We love Asian-Canadian actors for their excellent performances, representing the narratives we hold close to our hearts, and raising each other up — Simu Liu’s shout-outs to his Asian-Canadian peers were dearly appreciated throughout May. Now, these onscreen heroes are giving us a masterclass on how to show real allyship with Black communities.
For starters, many like Liu are using their platforms to throw support behind the calls to defund police.
The “Kim’s Convenience” star didn’t mince words when he stated his views about law enforcement in early June, joining those angry about about police violence inflicted on Black people, particularly around the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer.
He also appeared to voice support for police abolition and along with many Black leaders, has a long list of alternatives to the current police system.
As a non-Black ally, Liu leads by example through engaging his followers and helping normalize concepts that imagine radical futures for powerful institutions.
Another Asian-Canadian actor has taken a different approach to allyship, one that makes use of her cultural background.
“I bow in recognition of the injustice, the violence, the burden on Black lives,” she wrote.
It ended with self-reflection: “I bow with acknowledgement of my hypocrisy, my shame and the failure of myself and my community to look beyond our own experience. I vow to change, to speak for change, to create change.”
Asian allyship means educating loved ones
Being vocal and self-aware of one’s own privilege is just one step.
Netflix wunderkind Maitreyi Ramakrishnan took it further by sharing what actions can be taken to make a difference, through a link of educational resources.
“Comments are off because this isn’t up for discussion,” the gifted teenager from Mississauga, Ont., wrote under her post. “Becoming aware, doing research, doing YOUR part isn’t up for discussion.”
A common way non-Black allies can help is through donating to worthy causes and financially supporting Black businesses. K-Pop group BTS fundraised over $1 million for Black Lives Matter, a major act of kindness matched by their loyal fanbase.
For “Pretty Little Liars” star Shay Mitchell, who has been open about the struggles of growing up half-Filipino in Vancouver, anti-Black racism directly affects her family. Aside from posting resources and making her stances known like those above, she’s urged families to start the fight against racism with themselves.
“Racism is a learned behaviour,” she wrote for an Instagram post of her husband Matte Babel with their child Atlas. “It starts and stops at home.”
Uprooting anti-Blackness in our own households can be challenging, but worthy of tackling. Many younger generations are bridging information gaps by making these conversations as accessible as possible, joining forces via local chapters of the solidarity group Asians For Black Lives. The Canadian project Letters for Black Lives addresses one part of accessibility, by breaking down terms in native languages.
Of course, to say that older generations know nothing about racial prejudice would erase the current efforts of women like Isabel Kang, who works for the Korean Resource Center.
A clip posted by the U.S. organization of Kang went viral, with a protest speech she made in both Korean and English inspiring many.
“To see that many Korean Americans haven’t woken up yet makes my heart break,” she told viewers.
What decentering looks like
A popular phrase, “Yellow peril for black power,” has made the rounds again on social media. Derived from a 1960s solidarity slogan from Asian communities towards the Black Panther party and popularized by a photo of an Asian group member (who is believed to have been an FBI informant), it’s now directed towards the Black Lives Matter movement to mixed results: As NBC reports, critics say it falsely puts the current reality of Black injustices on equal footing with Asian community struggles.
“I started having discussions with the people who messaged me, and I then understood how the phrase centers Asian Americans when this time isn’t about us,” Monyee Chau, an artist who took down a poster using the phrase, told the outlet.
It’s this level of self-awareness about one’s social positioning that has made allyship from stars like Liu meaningful; recognizing that rallying for Black people should always centre on those directly impacted.
“You don’t have to be Black to feel this pain,” he tweeted. “That’s what allyship is.”