When I was eight years old, my uncle told me a story, one that I will never forget, after witnessing my sister and me fighting in the car. The story describes five sons who would never stop fighting. The animosity in the house disheartened their parents. When the sons were ready to go out in the real world, their father decided to teach them a lesson. He gave them each a pair of chopsticks, and he told them each to try to break their pair of chopsticks, which they broke with ease. Then, the father told them to break all five pairs at once, which they could not do.
The father was trying to tell his sons that when they do not stand up for one another and only tend to themselves, each boy is vulnerable to threats. However, when the sons unite as a family, they cannot be defeated in any way.
At the time, I thought my uncle only told me this story to stop the fighting that was going on in the back seat. But after hearing of the murder of George Floyd and seeing the responses on social media, I realized that the family in the story is a microcosm of the people of color in this country.
A few months ago, the Asian American community became the victim of racial harassment and bigotry caused by the emergence of COVID-19 and the erroneous narratives of Chinese people created by public figures. Personally, I was told at soccer practice that the virus was caused by me and my people. Having already experienced racism first-hand this year in high school, I was outraged, and I channeled my anger into writing in which I described how the Asian American community is impacted by the disparagement of public figures against Chinese people, and my apprehension about what is to come after quarantine ends. But I quickly realized that only the Asian-American community was standing up against the xenophobic attacks pitted against us; hardly anyone else was helping us. Many Chinese Americans were scared of leaving our houses – not to mention publishing our essays – because we feared being attacked; we were that single chopstick that could be broken easily, without the support of other minority communities, overcome by feelings of helplessness and anxiety.
Flash forward to the present day, where millions of protesters gather on the streets, demanding justice for George Floyd and racial equality. The Black Lives Matter movement has gained more support than the anti-sinophobia efforts, but other minority communities, like the AAPI community, have largely remained silent.
I am just a high schooler and I know that I cannot speak for the 86 million people of color in our country. But I believe that it is selfish for a community to demand their own justice and stay silent when other minority communities are suffering. Staying silent is no better than not supporting the anti-racism efforts at all, as it sends the message that one is indifferent and complicit about the racism that is dividing our country.
That is the problem: there is not a unified effort to tackle the racial injustice in our country, as minorities are not supporting other minorities. It is still a divisive effort; each chopstick is only standing up for itself, yet each individual chopstick can be easily broken.
Where were the other communities during the Islamaphobic Portland train attack in 2017, where a white man fatally stabbed two people and injured three while “yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs?” What were the other communities doing when there was an influx of anti-Asian attacks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We people of color must join together, as friends and as family, to tackle the racism and inequality occurring in our country. Right now, what we can do is donate to civil rights organizations like Color of Change, educate yourselves about the hard-fought battle for racial justice for all people of color led by black activists like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and finally, vote.
We, as people of color, must unite together as the five pairs of chopsticks; together, we are unbreakable.