Yesterday I presented with my colleagues from the API Faculty & Staff Association on the topic “Why #BLM Matters to APIs.” The presentation was part of an annual conference called Change the Status Quo. The audience was predominantly API, and we shared the messages we heard growing up about activism. Common themes were, “Don’t get involved,” “Mind your own business,” “Stay safe,” “Don’t cause conflict,” “Do not argue with authorities,” “Do not embarrass or shame the family.”
Students shared the challenges they experience when talking to their families about social justice issues. Challenges include generational differences, language barriers, the model minority myth, and the messages mentioned above. The model minority myth has a significant impact because some APIs who have immigrated and successfully overcome barriers may feel that other immigrants should be able to do the same. This myth is largely based on the success of a small group of APIs and does not represent the diversity of the API population. The model minority myth also does not account for the different types of discrimination faced by various immigrant or underrepresented groups. There are historical factors that have impacted how various racial groups are perceived and the unique barriers faced by different groups.
Among my colleagues, there were differences in our own comfort levels and experiences with activism. Some of us hold leadership positions in highly visible organizations while others feel more comfortable supporting a cause from behind the scenes. Activism can take many forms. Whether we protest, share our views on lawn signs and bumper stickers, post on social media, boycott businesses that go against causes we believe in, or create foundations to benefit causes we support, we can all be involved in social change.
For me, activism is private and personal. While I have engaged in more visible forms of activism, including protests, I prefer to enact social change in other ways. Three forms of activism that I frequently engage in are donating, calling or writing, and volunteering.
Donating. In the past three months, I have increased my donations to local, national, and international causes, including my church, service organizations, and other causes I feel strongly about supporting. These are organizations that are doing work in the trenches and at the policy level. Money is not the answer to every problem. But without money, these organizations cannot secure resources, hire staff, offer services, and create the change we need locally and around the world.
Calling or Writing. Social media and technology make communication through writing easier than ever. Through social media we can blog, tweet, share or comment. I recently called my senator, and you can too. Find your senator’s contact information here: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/. Find your representative’s contact information here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.
Volunteering. Whether it’s serving food or serving on a board of directors, there is a role for everyone who has a desire to serve. I have done both, and both are important. The key is to find a cause you feel passionate about supporting, and to identify a volunteer role that utilizes your strengths and matches your ability to commit.
For APIs who are looking for ways to talk to friends and family about activism, and specifically Black Lives Matter, here is a great video: Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie: Black Lives Matter to Us, Too