asians and visibility
March 8, 2015
It isn’t uncommon to see Asian diaspora discourse focus on ‘visibility’. Recently, this was the apparently the impetus behind #asian invasion on tumblr…. a selfie movement feeding off of #blackout. There are many things wrong with this…
I’m not going to talk too much about the anti-Blackness inherent in yet again co-opting Black leadership and creativity by doing something like asian invasion with little thought. There is already great critiques of this on tumblr.
I will talk, however, about the notion of visibility. And the inherent anti-Blackness of Asians either misconstruing the #blackout movement as being about visibility OR in asserting the need for Asian visibility at this precise moment…
From all indications, #blackout was not about visibility. To say that Black people aren’t ‘seen’ is to misunderstand and erase the ways that they are hyper_visible. The problem isn’t whether or not Blackness is _seen but how it is seen (and by whom). In one sense, #blackout was a great way for non-Black people to see Black ppl how they (might) see themselves: as a group of diverse, complex individuals with each their own stories and lives1.
So what does it mean that Asians would create a parasitic movement based on #blackout that is about visibility? To me, it sounds like more of the (seemingly endless) Asian whining that racial politics (esp. in America) exist on a primarily Black-White binary, the exclusion of all other races. Now… this binary is not only false and non-existent, but organising around the belief that it is real is anti-Black. It ends up asserting that Black people ought not to be centered in movements for racial justice/decolonization/dismantling white supremacy. Or it ends up asserting that Black ppl take up too much space in these movements or discourse. Or something to that effect. Thus… we end up with the endless worry of (some) Asians about ~visibility~.
But visibility is such a nebulous term…. Who do we want to see us, exactly? And who are we erasing in this quest for visibility?
I ask this because if you are a non-Black Asian and during #blackout you either did not see or did not notice the fact that BLACK ASIANS were participating and, thus, ‘visible’, you are either following the wrong people OR operating with the notion that there are no Black Asians. Either is anti-Black. If visibility is truly your concern, then it should begin with us seeing all the peoples and Asians who tend to get erased and forgotten whenever we talk about ‘Asians’. Chief amongst this group would be… Black Asians. See also Indigenous Asians. But also disabled Asians, Fat Asians, etc. and so on. Again… I saw all the above during #blackout. Bc. You know. Asians (of any kind) are not mutually exclusive with Blackness.
But I also have to say that if ‘visibility’ is the greatest issue you think Asians face, then you are 1) wrong and 2) probably in the group of relatively privileged Asians2.
One note: asking for ‘visibility’ is not the same as critiqueing or discussing erasure.