Art by Madeline Duvall
After the Instagram page @blackatpepperdine posted a story suggesting a Chinese student was racist against a Black student, it received backlash from some Chinese students. @blackatpepperdine reveals the problem of racial identity undermining the struggle for equality.
The Instagram page @blackatpepperdine attracted a lot of attention after sharing around 300 posts narrating anti-Black incidents in the Pepperdine community. While this Instagram page battles against anti-Black racism, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association appeared on this page in a negative way on Jan. 29, and this page received some backlash.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States are rising due to political tensions and COVID-19 spreads. Therefore, negative comments toward Chinese students further increase such tensions.
The backlash for this Instagram post is significant because it showed the estrangement between Black and Chinese students, which is detrimental in uniting people together to fight against inequality.
When he returned to the table, a member of CSSA checked his ID before returning the wallet to him. This Black student wrote to @blackatpepperdine, “I’m sorry, but if I wasn’t a Black male, I don’t think that would have happened to me.”
This post got about 300 likes but it also faced criticism from some Chinese students. Multiple Chinese students argued that checking one’s ID to make sure a lost item actually belongs to the person is not racist and this Black student was overreacting.
The crux of this Instagram post isn’t whether the member of the CSSA was really a racist, nor whether this Black student was overreacting.
Identity is an obstacle in the struggle for equality.
Controversy followed this Instagram post because some Chinese students felt the Black student involved in this incident targeted CSSA since it is the first time an ethnic and cultural-related organization was negatively appearing on this page.
As one student commented, “Why did you cover every individual or organization’s name in your previous posts, but do not cover the ‘CSSA’ in this one? Is it because we are Chinese, and it is okay to not respect Chinese?”
Considering both the original post of this Black student and the responses from the Chinese students, this post seems like a person with a racial identity calling another person with a different racial identity racist.
Overemphasizing racial identity doesn’t help to eliminate inequality because conflicts might happen between different groups of underprivileged people, thus undermining the struggle for equality.
The problem of racial identity covers up the reality.
If one examines the history of racism, one will find that the word “racism” is just a disguise of class struggles. The essence of racial struggles is actually the conflicts between the exploiters and the exploited.
The roots of racism is colonialism and imperialism. Throughout history, people with certain advantages constantly sought validation to justify their exploitation of minority groups. With such mentality, they invented racism.
The exploiters often categorize the exploited as inferior — even an inferior species. Therefore, they would have a reason to abuse their power and enslave others. In other words, exploitation causes racism and racism “validates” exploitation.
The relationship between exploitation and racism is like the stem and the root of a plant. The stem and the root support each other just as exploitation and racism reinforce each other. If the stem or root is broken down, the other will die; similarly, solving exploitation would also solve racism.
There are two paths to reach the goal of equality: one is the path to fight against exploitation and the other is to fight against racism.
Between these two options, standing up against exploitation through social activism is the easier path because racial identity is not a choice, but exploiting others is. Eliminating exploitation can gather more people and more voices than fighting against racism because people won’t limit themselves to their races, which is something they cannot change.
The @blackatpepperdine page should fight against inequality without offending other racial groups. To avoid unnecessary criticism, @blackatpepperdine should create a space that exposes incidents of inequality for all students — not just Black students.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Email Bryant Yang: firstname.lastname@example.org