SPOILER ALERT: I talk about Episode 8 of Ginny and Georgia. Please don’t read if you don’t want spoilers.

I binged-watched Ginny and Georgia on Netflix this past weekend and I loved it. I really enjoyed how they spotlighted on race, class, and even regional differences that make up parts of systemic inequality in America. To me, it was a reflective piece on how all of us are in different stages of growing and learning how to be more equitable to each other.

In Episode 8, Hunter, of mixed Taiwanese and White descent, and Ginny, or mixed Black and White descent, have a heated discussion that highlights topics of what positionality a biracial person (specifically of partial White descent) should take in the racial hierarchy and what that person’s “duties” might be as a constituent of a particular racial group. I am not White, but I am Taiwanese American and Hunter’s position in that discussion is one that I see frequently in the Asian American community.

Hunter explains his success in the mainstream White classroom due to his choices to “keep his head down” and “follow all the rules”. Hunter does not deny Ginny’s reality where she explains that as a biracial woman of Black descent, she cannot see herself achieving the same results as him just by following the status quo. Hunter understands where she is coming from, as he explains that he also has to dodge and weave through racial expectations. However, Hunter does not support Ginny. He is not able to advocate for her the unfairness of her position, because that would involve denouncing the racial hierarchy. Yes, the racial hierarchy that favors White people, that disfavors Black people, and leaves everyone else in between the spectrum on a confusing cliffhanger. Hunter does not want to dismantle this racial hierarchy, because he sees a place for himself at (or at least close to) the top of that racial hierarchy if he keeps his head down, if he follows the rules, and if he up-plays his White qualities. He cannot support Ginny and cannot fully empathize with her, because there’s something at stake for him: A chance to be accepted in American society.

I believe that we are all striving for that. Since Asian Americans are generally higher on the racial hierarchy than Black people, we feel we have something to lose if we associate with or support the people on the bottom. I see this in our community when Asians and Asian Americans see Black and Latinx communities as distinct and different from them. We create and perpetuate myths that Black and Brown people are lazier than us or have innately malicious intentions, and therefore do not deserve support. It’s the scarcity principle at its finest: we feel we have to put down others who are striving for the same thing we want. The way I see it, we create a great amount of negativity for the illusion that we can eventually be White and for the deeper illusion that if we are White, we will achieve some sort of happiness.

I teach a cardinal rule in my therapy sessions: We cannot do for others what we cannot do for ourselves. Asian Americans want to help with social justice issues; Asian Americans want to be allies. We cannot do that if we do not address for ourselves how we are responding to the racial hierarchy. Are we accepting half scraps of approval from mainstream society, deeming it enough while keeping our head down and working hard? Or we are acknowledging that half-acceptance isn’t good enough for us because we Asian Americans are whole and worthy just the way we are? Are we able to speak out on the fact that any system that gives ANY of us anything less than full treatment as humans is wrong? Asian Americans struggle with identity and self-acceptance issues just as much as other people of color. The difference is there is more of an option for us to assimilate if we deny parts of who we are. We must choose differently. We must choose to accept ourselves and refuse complicit participation in a racial hierarchy that doesn’t actually embrace us. If we Asian Americans can do that for ourselves, then we are able to support Black and Brown people in their own journey for racial equity.

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