*BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, People of Color: "it is meant to unite all people of color in the work for liberation while intentionally acknowledging that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice"
*PC, Providence College in Providence, RI
On July 6th, 2020 I was clicking through Instagram stories when I saw a repost from an account called @blackatpc. In their bio it said, "For our BIPOC Friars at @provcollege & uplifting their stories to enact change." It appeared that anonymous submissions from students, faculty members, and alumni were to be featured on the page, later mine was included.
While reading the posts I felt a mix of emotions. As an Asian American on this campus, I felt empowered hearing my fellow classmates' stories and knowing the courage it took to retell and relive their past trauma. I felt sad, deeply sad that my fellow classmates have been through some truly terrible experiences at a place that is supposed to be our second home. Lastly, I felt frustration towards the administration. Although no one can prevent these situations from happening, our curriculum has been lacking dialogue about race, identity, and diversity. This is a call for systems-level change.
However, on July 29th, 2020 I also felt hurt and ashamed.
On this day, @blackatpc shared in a more detailed post, some of the negative and inappropriate submissions they have received. I was hurt that people were choosing to use cruel words to insult the BIPOC community at PC who thought this would be a safe space and was ashamed at the harsh reminder that students like this go to my school.
To the PC student who said, "Spoiled as mfs complaining all day long aint got nothin better to do? U ever forget about the brothers and sisters that aint make it to college and how U supposed to be taking care of them and looking for them with YOUR privilege. STFU spoiled brats all of you. Shame on you."
You left me speechless. Only for a moment though, because your hate will not silence me. Let me say this, no one said that the education at PC is not a privilege. It is a privilege to be able to afford the time and money to attend a private institution and receive a degree in higher education. I am thankful every day.
But you know what is a privilege at PC? It's being able to exist for all four years and never be discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable because of the color of your skin. It's being able to attend classes with people who look like you, because what people may not know is that there is a solidarity and comfortability in being surrounded by people who share an ethnicity. It's being able to say, "I love PC" and not have to follow it with a 'but' disclaimer.
I think the people who are 'spoiled', are the ones who have been able to ignore the racism occurring on PC's campus. Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it's not a problem to you personally.
To the PC student who said, "How about if you have so much to complain about you transfer and got to another college. But it's fine to accept the money from the school though. That's never an issue. And don't tell me you're paying the 60k tuition either."
I'll start by saying I didn't know that sharing our past racially charged incidents was 'complaining'. But rather an opportunity to educate those who have never been victim to racism to better understand our different experiences, because otherwise you never would have known.
I'll put your words into perspective. It's like me asking my white friends who go to PC, "Hey, you must have no student debt or loans because your rich daddy pays for your education." When in reality, they have academic scholarships, student loans, and work 3 jobs to help offset the cost. I can only speak for myself when I say that I've never looked at the white students and thought, "Wow I wish I had their wealth and status." Because again, that would be profiling them with no evidence simply because they're a white student who attends PC.
I don't think you're intentionally trying to insult an entire group of people, (or I hope you weren't), because the school doesn't just give BIPOC money because we are a quota to be filled. We are hardworking students, not charity cases. I suggest next time speaking with more humanity rather than animosity.
To the PC student who said, "#RacistsAtPC We run the school."
Your power doesn't exist in controlling the school, your power only exists in belittling others. Your power is what makes you spiteful. Your power is not sustainable and will fade away as quickly as it lasted. Because as loud as you think your voice is, ours are louder.
I can only speak for myself when I say that I'm hurt.
There is no one to blame. The @blackatpc page isn't about blame. It's about sharing our BIPOC experiences so that people are aware that this behavior has been happening and continues to happen whether you witness it or not.
Many people have never been asked to reflect on their own privileged status, whether that has to do with race, economic status, sexual orientation, education or religion. On the topic of racial identity, many of us are uncomfortable with this discourse especially through its intersection with the social and political changes occurring in the US.
So, I would like to state that our experiences as BIPOC are different than white people. Not better or worse, but different. It is harmful to say, "Well I don't see color, I think that everyone is equal." Well it's not that easy. By not acknowledging, for example my Asianess, you are choosing to simplify my experience and ignoring the years of racially charged history of slurs, prejudice, slander, and discrimination that Asians have been experiencing in America. To not "see color" is to not see me.
