[中英版] The Taiwanese American Conversation about #BlackLivesMatter

[ 英文版] ENGLISH ARTICLE HERE: The Taiwanese American Conversation about #BlackLivesMatter

Note: 我知道很多人有可能不了解這些示威的目標;但是它們有明確的政治訴求. We realize that a lot of our audience may not understand the specific demands of this movement. While we are still looking for/working on Chinese translations, this resource might be helpful. Please help us communicate to our community that the protests have both meaning and intent: https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/

Taiwanese American yuppies, we’ve got some work to do.


This is a long-overdue reckoning. A conversation is not a solution, but a critical place to start. And we believe that showing up imperfectly – with our unsure language, blind spots, and all – is better than not showing up at all.


I thought a lot about the role of Taiwanese Americans in civic society when many who identified as such were trying to distance themselves from Chinese and Chinese Americans in order to deflect COVID-related racism. You can read our full statement here, but the point is this: comprehensive respect for the ways we are different – in immigration histories, in average socioeconomic status, in access to resources – creates more accountability for us to do right by each other, to approach each other with acute understanding.  Evoking our differences does not give us permission to walk away.


Our dignity is not a zero sum game, but rather takes root in our belief in democratic values. As we continue to fight for our dignity, we must not forget to support others in their fight for the same things, especially if they’ve laid the blueprint – and Black Americans have.


Solidarity, I’ve once written, might look like this: using our own histories and stories to deepen our compassion for those of others. In our language, we call this 概念 (gai nian / kai liam): how we conceptualize another’s suffering by finding its likeness within ourselves.


In the past, I’ve tried to make sweeping connections that would root us in a culture of activism: how Taiwan’s colonized history may help us recognize colonialism everywhere, from Mauna Kea to Hong Kong; how being third-culture children can make us insightful allies for other immigrant communities. How a recent history of state-sanctioned violence in Taiwan or Hong Kong can help us understand police brutality in the United States.


But frankly, the reality is that much of the Taiwanese American experience is suspended in a liminal zone of privilege.


We benefit from the efforts of working-class Chinese Americans in the United States, from the 1960s Civil Rights Movement – led by Black Americans, and from martial law-era democratization movements in Taiwan. It is interesting to note that many of the Taiwanese martial law era democratization activists were actually inspired by the Civil Rights protests. But all of this might be part of an unacknowledged heritage; many young, professional-class Taiwanese Americans today may not intimately understand the San Francisco State strike for ethnic studies or the 228 Incident in Taiwan. To put it bluntly, we probably assume the benefits of their outcomes but haven’t actually participated in their struggles; as such, our conversation needs to start with our unacknowledged privilege.


“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression,” writes Ijeoma Oluo, “we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”

「當我們意識到自己的特權與他人的苦難有所交集時,」,Ijeoma Oluo曾經寫道,「我們就會找到能真正做出改變的時機。」

Taiwanese Americans, in general, are part of the secure American middle class, with life patterns that tend to be stable, conventional, and non-confrontational. In many ways, our lives have been largely shielded from real civic engagement or political friction in the United States. (To note – we’re not at all saying that Taiwanese American experiences can’t be hard! Or that our race, our ethnicity are not sources of tension. We see and honor our community’s complexities – but we want to establish wider context.)


Ask yourself: without getting defensive, can I own up to that?


So if we have the privilege of lacking personal context, the 概念 for #blacklivesmatter- the way forward for our community requires deep self-reflection, dialogue, and learning. We will find it hard to extend support when we haven’t truly wrestled with the ways in which we are complicit.


Drawing similarities between 228 and the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, while meaningful – still does not address the ways Taiwanese Americans today benefit from hundreds of years of systemic racism in this country. Comparing the events in Hong Kong with those in Minneapolis might be helpful, but only if we’ve bothered to mobilize against police brutality on behalf of either.


And Taiwanese Americans, have we truly?


Some conversation starters we’ve put together:


Can I support ‘black lives matter’ while condemning violence?

我可以一邊支持 #Blacklivesmatter,一邊譴責暴力嗎?

This is an important question – and one asked often in our community – because it challenges us to take self-inventory: why do I distinguish supporting Black lives from condemning violence? Doesn’t supporting Black humanity fundamentally mean that I will not accept the violence inflicted on their community?

