Waking Up to Ferguson
By Jen Soriano
Every morning I wake up with the choice to forget about Ferguson.
I am Asian-American. I am Pinay. I have savings and a college degree. I am a woman. I am cis-gendered. I am straight. I am married to a straight man and for that I get approval and a tax break.
I do not walk through the streets a target of police or vigilante violence. When I have walked alone I have been helped — not avoided — not threatened — not shot and not choked.
When I wake up I choose between coffee and tea, converse or boots, my car or the bus, fried eggs or a coffeeshop pastry. I wake up with the choice to forget about Ferguson.
And yet I can’t forget about Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant….Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant….
And it’s not because as Asian-American we’ve had our Mike Brown’s too. Kuanchang Kao, Cau Bich Tran, Fong Lee — all unarmed Asian men killed by police — all important to name and to not forget.
But it’s different.
When a black person is killed every 28 hours by police, security guards or vigilantes, it’s different.
When you can be shot unarmed in rich places and poor places, no matter whether you are a child, a professor, an actor or a cop, it’s different.
In the words of Alicia Garza, a queer black woman who is a co-founder of the #blacklivesmatter movement, black people are uniquely, systematically, and savagely targeted by the state. And so, “When Black people cry out in defense of our lives…we are asking you, our family, to stand with us in affirming Black lives. Not just all lives. Black lives.”
The lives of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant…
Every morning I wake up with the choice to forget about these black boys, these black men, about Ferguson. The choice is a privilege.
I choose not to forget.
Maybe I choose not to forget because from a young age I’ve had to be vigilant, and when you are vigilant you can see clearly because you must see to survive. Maybe I choose not to forget because the state-sponsored violence that is colonization has left shrapnel embedded in my soul. Maybe I choose not to forget because I believe that although we are not all Mike Brown, I could have been born a Mike Brown, or an Oscar Grant, or a Marissa Alexander, and the fact that I wasn’t is an accident of birth and the fact that it matters to my relative freedom is entirely by design.
When I say black lives matter, I’m saying I refuse to be complicit in a society where people get to live or die or be jailed or be free based on the color of their skin. I’m saying I will do whatever I can to help transform the systems that perpetuate this new Jim Crow, and the cultural norms that say we have to fear someone and that someone must be black. I’m saying I know that if we can’t win this fight for the humanity of all black people we will continue to lose priceless lives and we will never begin to heal.
So instead of forgetting I recommit to change and I challenge my fellow Asian-Americans to all do the same. In the words of Soya Jung, “The racial justice movement needs us. Our experiences of war, imperialism, and the enticement to anti-black racism are necessary to push back against corporate plunder and state collusion, to dismantle the apparatuses of racialized violence.”
“It is time for Asian Americans to unleash model minority mutiny, link arms with the struggle for black liberation, and together, finally turn the world right side up.”
For anyone who might get it twisted, this isn’t charity. It’s solidarity. It’s vision. It’s remembering. “When Black people get free, everybody gets free”.
Every morning I wake up with the choice to forget about Ferguson. But instead I choose to fixate on freedom.