On the topic of privilege, friends of mine have been asking what white privilege means. Simply put, white privilege doesn't mean you have not suffered if you're white or that BIPOC don't have privilege. It means that you have never been oppressed or discriminated against because of the color of your skin. Peggy Mcintosh said, "I realized that I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but also had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, White privilege, which puts me at an advantage."
As members of the PC community, we have the opportunity to prevent racial violence on and off campus. Racial violence is not limited to a physical or verbal attack towards someone because of the color of their skin. It also includes the emotional trauma that BIPOC experience. For example, it's when people ask me, "Where are you from?" and when I say, "Massachusetts." they respond, "But no, where are you really from...Asian? What kind of Asian?". It's an incredibly othering experience that makes me feel like I don't belong even though I was raised in America, have an American passport, and have an American family.
PC is a bubble where the people are shielded from experiences that differ from their own. I should know because I grew up in a predominantly white, middle class area, and then went to school with the same demographic. It's time to reflect on our privileged backgrounds.
Last week, I was telling my friends why I no longer buy alcohol at A to Z Liquors. The first time I went in, one of the workers followed me to the back, cornered me, and asked "Are you Chinese? Korean? Asian? You look so Asian." Uncomfortable and caught completely off guard, I stuttered, mumbled, and told him I didn't want to answer that question. I paid for my booze and left. About a week later, I went back and there was the same worker. This time he didn't follow me, but at the cash register he asked me again, "So what are you? What Asian are you? Chinese? Korean? Tell me." This time I was, sadly, more prepared and told him I would not be answering his intrusive and rude question.
After I casually recounted this situation, my friend who's a white male looked at me in awe and went, "Wait seriously? That happened to you? Twice? God, I'm so sorry that's messed up." I just looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and said, "This happens all the time. I'm used to it. Doesn't make it any easier, but I'm used to it."
I reflected on this interaction later. I realized, a lot of times the experiences that BIPOC experience are shared among friends who are also BIPOC because we know on some level they will understand. For example, I love talking to my friends who are also adopted Asian Americans about, well anything, because we have a similar perspective and shared experiences. However, often these conversations and stories don't reach white people. So now suddenly, it seems like there's a mass of stories being shared "all of a sudden", however it's not sudden at all. It's been going on. You just haven't noticed.
But again, this isn't about blame. This is about awareness and consciousness so that we all can move forward more educated and hopefully will do better. We must always hold ourselves and the people we surround ourselves with accountable. Because if we don't hold ourselves accountable, then who will?
For those of you who are struggling to comprehend all this information it's okay, you're not alone. It took me 20 years to finally start being aware of my Asian identity and how my Asianess is perceived.
I was listening to a podcast about someone describing being an ally as an ally in progress. This considers that they will never be a true "perfect" ally because that doesn't exist. Being an ally in progress means that you recognize that you will make mistakes, you won't always understand, and you recognize the rapidly shifting progress in our society. It also means that you will actively work to do better. It doesn't mean that you are perfect or are expected to be.
This is important work for all of us.
Being an ally in progress does not stop at reposting educational and 'woke' accounts to your story. It's working on not making judgments about the international students. It's signing up for more diverse classes. It's calling the drunk kid out when they yell the n word in a song. It's an ongoing process and I know it can be exhausting at times so take a break. More importantly a break from social media. However, also keep in mind white people can enter these conversations and leave them when it gets too overwhelming. But BIPOC do not get to take breaks or ignore these conversations because this is what we have been dealing with our entire lives.
Here are some self-reflection questions for those who are interested:
1. When was the last time you had to think about your ethnicity, race, gender identity, ability level, religion, and/or sexual orientation? What provoked you to think about it or acknowledge it?
2. When watching TV or a movie, how likely are you to watch shows whose characters reflect your ethnicity, race, gender, ability level, religion, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation?
3. When using social media, how diverse is your feed? How diverse are your friends and followers? How diverse are those that you follow?
4. How do you respond when others make negative statements towards individuals of a different ethnicity, race, gender, ability level, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity than yourself?
5. How often do you go to social settings where the majority of individuals are of a different ethnicity, race, gender, ability level, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity than yourself?
6. How diverse is the community in which you live?
7. How do you feel when you are in a community that is different than your neighborhood?
8. How would you make your neighborhood more inclusive and sensitive?
9. If you recognized your privilege, what did you do with this realization?