Black Asians are not one race or peoples. Black Asian are not one culture, one idea, one group.
It is a convenient concept I use to talk about the idea of a “Black Pacific.” If we sit and reflect for awhile, on history and place names and identities, we should begin to understand the histories that make maps. The maps, consequently, group people and cultures and identities in certain ways, creating a certain order. I do believe that social justice and healing are possible. But neither of these things are a place we arrive and rest in, nor are they easy and self-evident.
The “Dream” of hope and possibility, lies in how much the minorities, the subaltern peoples of the Pacific, can come to know their own differences and others’ differences, and to come together with these knowledges. Also, traditions are habits and some of these traditions of how to perceive others, is dangerous and disempowering. I also do not believe in “throwing traditions out or away, or burying them.” I come back to the willingness to think of ourselves as multiple beings, as opposed to one single being. With this way of seeing, we can begin dialogues.
Japanese imperialism effects the history of Asia. Chinese cultural dominance before the rise of Japan, cannot be ignored. The violent impositions of the Russian empires and the Ottoman Empires cannot be ignored. All of these people were diverse. Japan, for all its talk about being a single race, needs to examine the rise of such thinking in its own history. It was needed, certainly, to combat European, Chinese, and US American colonial and military power, encroaching. It also speaks to elites who want to play that game, at the cost of its own people. Nations have been formed in the name of a dominant idea.
Black mixed peoples, Okinawans, the Mien and the Ainu, the Zainichi Koreans, the Guamanians, the tribes of the Philippines, and on and on–we see a configuration of peoples either ignored as people, or who join in with the dominant in order to gain, or survive.
Mixed race Black-Asians, born largely of military conquest by armies who had Black populations within its ranks, were formed through sexual relations between race, nation, gender. This, in turn, has formed a population of mixed-race people who are not necessarily mixed-culturally or nationally. However, without any doubt, in almost every Asian nation: the Philippines, VIetnam, Korea, Okinawa, Japan, China, and others, where American, British, New Zealander, Australian, Canadian, German, Dutch, and other white and black soldiers have taken it upon themselves to go into the countries in order to play and rule and mix, there has been no accountability by the governments.
Today, the danger is that there is the notion of the happy mixed-race or multiracial peoples. But most who are happy are unaware of their brothers and sisters who struggle to survive in communities that are often hostile, violent, and psychologically genocidal, not to mention socio-economically.
Instead of retreating to our hatreds, born of war and cruelties that elites have enforced others to do in the name of nation-states (that are fictions), how about different ways of thinking. Do not blame my mother and hate her, for being Japanese. Do not blame my father for being Black or being American. On the other hand, there is a need to be accountable. We cannot claim that it has nothing to do with us.
A few years ago, a Black-Korean acquaintance of mine, refused to work in solidarity at the time, with other Black Asians in the group we tried to form at our college, because “the Japanese were responsible for the horror and torment of their family history and predicament.” I do not blame or condemn this feeling, this history. It is real. It would be wrong for me to ask what this person’s problem is, that it is “in the past.” This is a violent comment that makes that person and family, invisible and further violated. Denying history and trauma will NOT make us forget.
On the other hand, in order to move forward without minimizing and ignoring, how can this be approached? My own feeling is that it is not my intention to change that person’s mind. Colonizing others with a “better’ way of thinking is a colonial activity, a missionary action. I am not interested in taking over someone’s emotions and minds with my own. A person may not be ready or capable and that does not make that person inferior or troubled. That violation of that person’s family, is REAL and unhealed. Society is certainly not trying to heal that history. That history CONTINUES today anyway. It is not in the so-called “past.” So there is investment in the continuity of hatred. I cannot expect that person, who has suffered, whose family suffered at the hands of Japanese imperial rule in Korea, and subsequent and necessary prejudices in order to carry out “rule,” to be further ruled by a history where I did not experience that. But others may be ready. At this point, we can enter fruitful discussions.
Fruitful discussions would not be pleasant either. It is fraught with difficulty. So how may the Pan-Asian groups, the people of the Pacific, dialogue about difficult things, and to stop cowtowing to the dominant powers alive and well today, doing business with local elites? Those people are not invested in social justice or social change unless they see benefit. But for those of us, Black-Asians, we cannot continue to isolate and hide, sublimate and repress, telling ourselves to forget and “move on” when nothing really has. Can we come to a table? There is much work that needs to be done For OTHERS.
I write this, not to make some happy place for biracial people who are unhappy. This is to do the difficult work of attending to the politics of oppression that benefits from mixed-black internalized oppressions. Let us begin, step-by-step, to undo shackles of the various forms of slavery that we carry in our minds, hearts, and bodies.
Let us move with our difficult task, in solidarity. It is not easy but necessary.
I sound so sure of myself. I am. But this doesn’t mean I have all the answers.
Let us begin seeing the path to walk together as individual and as a collection of diverse people in need of solidarity.
Hope to see you on the path.