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Dear Brown Asians, Stop Comparing Your Struggles To Those Of Black People

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Dear Brown Asians, Stop Comparing Your Struggles To Those Of Black People

I’ve been somewhat quiet all this time because I was afraid that my small bubble on the internet wouldn’t do any good. All I’ve been doing to show my support is retweeting links to organizations people can donate to, because there isn’t anything more that I can do.

I live in Bangladesh, oceans away from where the protests are happening. And yet, the impact of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have reached us too, and opened up important, necessary conversations about race, color and the treatment of minorities in Bangladesh. While police brutality is and always has been an issue in our country, our situation is not even nearly as extreme as it in America where innocents are being killed by cops in broad daylight, in front of everyone, without any consequences.

Still, us Bangladeshis have a responsibility to look into the way we treat the minorities in our country and do better by them. We Bangladeshis still have a responsibility to acknowledge the anti-blackness in our community and do something about it. We have a responsibility to put an end to colorism, which is an extension of racism, and end the social stigma suffered by Bangalis with darker skin.

All of that being said, in the past few weeks I have also noticed darker skinned Bangladeshis and other Asians compare their struggles with those of Black people. And this needs to stop.

I am sure they had good intentions, I am sure all they wanted was to empathize with Black people and open up conversations about colorism. However, to compare the social stigma of being a dark skinned Asian to the generational and systematic abuse faced by Black people is the grossest way one can undermine the importance and relevance of #BlackLivesMatter movement. To understand this, let’s take a quick, short look at history.

There is no denying that colorism has consequences. There is no denying that ending colorism is as important as racism. While us brown Asians have had to face our share of social stigma, our lives were never in danger for the color of our skin. While we’ve been treated differently and discriminated against, we were never sold as property for the color of our skin.

Before you begin to say “yes but colorism…” stop and think about this for a minute: nearly every Black family has an ancestor who was once owned by white people. And since slavery was abolished worldwide only in 1948 (and in 1865 in USA; fun fact, the American Civil War was fought for the rights to own slaves), the trauma and the aftereffects of slavery lingers even today.

Us brown Asians cannot relate to history like that. And so when we try to empathize with Black people by comparing the social stigma of having darker skin to racial enslavement, we are actually being insensitive towards Black people.

Again, I am not saying you cannot talk about the discrimination Asians face due to colorism; I am simply saying it’s wrong to compare it with enslavement.

But wait, that’s not where it ends. You’d think that ending slavery in USA back in 1865 would have meant freedom for Black Americans, but nope. After the American Civil War ended and the South lost its rights to own slaves, segregation laws, also known as the Jim Crow laws, were passed down to keep Black people away from White people under the disguise of solving “racial tensions”. When you look at history though, the truth becomes clear: the laws were passed down to continue encouraging the white supremacist notion that Black people were the inferior race. This is made even glaringly obvious when you see that the Jim Crow laws allowed White people to physically abuse any Black person who violated the segregation rules.

As you can see, this is a far more severe form of discrimination that us darker skinned Asians cannot relate to. We cannot claim to have been forced to go to a different school, ride a different bus or be forced to drink from a different fountain for being darker skinned. We were never legally alienated for our complexion, nor were we punished by the law for sharing the same space with lighter skinned Asians.

To make matters even worse, even after the Jim Crow laws were finally abolished in 1950’s, Black people were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty through redlining. Redlining is a law that allowed banks and healthcare providers to deny service to Black people. It took another twenty years for this law to be legally abolished.

And now, even after protesting and removing all of these laws, Black people still continue to live in fear for their lives.

This is what systematic oppression looks like, something that darker skinned Asians have never suffered and never will. This is what oppression of Black lives looks like, and its affects are felt by multiple generations of Black people.

So when you compare systematic oppression to discrimination, you undermine the trauma and suffering of Black victims. You, perhaps unwittingly and absolutely unintentionally, undermine the relevance and importance of #BlackLivesMatter.

Instead of making hurtful and uneducated comparisons, let’s do better by acknowledging the anti-Blackness in Asian communities. Let us do better by acknowledging that it is hypocritical of us Asians to discriminate against darker skinned Asians while claiming to support #BlackLivesMatter. Let us do better by saving our conversations about the consequences and unfairness of colorism for when it is appropriate, we can have separate conversations and protests for both colorism and racism without undermining the systematic abuse suffered by black people.


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