perpetually busy, perpetually exhausted. Rare time to ourselves, when we get it, is often spent zombie-like in front of the TV guilt-watching something that allows brainlessness. By the end of the day I know I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow often even before my kid, who's still asking me questions. Where is the space in this for progressing our own minds and contributing to movements?

I could have scrambled around to arrange my own childcare yesterday. Or, just not have gone at all. In fact it was a gorgeous day and really I had pretty much decided I wasn't going so I could get my son outside. But then an hour before the dialogue started, I sat there thinking. What is my real commitment to a just world? What am I really willing and able to do to make society a better place? Am I willing to forgo one sunny day? Am I willing to participate in the ways I can even if it's different than the ways I would have a decade ago? I decided to try something different. I decided to just bring him.

And it was so great.

Making my name tag for me

We got there right on time with a big bag of stuff for my son to entertain himself with. He wrote our name tags including requested pronoun preferences (i.e. she/her, he/him, they/them). We then found him a little corner to set up in. I thought he'd be put off, shy, or disinterested. But he was super excited and animated. He enthusiastically plopped down in his corner and got to work on his projects. I sat there sort of stunned with the sensation there's-something-I'm-supposed-to-be-doing, and then all of a sudden the event began.

#ModelMinorityMutiny: Asian Pacific Islanders Facing Antiblackness, Seattle WA

Shortly thereafter one of the organizers came to tell me they had located childcare and a lovely volunteer came to sit with my son so I could move around freely.

Unexpected but awesome childcare

From that point forward, I got one of the greatest gifts I've received in a long time as a parent; I got to listen and participate in the entire dialogue.

Break out session one
(*Important note* we should proceed with care in assuming Pacific Islanders benefit here as indigenous communities are often harmed by being lumped in with Asian Americans and the presumption they receive model minority 'privileges' which in reality they do not get. Subsequently for the rest of this post, I do not include Pacific Islanders in my reflections)

This event was a conversation in which every attendee could listen non-predatorily and participate actively. The bulk of the time was spent in breakout sessions and brainstorms. A lot of painful but crucial issues were brought to the table. We talked about how Asian Americans cannot maintain neutrality and often internalize as well as perpetuate antiblackness. We talked about how Asian Americans actually benefit from antiblackness through advantages like stereotype promise (vs stereotype threat) and romantic partner options (which implicate multiracial Asian children). We also talked about how Asian American movements sideline Blacks when opposing affirmative action because it doesn't benefit Asians themselves or when there is complete LACK of movement; not getting involved and staying silent. We asked ourselves important questions. What can Asian Americans do to show solidarity? What is our work for racial justice? Do we understand the system and know history or do we allow ourselves to become insulated, slipping into willful ignorance? What would it look like if Asian Americans were willing to risk (jobs, education, comfort, resources, etc) to support Black lives? Are we willing to leverage our greater access to shield and protect Blacks? Will we amplify Black voices and not allow dilution of #BlackLivesMatter?

We asked ourselves important questions. What can Asian Americans do to show solidarity? What is our work for racial justice? 

But for those of us with families there are some specific questions when it comes to undoing racism. Can we weave the practice of effecting change into our daily existence in a manageable way? Can we include our children? Can we support each other in accomplishing this by organizing as a network, helping with childcare, and sharing resources? I think the answer is, absolutely yes. I was so impressed by the support I got from this event's organizers and how enthused my son was being there with me. He got to be part of the effort and spirit. I got to be part of the effort and spirit. Together we got to join a group of invested people advocating for justice. That's how we show up, with help. And perhaps at the end of the day that's entirely the point. Simply put, we can't do it without each other.

Hoping to see you there next time. Until then...


  1. I wish there was something like this near me! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I would love to hear more about the experience! You made me realize it is worth a try to take my child. The worst that can happen is we will have to leave. There is much more to gain than there is to loose by participating.

  3. Hi Sharon, I was there, too! As someone who hopes to be a parent in the future, I'm glad this was a good experience for you.