Black Lives Matter activism has exploded all over social media, and not just in America. The world is aching for change and is watching the United States’ unfolding revolution. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are among the recent victims of rampant police brutality against Black people in America. Their names are echoed on the street, in conversation, and on social media. I’m 9000 miles away and I still hear the cries for change. Solidarity is what the world needs. However, on one hand, the “not my country, not my problem” excuse is still a present obstacle. And simultaneously, performative activism is still mistaken as impactful.
It is unfortunate that the social media buzz we see now is a result of yet another needless murder. George Floyd died on Monday, May 25th, by police officer Derek Chauvin, who was eventually charged with third-degree murder and has since been charged with second-degree murder, with the accompanying officers also being charged. The video of Floyd’s arrest and murder circulated around social media, inflicting more trauma to an already bleeding wound. If your repost of a #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd graphic on Instagram stems from ‘your trauma’ of seeing his murder, then you haven’t been paying attention. Especially for non-Americans who have previously stayed out of American politics, and politics in general, suddenly emerging as an activist, it is important to reflect on your intentions and really question what impact you have. When did the “not my country, not my problem” excuse become invalid for you?
I am not an American. But America’s problems have always fallen under the international spotlight. At first, I thought it was amazing to see the world acting together against anti-Black racism in America on social media. Not long after, I began to see posts from my non-American peers who in the past appropriated Black culture and used racial slurs. Social media activism has now become a “trend” for people to show off that they care. What was supposed to be an act of solidarity became a useless facade. Then again, I also noticed people’s silence. What is worse? Choosing silence and the side of the oppressor, or taking a stand even if it’s ‘woke-trendiness’?
It’s hard to make sense of what’s going on when so many non-Americans feel too far removed to care or take further action. Yet this is the very excuse that denies change. Racism is a global reality, and anti-racism is a global movement. Anti-Black/Brown racism, in particular, is prevalent in all societies.
Growing up in South East Asia, I have seen anti-Black/Brown sentiments in all its forms, from appropriation to racial profiling. In fact, anti-Blackness is deeply ingrained in Asian culture. In China, Black people were banned from entering restaurants and evicted from businesses. In India, skin bleaching has become a booming industry as dark complexions are stigmatized. In my home, Singapore, blackface and brownface are still a reality. These global examples do not invalidate the Black experience in America, nor do they conflate that all Black experiences are one and the same. Moreover, as a non-Black person of color, my support for the movement does not invalidate my experiences of racism but recognizes that Black people’s lives are literally on the line in a way mine is not. The countless examples of anti-Black/Brown racism in the world should push people outside of America to advocate for Black Lives Matter on a global scale. Being non-American is not a ticket out of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The need to go beyond performative activism is specially targeted towards international students studying in America. The minute I stepped foot into America, I became a part of the system that serves to hold up white supremacy and perpetuate anti-Blackness. I am seen as part of the Asian model minority myth. My ‘Asian success’ is a scapegoat for America to call itself post-racial. Not taking action for Black Lives Matter is a disservice to all my Black peers in America. Not speaking up when a family member is spewing racial slurs is a disservice. Not donating and signing petitions is a disservice. One repost is not enough.
No matter where you are from, silence and performative activism are equally unacceptable. To the international student community—at Boston College and elsewhere: each one of you has the ability to become an ally during this time. Recognize that Black Lives Matter can be part of a global anti-racism effort. America is not the only country that has institutionalized racism rooted in its society. If you care about America’s social injustices, you can start by reflecting on your own community and how the people around you perpetuate anti-Blackness and call them out. This is a time for people all over the world to come to terms with the ugly reality of our internalized anti-Blackness. Donate, sign, educate, listen. Be pro-active instead of performative. No one is truly helpless in this situation.
Where to donate:
- George Floyd Memorial Fund
- Minnesota Freedom Fund
- Unicorn Riot
- Run with Maud
- Justice for Breonna
- National Bail Out
- Black Visions Collective
- Campaign Zero
- Reclaim The Block
Petitions to Sign:
- Text FLOYD to 5515
- Raise the Degree
- Charge All Four Officers
- Justice for Breonna Taylor
- Educate Children on Racism Through School
For more resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#
To better educate yourself on the problems at hand and how you can be part of the solution, tune in to Boston College's FACES Council's organized virtual event—Black Voices and Allyship and Solidarity—on June 5, 5-6:30 pm EST. Register here.