The Silence Between: an Asian-American in an anti-Black world

Me, Uzma Chowdhury, and my Nana, Dr. Mohammed Serajuddin

What is an Asian American anyway?

Being an Asian, for me brings more questions than answers, read: how is the biggest continent on Earth with almost 50 distinct countries grouped into one giant, indistinct blob of a group? And why do I know so much more about the East Asian diaspora than my South Asian ancestry? These, and many more, are questions that I have grown up vaguely asking myself and never seeking the answers. We don’t really live in a world that makes space to ask, I never saw myself in books or on screen till I read The Namesake in one sobbing sitting late in college, or cried through Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever just last week. You have no choice but to be silent when you don’t exist.

What does it mean to be a non-Black person of color?

This AAPI heritage month, in particular, has painfully brought that question to the fore. Amidst ongoing racism toward the Asian community during COVID-19, a white chef I look(ed) up to disparaging two Asian women, and a socially distant Ramadan, came a debilitating reminder of the Anti-Blackness in this world that, despite my person of color status, will never kill me.

For much of my life, being Asian has felt like an in-between, where my only choices are silence. Whether it is the silence of collective survival, or my own silent profit from privilege — either is fine as long as I don’t exist.

So what do I do?

In response to those questions, here are some oneTILTs (one, tiny, inclusive, little things) I’ve committed to:

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