New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

It’s time to address anti-Black appropriation in Asian activism

The activism resulting from the recent rise in hate crimes against East and Southeast Asians must remain consciously against the appropriation of Black activists’ labor.

In response to the tragic shooting at Atlanta on March 16, 2021, media company 88rising posted a neon green-yellow square on Instagram. Captioned, “Enough is enough. Heartbroken with the disgusting and senseless violence in Georgia tonight. Violence against the Asian community has to stop. Let’s protect each other and stand against hate,” the post was meant to stand in solidarity with the Asian women who lost their lives in Atlanta. 

This gesture, however, was met with intense backlash for two predominant reasons. The first: the inappropriate, and historically racist, use of yellow to refer to Asian Americans. The second: the hijacking of Blackout Tuesday, a social media trend created by Black female recording executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas. After a former officer in the Minneapolis police department was charged with the murder of George Floyd, and the protests of summer 2020 that followed, the usage of these symbols came off as insensitive. 

This recent incident serves as a reminder of the ways non-Black activist movements continue to take from Black activists and their labor. It highlights one of the most pervasive facets of anti-Blackness: appropriation. Since the recent Atlanta shooting opened discourse about racism against Asian Americans and the effects of white supremacy, it is critical that we remain vigilant and continue to address other types of racial injustice, especially anti-Blackness.

This situation is exacerbated by the refusal to acknowledge the deep anti-Black sentiments that run rampant in many non-Black Asian communities. The presence and complicity of Hmong police officer Tou Thao at the murder of George Floyd reignited conversations of what it meant to enable anti-Black violence as non-Black Asians — a conversation that began in 1992 with the murder of Latasha Harlins.

There is a long and complex history of racism toward Black people in the Asian community. For example, the model minority myth — a phenomenon that portrays Asian Americans as uniquely successful and docile — was created by the ruling class of white Americans to drive a racial wedge between Asians and other minority groups. The myth weaponizes the perceived Asian American academic and financial success to undermine the effects of racism toward other minority groups. However, a significant number of Asian Americans truly believe in this mythos and continue to perpetuate anti-Blackness through it. The effects of anti-Black sentiments continue to rear their ugly head, not only in diasporic Asian American circles, but across Asian communities globally: from the use of blackface to monkey costumes to the discrimination of Black people in China due to COVID-19 fears.

Now, among the woke classes of young Asian activists, anti-Blackness often transforms and manifests through the theft of Black intellectual labor. The term “Asian-fishing” was crafted in response to the fox-eye trend, where celebrities and models pulled their eyelids backward and used makeup to give their eyes a slanted appearance. “Asian-fishing” was copied directly from the term “Blackfishing,” which was used to address white women darkening their skin and undergoing cosmetic procedures to emulate the looks of Black women. The derivative nature of this phrase undermines the fight of Black people who seek acknowledgement for their struggles. 

Additionally, on many social media platforms, especially Twitter, #AsianLivesMatter continues to circulate, even though Black and Asian activists have spoken out about its appropriative nature. The hashtag was originally created to express outrage and grief in response to the recent Atlanta shootings, but some people are urging others to use #StopAsianHate instead. As one Twitter user wrote, “Things have been terrible for a long time for many. It is not new. We can lift each other up without co-opting.”

Now, more than ever, we need to advocate for those oppressed under white supremacy. This past year has been emotionally draining for both Black and Asian communities, but that does not mean that the Asian community can claim elements from Black movements — especially without regarding the ways we benefit from anti-Blackness as non-Black people. There are even more alternatives to these plagiarized terms: focus on how sinophobia, xenophobia and the United States’ imperial legacy in Asia are to blame for this violence. Use the #StopAsianHate when speaking about these issues, and listen to what Black people are saying. 

Expecting Black people to prevent the appropriation of their culture and movements is a byproduct of white supremacy that looks to profit off of anti-Black theft. Solidarity within our communities is a responsibility and labor that non-Black Asians must take on. We must be vigilant in advocating for Asians while also prioritizing a space in which we continually denounce white supremacy and anti-Blackness. 

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Srishti Bungle at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Srishti Bungle
Srishti Bungle, Opinion Editor
Srishti Bungle is a junior at the College of Arts and Science majoring in history and minoring in creative writing and politics. She loves reading, crocheting and using WSN's opinion section as her own personal soapbox. When she's not busy prepping for the LSAT, you can find her plotting her grand escape — and eventual permanent move — to the the mountains.

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  • S

    sarahAug 11, 2021 at 12:20 am

    honestly i agree with this article to an extent, but i wish it also acknowledged the blatant anti-Asian racism within Black communities. by pushing all of the backlash and hate onto asians it creates a much bigger divide between the two. instead of nit picking at each other we should be finding ways to raise each other up and continue to educate others

  • N

    Nathan LeeJul 17, 2021 at 4:57 am

    Thousands of Asians are being targeted by black thugs, and the media is dead silent.

    9 black people are killed by police, most of it justified, a few not, and we see riots and looting, people posting black squares, and calls to defund the police. Asians getting mugged and murdered, and it’s just crickets.

    Because none of this was ever really about race and equality: it’s been about votes for big government Leftists.

  • T

    tinaApr 6, 2021 at 2:52 am

    david is right, the author is gaslighting the asians, when most of the hate crimes toward asians are coming from blacks in liberal mega cities like new york and san francisco. smh. this is why we cant get any asian-american activism.

    activists like this author needs to take her seat.

  • D

    daviddApr 6, 2021 at 1:57 am

    LOL. How can we end “white supremacy” if we are just poking holes in each other’s armor. This article is nothing but posturing at its finest. There is an obvious silence from fellow “minorities” when it comes to stopping Asian hate. Less diversity in the crowds out there protesting against asian hate. Watch what happens when there is another BLM moment and they expect white/asian/latin people to march with them?

    To quote the ‘writer’, “Now, more than ever, we need to advocate for those oppressed under white supremacy.” Yet, the whole article is telling a whole race on how to act and behave smh.