As a Japanese citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 20+ years, in the states of Texas, Michigan, New York and Tennessee, this is my perspective.
Please skip this post if you are not interested in hearing a non-black person discussing racism and discrimination.
My heart aches for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. I want to go jogging, sleep at home, and shop at a store without fearing for my life, and everyone should be able to do the same.
I consider myself brown, although you may not think I’m a typical brown person (and please don’t call me yellow, because that’s offensive to me). I have my own privileges – I grew up in a country where 99+% of the population looked like me; poverty and safety were never an issue in my upbringing; my parents could afford to send me to college and graduate school; I came to the USA 20+ years ago at my own will, not for the money or the safety, but to be with my loved one; I was able to find a job where being bilingual (Japanese and English) gave me an opportunity to contribute to both the U.S. and Japanese economy; I am married to a white man and live in a white neighborhood in Memphis where it’s relatively safe and quiet; and so on and on and on.
But like many other gay people, or many other immigrants to this country, my feeling of inferiority – feeling like an outsider and not fitting in, always remains inside me. When I go to a bar, I often get ignored by bartenders. People tend to look at and talk only to my white husband, making me feel invisible (this dynamic flips 180 degrees when we go to Japan, where people talk to me instead of him…). I got used to be treated differently because of my skin complexion and how I look, my immigration or citizenship status, sexual orientation, English accent, what I cook and eat, and gender (I usually wrap myself in lots and lots of knitted items to make it clear to other knitters that I can knit and I’m an experienced knitter).
Still, I am not treated as if I’m a criminal or a thief or a threat. I fight with my own internalized demons – whether they may be racism, classism, ableism, ageism, size-ism, homophobia, xenophobia, white-phobia, male-phobia, guilt, low self-esteem, depression, etc. As cliche as it may sound, I try to listen and learn, and do better.
I am brown, not black, and live in a mostly white world. But Black lives matter to me, as I see myself in the world of white supremacy and oppression; as I see myself in being the oppressor and perpetrator of discrimination. And I demand Change.