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  • Uliya

What can we do?

Updated: Jun 5

For my fellow Asians or South Asians, you can check out this link here for recommendations on some actions you could take and some letters here for guidelines on how we can have tough conversations with our family.

As a queer person of fluid gender expression and an Indian-American, one with caste privilege and consistent class access, I feel vulnerable but also responsible, and also uniquely positioned as an outsider. For me, this is a gift. It allows me greater access to empathy and critical engagement, by feeling like I'm on the outside looking in.

There are many resources, including the ones above, about what Asians and South Asians can do right now and incisive and real analysis about the ways we owe Black communities for our safety now and how we continue to benefit from white supremacy and perpetuate the oppression of Black people.

Protesting and social medial activism is important. It is important to show up to be visible, have Asian bodies and faces in the streets and online, and demonstrate solidarity. There is a very real phenomenon that non-Black bodies in the crowds might mean less state violence perpetuated by cops towards protestors.

"Inaction" and silence are unacceptable. I get that and feel that. Expressing and supporting rage, Black rage is paramount.

But if I'm being honest, I feel resistant to engaging with social media (at all, in general) and resistant to protesting, beyond concerns about the spread of COVID-19. And, it makes me feel unethical or like a shitty person. But I must sit in this truth. And I ruminate on the validity of options that may not be championed, prioritized, or seen as enough.

Am I being avoidant? Is this a form of complicity born of convenience and privilege (the issue doesn't directly affect me so I'm leaning out or I'm invested in the status quo because it benefits me)?

I struggle to feel moved to devote time and energy to marches. They generate momentum, fervor, and energy that drives us somewhere; it gives voice to and honors righteous rage. I have been to the marches; I remember the feeling of being there.

But as I age, I understand the risks involved and I weigh them differently. Protests overwhelm me and as someone who is very sensitive, who cannot shut the vigilance off, the chaos and heightened precarity can be excruciating. Am I doing anything that's aligned with my continued purpose, gifts, or values or am I just trying to appear to be good?

And I also question the motivation behind digital activism. If I am feverishly posting content, am I contributing to desensitization without real "political gain," to "trauma porn," to anxiously sensationalizing and further triggering anxiety and sadness? Am I just performing for social capital to appear to be good?

For those who are gifted at social media, this is an opportunity, absolutely. And I still think it's important for us as people in solidarity to ask: What is the purpose?

Now I'm not here to proverbially gaze at my own navel. So what are ways I feel aligned with engaging that are not social media posting or being in the streets:

I avoid reacting.

I try to deepen my analysis by reading, listening and watching. I learn from history and prioritize content created by those most affected. I give money to those people and to organizations who are doing the work. And most importantly, I attempt to take time to pause and reflect and not just react. I think we get to a lot of places of harm by reacting and escalating.

I seek connection with others.

Intimacy and vulnerability are key here for me.

I enjoy connecting with my friends, family, and strangers who feel impacted or just need human connection.

I enjoy having tough conversations with family and peers and sharing and accepting care, resources, and information. Right now, that might be about why people are angry and why they're protesting. There's no one-size-fits-all script. We must speak to one another like real people, responsive and from the heart not like an article, coming from a place of being informed. I try to remember to not just challenge phobic or violent mentalities but also open the door to liberatory thinking (ie, let's not just say "don't be racist;" let's also show that supporting change is the more pleasurable and harmonious thing to do).

We seek to transform and build while we simultaneously destroy and dismantle. -me

I believe true human connection is both giving and accepting flows of energy, fostering ease and comfort and meeting people where they are at in their capacities. And I try to be self-reflective and avoid connecting if it's with the mindset of treating people like entities or causes. Would I want to go for a walk with this person or play a board game or share a meal?

I lean into my gifts and purpose.

Speaking of building, I double down on my creative practice and my craft. For me, that is music. And to the best of my ability, I divest from creating with monetization in mind. I create from my intuition, my heart. I attempt to be responsive to what came before and what's around me.

For me, I visualize someone putting on headphones and listening to my songs, entering a dream space for solace, introspection, and clarity.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor -Desmond Tutu

I understand, and am open to, the criticism that maybe I'm not doing enough, that my lack of activity amounts to complicity, that my priorities are all wrong, and that even, perhaps, I'm self-absorbed.

I also remind myself how we devalue art and invisibilize emotional labor. Yes, even, and maybe especially, movement spaces.

Domestic workers' and caretakers' labor consistently is severely under compensated and undercounted. Music plays constantly everywhere; it saves lives, lifts people up, and keeps them going, but creators are inadequately replenished.

More is expected of these caretakers and creators (sometimes one in the same) while the labor and contributions that people consume and benefit from is ignored or devalued, or, worse, exploited.

Art, images, words, music, poetry, dance and text messages, phone calls, tough conversations, hugs, care holds everything up; it gives life meaning and it's undergirds our way through and forward.

I can't exist in a world without fluidity and hybridity.

The implications of "you are this and must do this and be this or else" are dangerous to me, when I feel I'm consistently breaking rules by just being myself. And I think many who are marginalized understand this.

I guess instead of leaning out of anything; I'm really trying to lean into expansiveness.