Mi gente, we are doing the work of white supremacy. Every time we respond “all lives matter” to Black Lives Matter protestors, each moment we blame someone undocumented for stealing our job and whenever we attempt to distance ourselves from a group under state violence that we share a resemblance to, whether African Americans assaulted by law enforcement or South Asians attacked by politicians, we are allowing systems of hate to have us do their oppressive work for them and pit us against each other.
Real racial justice, where we combat harmful messages about each other, hold perpetrators of violence accountable, use our privileges to show up for others and encourage pride and self-love, requires solidarity among communities of color, which is why white supremacy is so intent on dividing us. Let’s recognize some of these tools so that we are able to curb them and come into our power together.
1. Ways White Supremacy Pits People of Color Against Each Other
The “Model Minority” Myth: The model minority myth characterizes one group of color, typically Asian Americans, as hard-working, over-achieving, do-gooders who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and made their American Dream a reality. Aside from this problematic myth assuming that all Asians are the same (they're not), ignoring the poverty and violence the community experiences and placing unnecessary (and dangerous!) pressures on them, it also works to pit them against other marginalized folks. Simply, it’s a stereotype created by white supremacy to divide and conquer, preventing solidarity movements among communities of color.
2. Ways White Supremacy Pits People of Color Against Each Other
Physical Separation: When you are out of sight – whether through forced relocations as with Native communities in faraway reserves or enclaves of voluntary immigrants like "Chinatowns" throughout the country – you are often out of mind, making inter-racial, anti-racist movements less probable.
3. Ways White Supremacy Pits People of Color Against Each Other
Distancing from Blackness to Get Ahead: Groups of color immigrating to the U.S. often come with an understanding (or learn very quickly) that Black Americans are at the bottom of the country’s racial hierarchy, and, to get ahead, purposely distance themselves from African Americans and from ideas of blackness. This looks like someone celebrating their blackness in their homeland, yet refusing to identify as “Black” in the U.S. in an attempt to evade the struggle and stigma that African American communities experience and, sometimes, to position themselves as “better,” rather than recognizing their united fight.
4. Ways White Supremacy Pits People of Color Against Each Other
Job Opportunities: Division is inherent to capitalism, so it’s no surprise employment and job opportunity pit us against each other. Poverty is rampant among all communities of color (yes, even Asian ones), so the need for work, even low-paying, can spark jealousy and anger rather than protest around the same struggle. It’s why non-immigrant people of color often uphold xenophobic views toward undocumented laborers who get hired under the table instead of fighting alongside them against exploitation and for workers’ rights.
5. Ways White Supremacy Pits People of Color Against Each Other
Fighting for Media (Read: White) Attention: This tool of white supremacy is probably the most visible right now, seen particularly in the ways non-Black groups of color are responding to the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead of recognizing the plight of Black folks, from police brutality and mass incarceration to Flint’s water crisis and reparations, communities, particularly Latinxs who experience much of these same ills, cry “brown lives matter, too” or “what about us,” not seeing how our liberation is tied to the Black struggle and how many of us are Black as well. Non-Black people of color blame Black folks for demanding that the violence against the Black community get airtime, instead of seeing that drive for justice as motivation to make their own demands heard. Non-Black groups of color blame Black folks for being mainstream media’s face for issues that also impact them, rather than seeing the racial binary media-makers perpetuate as an instrument of white supremacy, one working effectively because you still chant “all lives matter.”