White privilege is real – and as a white passing Asian-American person of mixed racial and ethnic descent, I know that I have it.
As someone who identifies as hapa (a term originating in Native Hawaiian language and culture referring to a person of mixed ethnicity), heritage has never been an easy conversation growing up as a first-generation immigrant in the United States. My parents, especially my father who had immigrated from Indonesia in the 80s, worked tirelessly throughout my life to preserve a connection to our Asian heritage. We reinforce these bonds through everyday things like food and language, and through small behaviors like washing dishes by hand – these are things that seem small and certainly not unique to us and those around us, but when put in the broader context of preserving your identity in a strange new home, they take on a meaning and significance of their own.
In light of the painful stories about immigrants, especially immigrant children, covering the news today, these small actions to preserve pride and cultural identity have become – for me and for my family – everyday acts of resistance against a greater force hellbent on whitewashing our success stories and destroying our communities.
There is no step-by-step guide to dismantling white supremacy and systems of oppression, but here are some things that friends and allies have taught me along the way:
Honor your identities and lean into your authentic self. For me, it took a long time to transition from viewing biraciality as a “half this half that” situation to feeling like a complete person – a full embodiment of all my identities not fractured by percentages on a DNA test or what group of people I’m surrounded by on a given day.
Fight back against the model minority myth. Don’t let racist politicians use our identities and our success stories to hurt immigrant families and communities of color. Don’t let yourself forget about the painful histories behind a lot of Asian immigration – especially some of our country’s darkest moments, from the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 to the Japanese Internment Camps in the 1940s. Don’t allow our histories to be whitewashed and remember that there is no birthright to stolen land.
Use your privilege to dismantle the system from which it originates. The world doesn’t need more saviors – regardless of what you look like. Today, many white and Asian people in America enjoy a privilege and platform based on a system that holds us all down. AANHPI communities and women are not homogeneous. Our labels and data sets still don’t account for the nuance and frequent colorism behind why Asian women on average earn 87 cents for every dollar made by a white man while Chinese women earn $1.03, Indonesian women earn only 67 cents and Burmese women 51. We can still uplift those who have been historically marginalized without speaking for them – pass the mic.
What works for me may not work for you – but we all have a role to play in the fight for racial justice. Whether it’s showing up to support a rally or having a courageous conversation with a relative, every contribution is valid, important, and needed now more than ever.