Race in America is generally discussed as a black white issue. Lately, Hispanics have entered the picture, but rarely do you get mentions of Asian Americans in the national mainstream media outside of the bloggersphere (photo by Gary Lauzon).
One such blogger is Jack Linshi who wrote a piece for Time. He points to a vine of a dejected Asian American storekeeper in Ferguson standing in the rubble of his looted store. You really need to turn up the audio to get the full effect.
Where do Asian Americans stand on Ferguson? You have two polar sides and then many in the middle.
On one side are Asian American civil rights groups, their leaders and supporters who joined the chorus of those frustrated, even angered by the decision of the grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
On the other side, are those Asian Americans on social media questioning when was the last time leaders from the black community have spoken out about concerns largely affecting the black community. (For the record, there have been numerous examples from Vincent Chin to reparations to immigration reform).
Those in the middle in the Asian American community can be described as casual observers. Watching the news, soaking it all in, but choosing to stay out of the debate.
But can Asian Americans afford to stay out of the debate? Even those who don’t quite understand why their community leaders have used their limited bandwidth on Ferguson are contributing to the discussion. By bringing these issues to the forefront,by expressing the unspoken, it gives the community a chance to start a dialogue on these important race issues.
Jeff Chang, author of the new book Who We Be: The Colorization of America, recently spoke at a gathering in San Francisco organized by Chinese for Affirmative Action. He says Asian Americans as a group are the least segregated. Asian Americans are in the middle of the black white paradigm.
Speaking to a group of largely Asian Americans, Chang said “We’re down with the blackness until we’re white. We’re in the middle and it’s an awkward place to occupy.”
It’s awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. Engage others in a conversation about issues brought to light by Ferguson. It’s only through these discussions can Asian Americans reach a more secure space.