By Ann Villegas
In the midst of this unprecedented time, I feel it in me to not stay silent. The Black Lives Matter movement is too close to home and I feel the need to speak up. To clarify, this is a human rights issue, and it’s been going on for far way too long. It’s been right under our noses the whole time. You can imagine how so many of us have chosen to ignore these significant and real issues (or stay ignorant). I get it ― it’s hard and uncomfortable, and it’s never been spoken about this loud or in this realm before. But we can no longer stay uneducated. I feel for my Black brothers and sisters. I feel their pain. I feel how tired they are.
It’s our obligation as a human being to love and take care of another human life. I know I have privilege as an Asian woman. The colour of my skin does not allow me to experience the same crude injustices and systematic racism a Black Person of Colour (BPOC) or an Indigenous person faces. This is what they mean by acknowledging your privilege. Activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada, Janaya ‘Future’ Khan, couldn’t have defined the term any better,
“Privilege isn’t about what you’ve gone through; it’s about what you haven’t had to go through.”
I admit it, I was defensive in the beginning too. I thought to myself, “Oh, Asians face injustice and racism too”, but now is not the time to focus on that! We can suffer while still causing suffering. The racism and oppression a Black person experiences is not interchangeable with a POC. That’s why I disagree with All Lives Matter ― the Black community needs us right now because they are the ones who are and have been hurting. They need our support now more than ever. They are fighting a battle that we are fortunate to not have to experience firsthand, but it is our fight too. All lives don’t matter until Black lives matter. We need to protest and march in the streets if we have to; use our voice, and unlearn the racism that’s been normalized growing up. Case closed. The only way to join this movement is to do the work. Educate yourself first and spark healthy conversations with friends and family. Reading this article is a start and I congratulate you for that.
I was born in the Philippines but immigrated to Canada when I was seven years old. Although I was raised in Brampton, Ontario and was introduced to different and more liberal social norms and values, it was always the same with my Filipino family; they have an obsession with white skin. In the back of my mind I think “I don’t blame them?” The Philippines was colonized by Spain in 1521 up until the 1890s, and it wasn’t until recently by 1946 (only 74 years ago) did the Philippines transform from a commonwealth (we were U.S. territory) to an independent republic. Luisito E. Batongbakal Jr. mentions this in his article, but “is this [Filipino’s obsession with white skin] a sign of colonial mentality or an inferiority complex introduced to us by our Spanish colonizers?” It only makes sense that when Spain invaded the Philippines, the colonizers brought with them the idea of skin colour hierarchy. Although we are liberated from the Spaniards and the Americans, the ties to Western influences and values never left the Filipino people.
I think of my life growing up and knew in my heart that the worshipping of white skin and Western beauty standards was wrong. I’ve always thought, “We are Pacific Islanders and most Filipinos are born with nut-brown skin. Why shame that?” I simply did not understand why we couldn’t embrace our natural and God-given image. This is internalized anti-blackness. Colourism is prevalent in my own community and likewise everywhere else in the world.
Hope is not lost though… if we learned that “white is right” all these years and value their structures and systems, then it only means we can unlearn them too. Again, it’s not easy and it will be uncomfortable, but it is possible and it will require deep reflective work. Anti-blackness are man made concepts, not universal and fixed truths. We can be better and must do better. We have to thank and continue the work of our Black ancestors who fought and sacrificed their lives for our current freedom.
And this feeling of defeat and the acceptance of “it’s just the way it is” is bullshit to me. This mindset is lazy. This to me only says that you don’t have the courage to speak up and fight. Again, I understand it’s difficult to overturn a system ― but at least try? That’s my one and only motto: try. To try and educate myself, to speak up to my racist family members and to have these open and healthy conversations. And not just with addressing anti-blackness in my community but to also highlight the injustices Black people face globally. We must not remain silent and continue perpetuating white supremacy. Non-Black People of Colour must stand together in solidarity against these horrible crimes and fight for Black liberation. We must let the work we put in in our everyday life be what speaks for us.
Here are 6 ways to support Black Lives Matter:
Get educated. Read all the books, articles and journals you can get your hands on. Watch all the documentaries and videos. Listen to all the podcasts and audiobooks. There is so much content online accessible to you. Do your own research. Educate yourself on anti-blackness, police brutality, systemic oppression, privilege, and the role you and your communities play in upholding systems of white supremacy.
Listen and amplify Black voices. The best people to listen and share about anti-racism work will always be those who have been directly oppressed by racism. Check this link for anti-racism resources: bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES.
Sign petitions. It’s free to do so and there are so many petitions that still need their goals met. You can start here: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#petitions.
Donate to funds and support initiatives. Consider supporting platforms and initiatives which support Black people and help the fight against racism. Some organizations include Black Lives Matter, Black Visions Collective, and Reclaim The Block.
Support Black-owned businesses. Start in your own community. Support your Black brothers and sisters. As I’m from Ontario, here is a great Instagram account showcasing Black owned businesses in Toronto, @blackowned.to.
Show up to a protest. I put this last as we’re still in a global pandemic so don’t feel pressured to go march if you’re not comfortable. Show up if you can, and if you do, stay safe, keep your distance and wear PPE. I emphasize: There are so many alternative ways to support if you cannot physically protest. Keep using your voice!