Last night, I watched an influencer getting dragged on Instagram, and it made me think about why BLM matters to me as a South Asian kid. And here’s why.
As a dark skinned girl, I didn’t have a lot of people to look up to when I was young. Coming from a family of fair skinned people I had always heard derogatory comments from friends, family, loved ones and strangers alike. But it was okay. I wasn’t insecure about it, because my mother doesn't stand for such emotional handicaps in our household. I was one of the lucky ones in that regard. Back then, there was no deshi pride. You wouldn’t see any South Asian representation, flaunting their “bindis” or “lehengas”. So guess who I looked up to?
That’s right! I looked up to black women. I looked up to Raven from That’s so Raven, and she gave me the courage to be unapologetically myself and say what I thought. Black women gave me the courage to wear nail polish in oranges and yellows and bright neon pinks, whereas my fellow South Asian friends told me that I should choose more muted shades to compliment the darkness that is my skin. It was a black woman who taught me how to navigate through New York, and throw a punch once in a while. I learnt to embrace my skin and my curls BECAUSE of the black community. Make no mistake, before the whole melanin poppin' was a thing, us brown folks were trying our hardest to scrub the skin off of our backs with Fair and Lovely. Do not forget that it was black women who made it cool to take a selfie in the sun when your skin glows like lava.
So I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t support the plight of the community that taught me how to be me. But these are small things; micro-economics, if you will.
The millions of Bengali “Remittance Warriors” who live in the US would not be able to be there if it wasn’t for the black community, who fought and died for the end of segregation. On a much broader level, the black community paved the way for brown skinned immigrants in America. Back when the first Bengalis showed up in the US, we were also called "negros", and we weren’t allowed to settle in many white areas. Ultimately, it was the black and Latino communities that took us in and gave us a neighborhood. A lot of Bengalis living in the States right now think they are somehow on a higher rung of the race ladder, because they are slightly better off both socially and economically. To these people, I ask -- if somehow all black people were to vanish from America, would it be the end of racism? No, brown people would simply become the new black and this would continue. Can you even imagine being murdered because you “looked” like you could commit a crime? That too in your own country. What if you were stranded in America and Bangladesh no longer existed -- how would you feel knowing that you’re in a land that is so inhospitable that it will literally kill you for simply reaching for your wallet. On top of that, you have no other country to go back to. Imagine how lonely that must feel.
I have been screaming for reparation as long as I’ve understood anything about economics. But I’ll be honest with myself, that’s probably not happening. However, reform in the justice system is possible. We want more resistance training for cops. We want a whole course for dispatchers, cops and patrol officers, that is solely designed for the occasion when a white person calls in, reporting an incident involving a POC and the crime is not immediately obvious. We want more de-escalation training, especially when there are two race groups involved. We want the cops, judges and attorneys to acknowledge the inherent anti-black attitudes that a lot of white folks have and act accordingly. We want more black representation in the justice system. All of these things are achievable goals.
My immigrant father taught me to say “sir” when I spoke to people. I soon found out it was a very brown+black thing to do. This is why, black people being murdered is my problem. Because if it’s not them, it’ll be me. Destroy the myth of the model Asian immigrant, because racist white people don't think of you as allies. They think of you as a harmless ant who could never even pose a threat. Let’s destroy this ladder all together.