這是一個很重要的問題,相信大家也常常聽到類似的論調。讓我們重新審視一番,為什麼要區分支持Black Lives Matter的社會運動跟譴責暴力呢?難道支持黑人不正是意味著拒絕任何加諸于非裔美人社群的國家暴力嗎?

Perhaps the question really being asked is:  why are we not acknowledging that the rules of civility had already been broken by those in power – namely the law enforcers themselves? And can we support Black lives while disagreeing with how their protests have violently escalated? Let’s sit with that for a bit: are we confining ourselves to a justice system that values goods and services over human life? Is it because the model minority myth – our deepest experience of race in the US – is equally a function of capitalism as it is of white supremacy? We defer to this 2015 TIME article explaining MLK’s oft-invoked statement that a “riot is the language of the unheard”:

或許真正該問的是:為什麼我們不正視公民社會的法制早被那些知法犯法之徒破壞?亦即那些以公權力為名,卻一再違法的執法人員。常常聽到這樣一個論述:我支持Black Lives Matter的運動,卻不能認同一些較為激烈或是暴力的抗議行為。先靜下來想想這句話,其中吊詭之處在於,我們是否把自己侷限在一個將法制淩駕於人命之上的思維之中?又或者,是否模範亞裔的迷思本身即是資本主義與白人至上主義下的產物呢? 再此,我們引用一篇2015時代雜誌的一篇文章,文中解釋了金恩博士(Martin Luther King)的一句廣為討論的名言:「暴動是不被傾聽的語言。」

“…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”


We also stand by Yolanda Renteria (@thisisyolandarenteria), who writes that “it is not your choice to determine how an oppressed group protests; when as a [non-Black] person you say ‘violence is not the answer,’ you are saying ‘peaceful protests and negotiation are the answer.’ You are denying the fact that marginalized groups often aren’t heard. Implying there are other ways minimizes the frustration and provides no answers, or solutions. It just points, with privilege, to do things a different way that doesn’t disturb your comfort.”

我們也同意Yolanda Renteria的觀點。她曾經寫道,「沒有誰可以評斷底層人民該以什麼樣的方式抗議;當一個不是非裔美人的人指責說暴力不能解決問題,並理直氣壯的說和平的抗議和協商才是解決之道。此翻論調否定了長期以來社會對底層人民的忽視,盲目的相信有其他管道可以讓訴求被聽見,對問題的解決也毫無幫助。再再顯現出既得利益者正是那些擁有不同選擇,卻又不用擔心害怕結果的人。」

To each other, we ask: at any step of the movement – peaceful or otherwise – have we tried to help?


What does “yellow peril supports black power” mean for us?

我們該如何解讀 “Yellow Peril(黃禍)挺 Black Power(黑潮) ” ?

“Yellow peril supports Black power” is currently used as a social justice slogan – a stirring one, at that – to demonstrate AAPI solidarity with Black lives, but, in our opinion, risks being performative/virtue-signaling if used without context/understanding. We recommend reading up on the history of yellow peril and its intersection with the Black power movement (some really good readings here).

“Yellow Peril(黃禍)挺 Black Power(黑潮) ”是當代社會運動下的一個產物,這聽起來十分鼓舞人心,也能表明亞太裔與非裔美人團結一致的決心。然而,就我們認為,若單就字面上意思解讀而不加以深入討論的話,會有一定的風險。建議讀者們細讀一些黃禍的歷史,並瞭解其中黃禍是如何和黑潮運動有所交織的。【更多豐富內容,請參照】

I also fear that we might misinterpret “yellow peril supports Black power” as a suggestion that we empathize because we’ve equally suffered. This isn’t true. To be specific, Black-Taiwanese solidarity shouldn’t rely on an interchangeability between the Black and Taiwanese American experience. In a Huffington post article, op-ed columnist Dan Truong wrote that “this sense of camaraderie and brotherhood Asian Americans can give to Black Americans stems from the recognition that [individuals like] Trayvon Martin could just as easily have been ‘Tranh Van Minh’ [and that] any Asian could easily have fallen under the historically ingrained system of ‘othering’ George Zimmerman clearly used to make his decision.”

