Op-ed submission: More than Black & White

The myth of POC solidarity

Morgan Bryant | Class of 2019

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of people who oppressing them.”

– Assata Shakur

March 16, 1991: Latasha Harlins entered Empire Liquor Store in Los Angeles to buy orange juice before continuing her day. Soon Ja Du, the 51-year old Korean immigrant who owned the store with her husband, believed that 15-year old Latasha was trying to steal the juice, which she’d put in her backpack as she approached the counter with money in hand to pay. Du initiated a struggle with Latasha, grabbing her sweater and bag while accusing her of stealing. Harlins fought back, repeatedly saying that she was going to pay, and punched her accuser. Du continued the assault by throwing a stool at Harlins and the teen put the juice on the counter and turned to leave, at which point Du pulled a gun and shot the teenager in the back of the head from 3 feet away, killing her instantly. Du claimed self defense, despite the eyewitness testimony and security camera footage proving otherwise. She was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in November of 1991, and was sentenced to 5 years probation, 400 hours of community service and a $500 fine. Tensions between the Asian-American (specifically Korean) shop owners and Black people in LA had been brewing for some time; Latasha’s murder was the breaking point. Her death and the tame punishment are considered as one of the contributing factors to the 1992 LA riots, where 65 percent of the vandalized businesses were Asian-owned.

Nearly a week ago, I began reading more about Latasha and her murderer, Soon Ja Du, in the novel “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender and the Origins of the LA Riot” by Brenda Stevenson. While reading the novel, themes of Anti-Blackness, lateral racism and misogynoir were undeniable, as they seemSd to be contributing factors for the murder, the court case and the aftermath. Therefore, it goes without being said that I was not surprised when I received a text message featuring an image of two female Asian students sporting modern variations of Black face with the caption, “We’re in the zulu (sic) tribe.” Similar to the relationship between the Black community and Korean store owners in South Central LA when Latasha was murdered, this image served as the tipping point. While racism onto Black bodies from white people is evident, obvious and undeniable in nature, the relationships with other people of color (POC) due to the ingrained anti-Blackness and stereotypes, are complex and multifaceted with many denying the possibility of racism amongst non-White racial groups. When deciding to share the photo to social media, I anticipated mixed responses. My main goal was to highlight the irony of “POC solidarity,” the belief that people of color consciously gather together to battle white supremacy on all fronts. POC Solidarity seems good in theory when one writes about all Black and Brown folks rebelling against institutionalized oppressions. However, the theory consistently fails to follow through in practice. After posting the image to my Facebook profile, the post quickly grew in popularity, eliciting a response from the girls in the photo. Their apologies, while well-written, were also impractical and unbelievable. They claimed to have not understood the implications of their comment due to having no knowledge of the South African Zulu ethnic group. This would not make sense considering they noted that the ‘Blackness’ and ‘Tribal’ symbols of their face masks mirrored a specific African group. Their apology does not mean very much to me considering the fact that it would not have happened if they had not been called out. They were not sorry about their actions, they were sorry that they had been caught displaying such callous and casual racism. As I said in my initial post, I don’t want any roundtable discussions or white savior meetings to talk about cross cultural racism. I am calling out non-Black people of color. Check yourself. Check you friends. Check your family. Anti-Blackness has been normalized and profitable for non-Black people. When there’s still a stark presence of Anti-Blackness in Latinx & Asian communities, a non-Black POC cannot say that they have the same experiences Black people do. Anti-Blackness fuels the hatred that kills so many Black bodies on a daily basis. Black people have called out white people and non-Black people of color for decades in response to injustices done against them, to which little to no efforts for change have been made. Just know that I, Morgan Bryant, will not be silent. I am prepared to speak about the complexities of my Blackness in what ways I deem necessary and I will be very Black and very unapologetic in doing so.

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