Dismantling narratives – what solidarity means to me
I usually have to explain how I came to be born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Because, well, how does a Chinese American family end up in the South in the 1970s? My family’s story is one that isn’t often told, perhaps because it’s easier to assume and not ask, or because we don’t think to tell our own story. I was born in North Carolina because my Dad got his first teaching job at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University—a historically black college. He was a Chinese immigrant with an accent that made it challenging to get a teaching job, and A&T had a hard time recruiting professors. It was an opportunity, built on mutual aid, that would set my family on the path we’re on today.
This blog started out as one focused on celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I was going to focus on the challenges we face as an AAPI community in this surreal situation of COVID-19, facing disparate risks against a virus that doesn’t discriminate, while facing xenophobia and “othering” for a virus that, again, does not discriminate. Pacific Islanders are infected at more than twice the rate of the state as a whole and more than half of COVID-19 deaths in San Francisco are among Asian Americans. In the face of these statistics, this blog was meant to be a moment to use this monthly heritage platform to call on the resilience of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to address racism and the impacts of COVID-19.
But this week, George Floyd was killed.
And I am reminded that this heritage month is not just about rallying the resilience of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, it’s an opportunity to name how our resilience is connected to others. When one of us is harmed, all of us are harmed. But when one of us stands up, we must offer hands to others to help them stand too. It’s a time to make clear—anti-Black racism is racism against any non-White community—including the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Black leaders have stood next to us to defend against xenophobia during the pandemic. North Carolina A&T saw past my Dad’s accent to give our family a chance. When we share our real stories, we upend racist narratives, and show our solidarity. When we stand next to each other, we co-generate the resilience we need to get through trauma, whether it’s to survive a pandemic or to survive injustices.
No one else will do this for us, nor do we want them to. The path forward requires that we reject old narratives, teach the next generation about our interconnectedness, and together, build resilient communities in which no one is invisible or overlooked, or othered again.
Author’s note: Do you have a story of mutual aid across identity lines? I’d love to hear it, please email me or leave a message below.