Update: Looking Forward to May 28, 2021

I am looking forward to May 28, 2021, because I will be privileged (in more way than one) to be listening to two people I learn much from in my antiracist work (in progress): Sangeetha Thanapal and Dr. Kevin Nadal. Sangeetha Thanapal coined the term “Chinese Privilege” and has helped me really learn my privilege within some of my marginal identities.

As I said in the past, I am someone who will be privileged in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) spaces because of my ethnic ambiguity, and light-brown skin that gives me passing privilege when I am not surrounded by white and white-presenting people actively ‘seeking’ the Otherness with me. People making comments reminding me I present Hispanic in the United States does not erase this reality. Especially considering this, I stand with Sangeetha Thanapal and Dr. Kevin Nadal on several issues.

One of them being, the underrepresentation of South and Southeast Asians, and Filipino Asians when discussing people in Asian communities (sometimes called “Brown Asians”). Even when Thuy Trang played Trini Kwan in Power Rangers, she was erased of Vietnamese-American representation somewhat because she was picked for lighter skin to play a character of a traditionally lighter-skinned ethnicity. This came with reinforcing the existence and representation of East Asian peoples on screen over everyone else who has origins from Asia. Without a doubt, all people of color deserve their time on screen (especially more so for people without passing or white privilege), and there was and still is an issue with whitewashing Asian roles. There is no refutation of that, and I am really thankful to see this discussion happening, especially knowing that when a white person has historically not been in the role, someone more ethnically indistinct (like me) ends up taking the role. I know enough people in the communities who feel underrepresented, and rightfully so.

All the while, I also recognize I have an additional relationship to privilege within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) umbrella when it comes to topics of Southeast Asia. Dr. Việt Thanh Nguyễn brought up the topic of there still being more Kinh Vietnamese American literatures and discussions represented when compared to many Southeast Asian peoples who also need their time and space. It felt both affirming and important to listen in to conversations he hosted about this discussion with the purpose to provide space for the Southeast Asian diaspora because he tries to bring more everyone to the discussion, including Vietnamese Cham and additional indigenous peoples, Laotians, Khmer, Thai, and more peoples. Now I have the opportunity to listen to two people who had really helped me learn about myself, and how I can refine and at times, undo some of my own thinking about Asian and Pacific Islander topics as well as discourses in social justice circles.

This past month has been a blessing in this way, for three people I really adore are having related discussions, which I hope to learn from and further delve into my antiracist work (again, in progress).

– Arya

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