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The major problem with #ChineseLivesMatter

Apr. 14, 2017
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Most people have already seen the disturbing footage of 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor Dr. David Dao being physically assaulted and dragged off a United Airlines flight by 3 officers. You probably already know the backstory, too: United asked for volunteers to give up their seats so they could fly four of their own employees to St. Louis, and when nobody volunteered they randomly selected four passengers to kick off the plane--one of whom was Dao. When Dao refused to get out of his seat, the airline called the cops, and his officer-initiated beating resulted in a broken nose, concussion, two knocked-out teeth, and sinus problems that may require reconstructive surgery.  

In response to this incident, a U.K.-based Chinese student named Zhang Zishi started the hashtag #ChineseLivesMatter, which has now gone viral.

We need to stop using #ChineseLivesMatter.

I’m in no way trying to undermine the seriousness of the situation. I am absolutely horrified, and watching the video was incredibly painful. It is truly terrifying that United went to physical lengths to remove him from his seat--and as a Thai-Chinese-American, I felt an extremely visceral response of disgust and horror while watching police officers drag the bloodied, unconscious form of someone who could resemble my father down an airplane aisle. What happened was disturbing, and we should be angry and we should speak out. But we can do that without co-opting others’ movements or appropriating #BlackLivesMatter. Whether or not this incident was racially motivated, #ChineseLivesMatter is not ours to use. 

It may seem harmless--even positive--to some at first glance, but appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement in this way is just as harmful as tweeting out “#AllLivesMatter”. Of course everybody’s life matters. That is not the point. Our plight as Asian-Americans is not the same. On top of that, the hashtag isn’t even an accurate response to the incident, as Dr. Dao is Vietnamese-American and not Chinese. 

With just a few keystrokes, #ChineseLivesMatter entirely erases all other Asian communities. Erasure of South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Central Asians has been a prevalent issue within the Asian community.

We rage about whitewashing in Hollywood. We need to check ourselves to not do the same to our POC allies. We as Asians--and especially as East Asians--need to check that we are not co-opting Black movements, encroaching upon their space, or trying to claim them as our own.

Let’s take this backlash and steer the conversation to police brutality against POC, especially against the Black community. There is a long history of anti-blackness in our Asian communities that we need to acknowledge and this echoes it. We are not competing. We need to step up and form a united front with our fellow POC--so that we can all fight white supremacy together.