How Asians Can Show up for Black Lives

How Asians Can Show up for Black Lives
“I want to offer my fellow Asian Americans additional action items to do immediately in the here and now,” writes Choi Robinson, “as well for the future, when the media stops covering this and folks fall back to their prior routines.” (@joy_diehl / Twitter)

As the world witnesses the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S., the outcry for action instead of thoughts and prayers takes center stage. Many people ask what they can do to help bring about change.

While white people need to take the lead to fight racism in order to bring about real systemic change, it is also incumbent on non-Black people of color to step up as true allies. The Asian American community in particular needs to show up and participate to work against anti-Black racism.

Asians in America most definitely feel the pain of racism in this country as a targeted and unwanted group throughout their history—here and again quite evidently during the pandemic. However, Black people in America continue to lose their lives by law enforcement and whites, and we can no longer stay silent; to do so is complicity in the murder of Black people. The most recent example seen in former police officer Tou Thao, a Hmong American, as he stood by during the killing of George Floyd.

Asians in America have benefited from their white-adjacent position in society while often clashing with African American communities and contributing to anti-Blackness. Members of Asian communities—plural since “Asian” encompasses multiple ethnic groups—must take real and sustainable action.

If protesting is not a viable action, there are multitudes of other actions to undertake. Social media has been flooded with excellent resources and actionable items from writing to every level of political leaders and law enforcement; specific books and resources on racism; voting in local, state and national elections; and organizations to donate for bail funds and aid. These are all excellent and important ways to act.

But I want to offer my fellow Asian Americans additional action items to do immediately in the here and now—as well for the future, when the media stops covering this and folks fall back to their prior routines. Of course, anyone can and should utilize this list to support and stand with the Black community in the U.S. and in other countries.

Let us remember that anti-Black racism is not just an American problem.

(@SKV_SO_I_AM / Twitter)

Check In

Check in with your Black friends and colleagues and let them know you are there for them in whatever way they need. Remember and let them know they do not need to respond to you. Do not just check in once, since they will face a roller coaster of emotions, especially as the criminal proceedings progress.

Get Educated

Educate yourself on the history of race relations between Black and Asian communities in the U.S. (Here’s a good start.)

Then take an honest look inward to see how you have perpetuated and fed into anti-Blackness. This will be the most difficult and uncomfortable exercise you will do but it cannot be overlooked. Just like white people, Asians—and all non-Black people of color—need to recognize their own privilege and their own complicity in anti-Blackness.

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Make Space

If you are an Asian who is an educator, make time and space for your Black students to listen to them without giving advice—just listen. Email your Black students and let them know you are still available virtually or by phone for them to talk to an adult without judgement. Even if school is out, reach out to them.

Educate Others

Do the heavy lifting to provide resources on racism for white friends and colleagues and other non-Black people of color. Educating white people on racism is emotionally exhausting but we need to take this off the shoulders of Black people and not add to their trauma. It is not the job of Black people to educate others on racism—period.

Gift books on anti-racism and centered on Black characters for your non-Black friends’ baby showers, children’s birthdays and teacher supply donations. (There are plenty of age-appropriate books—find lists here and here.)

Oge Mora, Little Brown Young Readers.

Read Black Writers

Read fiction and non-fiction by Black authors and about Black stories. Over 50,000 (!) results come up in Amazon when searching “Black Authors Books.” Use the search from Amazon, then buy books from a Black-owned bookstore in your state—some even offer online ordering.

Diversify Your Media

Intentionally diversify your media consumption on a regular basis, especially if you have children in your life and you consume it with them. The age of streaming services provides easy access to age-appropriate shows such as Doc McStuffins, The Proud Family, That’s So Raven, Moesha, Sister Sister, Blackish, Grownish, Good Times, What’s Happening!!, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Girlfriends, A Different World and so many others.

Open Your Eyes, Then Speak Out

Visit your local cultural and arts institutions—art museums, theaters, ballets, concert halls—and if they do not include Black artists then request they do so. Drop it in the comment box or submit comments in their online sites.

Say it with Cash

Donate what you can afford to Black cultural organizations.

If you think the cultural arts community is financially hurting due to the pandemic, you can bet those by people of color, and particularly Black, are hurting more. If you can afford to, be a patron of these artists and buy their work. And be sure to visit a Black museum when we can all travel again or see if they have virtual tours now.

Frequent Black-owned restaurants and food trucks in your area. Even if you have dietary restrictions, you should be able to find one that works for you. (A Black-owned restaurant in my area is vegan and even serves vegan ice cream.) Start your search here. While you are at it, go to your local African American Chamber of Commerce site to frequent and shop from other Black-owned businesses.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather complement already existing actions in sustainable and ongoing ways to work against anti-Black racism. The work is ongoing and takes a life-long commitment; stay in it.


Mary Choi Robinson (she/her/hers) resides in Orlando, Florida and is an Asian American Korean adoptee still discovering her identity. She works in the field of Education Abroad at a private liberal arts college and has also been an adjunct professor of humanities. She has worked on diversity and inclusion issues throughout her working life and continues to expand her knowledge and practice as an ally.