The Black Lives Matter movement is the most magical and wonderful thing that has happened in my lifetime. I have marched in the demonstrations, I have brought my children to rallies, and I have even incorporated it into my teaching and research. Maya Marlowe and I even created a math lesson around it and wrote an article about it. You can find it here. In this short life I have on earth, I think on all the major, life-changing events I’ve been fortunate to witness: the People Power movement in the Philippines overthrowing centuries of colonial-focused rule, the personal computer, 90s hip-hop, the rise of the internet, social media, YouTube and the ability for everyone to be a filmmaker, 9/11, the election of Barack Obama, the representation of Asian Americans in mainstream media through Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and COVID-19. Each of these things had a profound impact on who I am today and brought me a joy in the ways they showed how we, as humans, can come together to make the world a better place. To do what Jesus taught us, to love our neighbor.
And so, watching the rise of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the last two weeks has really brought a tear to my eye. I first learned about the Black Lives Matter movement years ago, after hearing about the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri after the police murder of Michael Brown, a teenager. This was not the first incident of police sanctioned murder of a Black American. But it was the first in the age of social media to garner large-scale attention. And with it, brought a movement that helped me see just how far away many of my own peers were in their understanding that Black Americans were actual humans. So much of my Facebook feed was filled with hateful comments such as, “You wouldn’t be arrested if you didn’t break the law. . .” I was shocked that, within my own community, so many people I loved, so many people I respected, were not only ignorant, but were truly racist. They held deep prejudices against Black people and actively believed in these prejudices so much that they had to go out of their way to comment on my posts about Black Lives Matter. People who rarely commented on anything I posted.
I was shocked. I didn’t realize that the world I live in, populated mainly by Asian Americans and white Americans, could be so hateful, so willing to believe in a myth of racial hegemony, and so ready to come at me with hate-fueled messages.
And so here we are, in 2020. These demonstrations are not only growing larger. They are growing more peaceful, more inclusive, more community oriented. They are led by the young people. They are led by Black leaders. But I also see white Americans, Latinx American, Asian Americans, everybody, leading the chants, making the signs, offering support, hugs, and love. And, in an American that subscribes to the doctrine of white supremacy, major events only happen when white Americans are heavily involved.
So why are so many white Americans involved in Black Lives Matter today? Has the tide finally turned? Is it that so many young leaders, who were in school during the Ferguson demonstrations, see through the racist lies and rhetoric that they were force fed years ago? Is it that people are finally starting to see and recognize Black Americans as humans and not property? Is it that enough is finally enough? Is it that the video of George Floyd is so convincing of George’s humanity and the evil of the officer who lynches him in broad daylight? Is it that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us all, as a nation, realize how much of a myth capitalism and a system that forces us to work non-stop and relegates people of color to a service economy that is the lifeblood of our society has finally helped us see them as true humans?
I don’t know. But I know that, these demonstrations, these marches of love and humanity, these messages and outpourings for justice, these all make me so emotionally overcome with joy. Thank you, Black Lives Matter.