我也擔心我們會對“Yellow Peril (黃禍) 挺 Black Power (黑潮) ”的意涵有著錯誤的解讀。我們同理非裔美人的處境,但不代表我們認為亞太裔受的苦難和非裔美人是同等的。這是個錯誤的認知。更明確地說,非裔美人和臺裔美人團結的基礎,不應單單仰賴我們之間類似的經歷。在Huffinton Post的一篇社評寫道,亞裔和非裔美人之間的同袍之誼,若單單建立在認為 Trayvon Martin (一位17歲的非裔青年慘遭George Zimmerman射殺) 可以是任何亞裔青年的話,我們仍落入制度性白人排他主義的思維,犯了和兇手George Zimmerman 一樣的錯誤,認為有色人種即是外來的且可疑的。

This doesn’t necessarily resonate with us. To suggest a Taiwanese American today faces similar or equal threats as a Black American does continues to prove that we are not listening to the plight of Black Americans, or that we are still centering our own narratives above those of Black Americans, creating fraternal conditions for their humanity.


“Yellow peril supports Black power” is powerful and necessary; but more importantly, it signals a promissory bias for action. We can use it, but are we saying it to deflect accountability for white supremacy, or are we saying it because we really, truly intend to change our hearts and communities?

“Yellow Peril (黃禍) 挺 Black Power (黑潮)” 的口號響亮有力,但是更重要的是,它象徵了一種帶著偏見的承諾。當我們接受這樣一個想法時,是否也應該思考如何不弱化問題的本身──白人至上主義?或是,當我們接受這樣一個想法時,我們是否是真正希望可以藉此改變我們的思想和社群?


What can I do about it?


In addition to well-researched lists currently in circulation, here are additional ways for Taiwanese Americans to be helpful:



“The word my mother had used, “鬧事” (naoshi) – “to create a disturbance, to make trouble” values harmony and peace. However, it also seemingly holds the connotation of creating something out of nothing—which is not true. African Americans in the United States have faced decades of structural oppression and violence that did not just suddenly culminate into one verdict. By using this word, we erase history. We fail to acknowledge historical injustices.

引文: 「我媽媽用鬧事一詞來概括現在的抗議活動。鬧事強調了平和,認為現在這些抗議只不過是無中生有,破壞現有秩序。很明顯的,鬧事具偏頗意味,誤帶風向。非裔美人面對的是幾百年來體制上的壓迫和暴力,絕非單一事件的偶然。若使用鬧事一詞,大大抹殺了非裔美人歷代面臨的壓迫,斷絕了還原歷史真相和訴求轉型正義的目標。」

In contrast, the word: “抗議” (kangyi) is a verb that means “to protest, to express strong opposition to the speech, actions, or measures of someone, a country, or a unit”. The verb in its function often takes a direct object. By having the ability to take a direct object, the word prompts us to find a reason. We start asking ourselves: what are people protesting? Is there a reason for their anger?” 


Share resources, time, capital, space: Taiwan Bento, for example, a Taiwanese American casual restaurant in Oakland, shared on their Instagram on May 29 that “starting 8pm tonight, there will be a demonstration over the police killing of George Floyd. If any protestors need a surgical mask[,] come by Taiwan Bento before we close at 7 and we will provide one. Let’s all stay safe and keep our community safe.”

樂捐資源,時間,財力和空間。比如,臺灣便當,一個位在美國奧克蘭的一個臺式快餐店,於3月29日在他們的社交媒體上分享了這麼一則訊息:「自今晚八點開始,將會有抗議員警濫殺George Floyd的遊行活動。如果抗議群眾中,有人需要口罩的話,請歡迎在七點打烊前到店內索取。讓我們一同確保彼此和社區的安全。」

  • Professional/affinity groups can sponsor or host “learning sessions” with trained diversity and inclusion counselors

同業工商會或是同鄉會等等團體可和專業的多元化(diversity and inclusion)講師協辦或舉辦公益講堂。

Taiwanese Americans are capable of civic participation. We’ve been campaigning for census participation and representation for years. We’ve recently seen community efforts to direct Taiwan’s commendable PPE (personal protective equipment) production towards hospitals in the US, and fundraising initiatives to provide lunches for essential workers. Today and moving forward, can we summon the same spirit to hold ourselves accountable for our role in #blacklivesmatter? To focus more on inward, intergenerational change than routinely performing our sympathies? Who will we be, online and offline?




(h/t Izzy 穆戈



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