The explosive coverage of the killing in Atlanta, Georgia of several help workers who were Asian has underscored some ugly truths about this society while giving us the opportunity to explore the “lateral racism” used to divide and more deeply oppress us.
Part of the problem is talking about all this is that we don’t really know how. We don’t have the necessary practice because we’re afraid to have this conversation inside our movement. In fact, I’ve been in spaces where people actually deny that there is racism amongst people of color.
Maybe it’s that activists don’t experience it. We did once; I certainly did from black leaders when I first start working in this movement. When I encounter it from black people now, maybe those experiences trigger my reactions. I do know that black people with whom I work have worked very hard to confront biases and divisive perspectives and sought a more inclusive approach to other POC communities.
But in these communities themselves, filled with non-activists and people with little political experience, later racism reigns. Many of my latin neighbors (including Puerto Ricans and Dominicans) express a virulent disdain for U.S.-based black people. I make the geographical point because many Puerto Ricans and most Dominicans I know are black. All people from the Carribbean are of African heritage, after all. But you wouldn’t know it from speaking to some of them.
And, when it comes to Asian people, my people and almost every community of color I come in contact with other than Asian simply harbors enormous prejudices about Asian people. They are, the bias explains,