• Bella

Independence and Identity during the Black Lives Matter Movement

On July 4, 1776 our country declared that the 13 American Colonies will no longer be subordinates to the monarch of Britain. That we will unite, be free and be independent states.

Seventy-six years later, on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass makes the speech "What to the Slaves is the Fourth of July". He shares a view that the nation's founders are great men for their ideals for freedom, but in doing so he brings awareness to the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil.

Today, 244 years later, with the Fourth of July only a few days away tears are falling down my face as I type - I am sad. I am disappointed. I am angry. I am tired. I am confused. I feel guilty. I am trying to take care of my own identity and my mental and physical health, while also wanting to exhaust all of my energy to help the world become a better place. However, this doesn’t even come close to what the Black community has suffered in the last 400+ years.

A few months prior to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, just to name a few, I had spoken to my best friend about how I sometimes feel that Asians are overlooked by the Black Lives Matter movement, especially since we endure similar racial struggles. However, I quickly added, “But I know it’s not our time yet, we have still barely scratched the surface for the Black community. We need to fix that first.” Since then, I’ve continued to think harder about this matter. We can’t have “our” time when the Black community hasn’t truly had theirs. How can we reach equity and equality for all? No matter how much progress we all think we’ve made, there’s still so much to be done. We all need to have the opportunity to be on the same playing field.

I am ashamed that there have been moments where I thought the struggles of Asian-Americans were not given equal attention, “first”. I think my waves of confusion stem from a mix of growing up in predominantly White schools, trying to prove my worth even though I was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and now working for large corporations as an adult. Simultaneously, I have always envied how my Black friends have flourished in their careers and seeing Black culture generally praised through entertainment and music platforms. However, I often felt conflicted between trying to impress the White community while supporting the Black community because I understood, from a birds eye view, their successes did not come easy. Their struggles are where I feel connected to them.

Asians are often told to be doctors or lawyers, to put their head down and “stay on track.” Vietnamese, in particular, are notorious for being nail technicians and working their way up to owning nail salons.Through their resilient work ethic, they have found success as entrepreneurs, contributing to the $8 billion dollar nail industry. Arriving as refugees and growing into business owners, this is an accomplishment to be proud of. Yet, being told to keep our heads down, literally, is one of the many reasons we have a submissive, silent culture. While this can be seen as a path towards success, it also inhibits our ability to see everything else around us, including, specifically, how we address racial inequality across Blacks and other people of color. This culture of silence turns a blind eye to systematic issues because they don’t appear to directly impact our perso